My name is Narcisa Mashienta, I am a Shuar woman from the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest and I’ve lived in Achuar territory for many years. I’m the co-founder and Coordinator of Pachamama Alliance’s Ikiama Nukuri or Jungle Mamas program.
Our shared dream of starting this program nearly 10 years ago with midwife Margaret Love, began because I saw that Achuar women and children were suffering. I still remember the moment that impacted me the most; a baby died in my arms and I could not save the child; I wasn’t a doctor. At that moment, I knew that it was necessary to create a health program, and in partnership with Margaret, Jungle Mamas began. Since then, the Jungle Mamas program has been made possible by support from people like you in the Pachamama Alliance.
We work alongside our Achuar sisters to empower one another in the most fundamental way—by caring for and helping mothers during pregnancy and birth. Our work both values our great traditions and helps to reduce complications by using traditions from midwifery in other cultures. We are making a great difference to our people by saving the lives of mothers and infants, and strengthening our communities.
A couple of weeks ago I visited several communities near the Ecuadorian border of Peru, where there is very little access to medical care because their communities are so remote. Thanks to Jungle Mamas, these communities now have Community Maternal Health Promoters—women trained in safe birthing practices—and the health of these communities is improving. When I talked with the mothers they told me that they feel safe now, knowing that they can be accompanied in their birth by another woman, someone from their own culture, and that they can help them in case of a medical emergency. They also are very grateful to receive safe birth kits because before they didn’t have anything like that, they gave birth alone in their vegetable gardens, which often brought infections and other types of complications. Additionally, health promoters feel empowered knowing they are helping their communities.
It is because of our work together as women in Jungle Mamas our voices are being heard in a whole new way. For the first time ever, this year a colleague from Jungle Mamas was elected as the vice-president of the Achuar federation, Isabel Wisum, the first woman elected to such a role. For the program it is an honor to have trained her and now have her representing Achuar women in political decisions that will set the course of our nationality. She is now a role model for all Achuar women, who feel empowered knowing that women can and will be heard. With that great achievement, we’ve only just begun!
I am so grateful to all the people who have supported Jungle Mamas. It has made a great difference to my people and to the forest. I thank you deeply on behalf of all of my people and the rainforest. We, the indigenous women of the Amazon, are the caretakers and protectors of our forests. We do this so that our children can continue to live full and healthy lives just like the generations before us.
We know how important our rainforest is for the entire world and how crucial we are as indigenous people to protect it. I ask you to please stand with us at this critical time. Together, in partnership, we will continue to be successful at protecting our Earth.
Co-founder and Coordinator
Jungle Mamas / Ikiama Nukuri program