Our Perspective

      • Guatemala: Proud to be a Mayan | Juan de Dios

        04 Oct 2013

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        Victims' memorial museum in Guatemala City. Photo: UNDP Guatemala

        I am a Mayan from Guatemala. Though I am proud to be an indigenous person, discrimination against us is a serious problem. Especially in the private sector and in the government, we rarely reach high-level positions and are often seen as a source of cheap labour. I come from a family of people who were displaced by conflict. When I was nine or 10 years old, my father was persecuted and tortured by the military during Guatemala’s civil war, which lasted between 1960 and 1996 and destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom were indigenous Mayans. During the war, 45,000 Mayans were abducted by security forces and “disappeared,” 200,000 families were displaced and 2.5 million children became orphans. After my father was tortured, my family, including my seven brothers and sisters, was forced to move to a new region. However, our troubles were not over. We were thrown out of our new home once again because the government planned to build a hydroelectric plant. When we resisted leaving our homes, the government labeled us enemies of the State and began organizing massacres of women, children and newborns, which nearly wiped out our communities in 1981 and Read More

      • Nepal: Seeking justice for a father's murder

        04 Oct 2013

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        Suman Adhikari, third from the right, protests against impunity in Nepal.

        My father was a school teacher at the Sanskrit high school in our village. He was also a social worker and an activist at Amnesty International. During the conflict, Maoist fighters approached him and demanded a quarter of his salary. But my father said he would not give money to support the torture and killing of innocent people. One day in 2002, while he was teaching class, the armed fighters tied his hands and feet and dragged him away. They tied him to a tree not far from our home and shot him. They said that anyone who touched the body would suffer the same fate. There were many similar episodes of violence across the country. People were brutally tortured and killed. Though my family and I couldn't get our father back, we decided to do something in his name to help others. Today, we provide scholarships at my father's school for students who are poor or affected by the conflict and, through the Conflict Victims Orphans' Society, we help children who lost their parents. But justice is still not a reality. After the peace agreement in 2006, we hoped that the truth commissions and the government would bring the perpetrators Read More

      • Colombia: Still a long way from home | Debora Barros

        04 Oct 2013

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        Like the Wayuu, the Tule people of Colombia also deal with discrimination and violation of human rights, an experience shared by many indigenous people. Photo: B. Heger, UNHCR

        When rebel forces killed the women in my community, our lives changed forever. In my culture, as an indigenous Wayuu in Colombia, women are sacred. We are the ones who transmit our language, traditions and lineage to future generations. To kill a mother is to kill the culture and the life of a community. As a child, I grew up without fear. I played in the desert with my cousins without any feeling of danger. It was a wonderful time. I became a happy, smart and organized woman and was chosen by my community to study law at university. When I came back during vacation, I would explain western music and traditions to the members of my community. But on 18 April 2004, rebels came and attacked my village. They raped, beheaded and killed the women by making grenades explode in their faces. It is too horrible to speak about. When we return to our destroyed village, we cry as if it had happened yesterday. Nine years later, we still don't know why this happened. But the 102 families in community have remained strong and united. With help in advocating for our rights from organizations like UNDP, we have convinced mayors Read More

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