The Right to Determine our Future, Together
Horinkhola rally in memory of Karunamoi.
It was early morning in November when the remote island village of Horinkhola, in the Khulna delta of Bangladesh, received word that a notorious industrialist was coming to take over their fields for shrimp farming. What he had sought and failed to obtain by legal means, he was determined to take by force. His hired army of 100 men landed, rushing onto the island firing shots and throwing bombs. Of the unarmed villagers who arrived at the scene, a woman named Karunamoi was the first to confront the attackers. They shot her in the head and she died on the spot.
Years later, Karunamoi is still remembered and honoured by villagers throughout the region as a symbol of courageous resistance - resistance to outside interests that seek, often violently, to control the abundant resources of the fertile delta - and of communities' right to determine the economic path that places their own needs first. Today, Horinkhola and surrounding villages have declared themselves "shrimp-free zones," free of an industry that wreaks ecological and economic disaster in order to bring profit to urban industrialists and luxury food to foreign markets. With the help of Nijera Kori, the villagers have organized to confront common issues such as the takeover by the shrimp industry of their lands. They are also building democratic environments where men and women work together as equals, even in the most conservative regions of the country.
The villagers of the Khulna delta are not alone in their problems; coastal communities across Asia, Africa, and Latin America have been the victims of their governments' schemes for profitable aquaculture development. They are also not alone in their resistance, and in coming together to exercise their right to determine their community's needs - in not only believing that their futures are theirs to create, but acting to make it so.
In the Bijagos islands off the coast of Guinea-Bissau in West Africa, islanders have organized into what is known as the Urok Assembly, bringing together people from all the islands. With Tiniguena's accompaniment, the Assembly has developed a resource management plan informed by traditional knowledge of the local ecology, while protecting the area from outside pressure to develop tourism, petroleum, and commercial fishing. Tiniguena works with rural and urban communities throughout Guinea-Bissau to strengthen people's efforts to conserve environmental resources and to control their use for the benefit of those who live there. This assistance includes technical advice, credit for community projects to build schools, health centres, and seed storage, support for women's associations, and assistance in documenting fishing practices and acquiring land title to protect indigenous residents from expropriation.
The legal right to live on one's land is also a concern in the Philippines, where the Tri-Peoples Concern for Peace, Progress and Development in Mindanao (known as TriCom) works with indigenous Lumad communities to legalize access to land through ancestral domain claims. Formerly nomadic, Lumads have been forced in recent decades to move into smaller and smaller areas, creating permanent settlements. TriCom works with Lumads to ensure that this land will be protected for future generations, using oral history, folklore, chronicles of social relationships, and other traditional knowledge to document their historical claim to their territory. Lumads have worked with TriCom to create sustainable development plans for their lands and communities.
Inter Pares is honoured to collaborate with organizations around the world who support communities in their right to choose, and to choose more just forms of social interaction. Through concerted actions in each of these places, a better future for all is being won.
The Inter Pares photo essay The Price of Gold provides a closer look at the impact of mining development in Ghana. Through photographs and testimonies gathered in Ghana, the essay provides a glimpse of the impact of gold mining on communities and the environment and how citizens are organizing to defend their rights. Please click here to read the essay.
The Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) is a network of individuals and organizations in Canada. Since 1989, COAT has published a magazine (Press for Conversion!), organized anti-war rallies and conferences, campaigned against military air shows and opposed Canada's arms exports to human rights abusers and countries at war. COAT's research exposed Canadian pension investments in war industries. Information and subscriptions: http://coat.ncf.ca/.
|Reviewed September 12, 2006||Publishing Policies|