Today, and throughout March, join us as we celebrate the theme #PressForProgress by spotlighting women who have dedicated their lives to fighting for equality, justice, and peace. We will share stories, resources, and interviews from activists representing diverse movements around the world.
We kicking off in the Philippines. Meet Kakay Tolentino, an indigenous woman activist who has advocated for indigenous people’s rights since the 1980s. Like thousands of indigenous women around the world, Kakay is leading efforts to protect and defend the environment while also fighting for women’s voice and leadership within her community. Kakay is the national coordinator of BAI Indigenous Women’s Network, which brings together 432 groups to prevent the devastating impacts of mining projects on indigenous peoples’ ancestral land and rights by educating communities, organizing blockades and leading advocacy campaigns.
We asked her to tell us more.
What inspired your activism?
The situation of indigenous peoples became the basis and cause of my activism in the 1980s. I never wavered. Up to the present time, we still face the same problems.
What are you up against?
The unity and solidarity of our communities and the convergence of diverse indigenous groups at the national level represents the same principle and commitment to defend our rights, including our right to self-determination… Our widespread opposition to foreign and private corporations’ exploitation of our natural resources has led to grave human rights violations of indigenous peoples: killings, forced evacuation, and the deprivation of basic social services such as education and health… We remain undaunted and determined to face the state’s violence. We are militantly rising to fight for the basic rights of indigenous women and men in our ancestral lands.
What is your vision of the future?
Progress must come from the people and be for the people. For me, the measure of true progress is when there is no one exploiting and there are no people exploited. We can only achieve this if all people – women and men – have the same purpose and aim for the liberation of all women along with the rest of the oppressed and exploited peoples.
Image credit: Carlo Manalansan