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Stories from the field

A special meeting

Ilaria Citerei in Colombia

Guajira, located in the northeast corner of the country, in the Caribbean region bordering with Venezuela, is one of the farthest points of Colombia.

Crossing its sandy roads through the desert and lots of cactus you will find the Wayuu, an indigenous community with a matriarchal structure. In fact, it was a woman (and what a woman!) who welcomed us into her community. Mrs. Daisy is the leader of one of the 25 Wayuu communities that are part of the Yanama project, which aims to strengthen the resilience and response capacity of Wayuu communities and local authorities to cope with climate variability.

Indeed, Guajira is a region highly vulnerable to the effects of climate variability, due to its territory largely composed of arid soils and extensive stretches of desert. In this context, the indigenous communities suffer from various effects related to difficulty of access to safe water sources and difficulties in the food production, among others.

The reason for our "disturbing" the community that day was to conduct an accountability workshop. As the project was in its midpoint of implementation time, it was necessary to collect feedback, complaints and ideas for improvement regarding the project activities. Accountability is something that is not yet well formalized and standardised in the humanitarian context, but it is time to give it as much emphasis as possible, because accountability means the responsible use of power and we, as humanitarian workers, have so much of it in relation to vulnerable communities.

After the necessary introductions, Mrs. Daisy called the community together in the space reserved for meetings, just outside the entrance gate of the "rancheria", sheltered by a thatched roof to better withstand the 30-degree sun.

Its population speaks the Wayuunaiki language, only a few of them speak Spanish, but even for these, Mrs. Daisy acted as spokesperson, demonstrating a solid leadership based on the respect that the community nurtures towards her. Through the timeline methodology called "Retracing the life of the project ", by means of photographs and discussion, Mrs. Daisy opened the doors of the community to us, telling us stories and anecdotes of her territory, stories of power and resilience, just like her, the “lideresa” Daisy.