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Midway Maya women complete training in GPS mapping

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Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2022. 8:02 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: As the Maya communities of the Toledo District prepare to fully implement the 2015 Caribbean Court of Justice Consent Order enforcing the right and existence of Maya customary lands, women are taking the lead in drawing their village boundaries with the Global Positioning System, known to all as GPS.

According to the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM), co-managers of the Sarstoon Temash National Park and longtime community advocates, a team of 15 Q’eqchi’ Maya women received Certificates of Participation after completing five days of training in the use of the hand-held GPS and compass. The training was organized by SATIIM with funding from the European Union. They were taught by their fellows from Conejo village along with an in-house trainer for SATIIM Martin Cus; the training was coordinated by EU Project Coordinator Pedro Kukul. The peer training ensured culturally appropriate training in the women’s native language.

“Inclusive community-led mapping is the only method that will produce accurate maps based on Maya customary practices and trust,” explained Maya Ch’oc, SATIIM Executive Director.

SATIIM says both GIS data and hand-drawn maps will fully inform each village’s land usage and future planning, originally in part the domain of the former Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission.

The group from Conejo has expanded into collecting data for tree inventories and they and the new Midway team are the fruit of the first effort to include Maya women as trained technicians and data collectors.

Originally Navstar GPS, GPS is a satellite-based radio navigation system owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Space Force.

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