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Maya women map out next phase of communal land rights as CCJ holds monitoring hearing

Posted: Thursday, March 2, 2023. 10:47 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: This morning at the Cotton Tree Lodge along the Moho River in the village of San Felipe, Toledo District, the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) and a European Union delegation is hosting a closing exercise for a project empowering Maya women to participate in the implementation of the 2015 Caribbean Court of Justice Consent Order to legalize Maya customary lands.

The keynote speaker is Toledo native and former SATIIM executive director Dame Froyla Tzalam, Governor General of Belize, with Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, Minister of Human Development, Families & Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs; Greg Ch’oc, Commissioner of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs and another ex-SATIIM leader, among others participating.

SATIIM in a press statement claimed there has been no concerted effort to include Maya women in the process, contrary to international conventions on the rights of indigenous peoples and discrimination against women, which it says clearly identifies land as the foundation of indigenous women’s rights.

The EU project created the first and only inclusive mapping of Maya lands by Maya women. For the first time in Belize, Maya women served as technicians and data collectors, which produced the country’s first gendered land use maps and data on their perceptions of access to land. This enabled them to sign on to boundary agreements among buffer communities of the Sarstoon Temash National Park and to teach each other about complex human rights concepts such as free, prior, and informed consent, and the right to health care – in their language, in a culturally appropriate manner. Business training empowered Maya women entrepreneurs to reinvest profits into their businesses and to register their group as a cooperative with the government.

Earlier this week there was a compliance hearing between the Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA) and its associates and the Government at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). One of the matters discussed this morning was the status of the authority, Professor Rosa Celorio. Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck replied for the Government in response to complaints that she has not been hearing complaints related to village activities that an arrangement would be formalized for her to do so.

According to the lead attorney for the appellants Leslie Mendez, the Maya Land Policy propagated by the Government seeks to scale back on the application of the Free, Informed and Prior Consent (FPIC) Protocol which the Government claims is finalized – but it isn’t treating it that way.

Senior Counsel Marshalleck insisted that the FPIC protocol has been finalized but is only an interim stopgap pending the formal creation of legislation on the issue, on which the Maya communities would be duly consulted.

Each side was asked to submit certain documentation and another hearing has been set for June 7.


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