Commit to Indigenous Rights

innnnnnReduction in cultural diversity can be detrimental because it causes declines in worldviews, languages, diversity, the way we perceive things, options for the human races, loss of cultures, and we then become less adoptive to our environment. The importance of indigenous ways of living are invaluable. In “Contesting the Terms of Inclusion” by Heather Wurtz, she explores the challenges the Kichwa Midwives faces when the states break their commitment to protect indigenous rights.

In efforts to both maintain indigenous practices and preserve culture, while improving health services, the Asocio and the local Ministry of Public Health are pushing forward the idea of an intercultural collaboration. Intercultural health will integrate indigenous and biomedical practices based on principles of equal participation, shared decision-making, and the respect and exchange of complementary knowledge systems.

Since the collaboration began, the Asocio midwives are no longer supported by non-governmental organization and with no financial support from Ministry of Public Health, midwives must now charge patients for services and herbal medicines compared to free government biomedical healthcare for pregnant women. With these inequalities (no pay, no external funding) imposed on midwives, their practice has been severely restricted. This predicament provides little hope for preserving their cultural heritage, let alone ensuring future growth.

Financial resources are necessary to sustain their practices, which they don’t possess. Younger generations will not be attracted to practicing thus diminishing all the knowledge midwives have.

“I want to leave the Asocio in the hands of the youth. If not, the Kichwa culture will not continue to exist; everything will be lost. It will fall into the hands of the Westerners.”

According to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the practice and preservation of indigenous health systems is fundamental right of indigenous people, yet the rights of Indigenous groups to maintain their cultural, territorial, and linguistic integrity have not been met.

Although being progressive in areas such as health care is important, protecting cultural property should also be included in advancement.