International Women’s Day: Indigenous women off the charts

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All maps tell a story – a story about our relationship to the land.

In 2015, researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina asked indigenous villagers in the Napo River region of Peru to help them make a map of the community’s land and how it was used.  They held one workshop with men, and a separate one with women – and the maps did not turn out the same.

Both groups marked the village, nearby secondary forests, and crop gardens in the same place.

But the women’s map contained much more detailed and precise information about the location of key – three kinds of palm trees from which women gather fruits for the local market, and the network of pathways leading amongst them.

“You can really tell from the men’s drawing that they aren’t the ones that extract the fruits, it’s the women,” says CIFOR scientist Iliana Monterroso, who coordinated the fieldwork. “Women have different knowledge from men – not better, just different.”

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“If you come in to a community with a ‘gender agenda’ you’re likely to be ignored or told to leave. There’s a lot of backlash”

Anne Larson

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