During my time here in Brazil I have been confronted with many challenges and new realities. To say this experience has been eye-opening is not only cliché but also a disservice to my time here. This past week I have had one of the most inspiring experiences so far, I travelled to the Amazons!! This experience was broken into 2 main components the urban city of Manaus and a boat excursion to rural villages on the Rio Negro. Some of the activities we had this week were:
- Climate change lecture by Dr.Philip Fearnside
- UNICEF presentation by Emly Costa
- Presentation on Indigenous Health by a Pajé Tukano (Tukano healer)
- Visited various indigenous communities within the city of Manaus
- Cultural presentation by the Povo Tuyuka
- Survival night in the Amazons in a Riberino community
- Presentation of various NGOs such as SECOYA, and Associação das Mulheresdo Alto Rio Negro (AMARN)
Just being in the Amazons was amazing, adding to the mix an opportunity to learn from local experts and communities made it unbelievable. While I could spend days talking about how beautiful this area is and captivating these indigenous communities are, I won’t. Instead I would like to share with you some wisdom I acquired during this time.
I visited 5 urban indigenous groups and 5 rural groups each group has different challenges based on their location. For the tribes that live in the city many times their rights are violated because they are not considered “true” natives because they are in the city. For the tribes that live along the river access to services such as healthcare, education, sanitation, transportation, even food is a huge problem. In each community I visited there was a phenomenon that kept happening, people were looking at ME and asking ME to use my voice to tell their stories. In the eyes of these tribal leaders I come from the land of opportunities and because of this I am privileged to be able to create change. To these tribal leaders it did not matter that I was a woman, student, or minority, what was important was that I could become a messenger of their cause.
Being confronted with these realities and being asked consistently to take action made me question many thing. Who do I speak up for? How powerful can my voice truly be? These past few months we have all been bombarded with one of the most crucial ways to make our voices heard, elections. While this is important, we should stop and consider how do we make our voices heard when it is not election season? Maybe we won’t become the spokesperson for a remote indigenous tribe but how can we create change in our own communities? How can we create awareness for the issues happening in our own backyards? The answer could be something as simple as having a conversation about the issues or it could be as complex as creating an NGO to address the problem. Whichever the case may be I urge you all to use your voice at all times to help those who are silenced by the many injustices of the world. Change is not something that only happens every election season, it is something that each one of us creates everyday with our words and actions.