Making it as an Indigenous Student in Iquitos City
Photos Instituto Chaikuni & excerpts from the film “Floida” by Sandra Soto
Text Sophie Pinchetti
As an indigenous youth, wanting to study at university in the city of Iquitos is a serious challenge. The obstacles are plentiful in Peru’s Loreto region: coming from a far away community, having little to no financial resources and a lower educational entry level are just the start. Add to that the ongoing racism, discrimination and human rights violations that indigenous peoples face nationwide, and you start to get the picture: inequalities are rife.
Supporting indigenous youth at higher education level is a core principle of our intercultural education program Sui Sui – and this year marked an important touchstone. We are proud and excited to share news of the graduation of Floida & Alvaro, two indigenous students from the Putumayo river. Having been selected by indigenous federation FIKAPIR and accompanied by Belgian non-profit Putumayo vzw since 2011, Floida and Alvaro have been supported by the Sui Sui program since its implementation in 2014. Floida graduated in Primary Education at the National University of the Peruvian Amazon (UNAP) with a first place in her class of 2016, while Álvaro graduated with a good performance in Secondary Education at the Pedagogical Institute Of Loreto (ISEP Loreto).
It is an immense joy to see the efforts of Floida & Álvaro rewarded. It has also been a key achievement of the Sui Sui program to help indigenous students through our student monitoring, technical support and scholarships. Their success also reminds us of the collective efforts of their families, communities as well as the indigenous movement in the Loreto region, which places education at the forefront of its agenda. As Chaikuni, we join these efforts, and continue working for interculturality for better opportunities for all the indigenous youth who can not yet access higher education.
“They say university is for everyone, right? Whether you’re mestizo, indigenous or not indigenous, it’s for everyone in general”, says Floida, “but at university, we don’t speak in our language, and our ancient history is not recalled. We’re a bit lost there”. A lack of intercultural sensitivity within the university remains a significant hinder for indigenous youth. But the challenges don’t just come from university life. Floida’s own mother was concerned about her daughter leaving their community for her studies, a worry shared by many indigenous parents for whom Iquitos represents a far away, urban, unfamiliar environment associated with many negative influences and changes.
Armed with perseverance, Floida’s story is one of success and sets an inspiring example for young girls and the struggle for gender equality for education amongst indigenous youth in Loreto. Floida was one of the first girls to become member of OEPIAP, the indigenous student organization with whom we partner, which represents indigenous youth from 15 Amazonian people. She became a member of the OEPIAP leadership, and took on an important role and responsibility as the organization’s treasurer for two years, which required great autonomy. Floida now works as a teacher in the community of Rosario Aucayo located on the Amazonas river.
Floida’s compelling journey is documented in the upcoming video portrait “Floida” presented in a trailer at the top of the page. “In a world where being a young woman and indigenous is so challenging, she not only dares to dream of new possibilities that are different from many people’s expectations of her, but she also decides to fight and pursue these dreams”, comments Sandra Soto, Student Monitor of our Sui Sui program who created the video portrait “Floida”. “It is even more inspiring to see how in this extremely difficult journey, she maintains the love for her people, the pride of her culture and the desire to share what she has learnt with her community”, comments Sandra.
Stay tuned to discover the full video portrait of Floida, which we will be releasing end of 2017. “Floida” is currently touring various locations in Peru as part of a program of short films organized by the Pucullpa-based Amazonian School of Cinema (Escuela de Cine Amazónico).
Want to help improve the studying and living conditions of Amazonian indigenous students in Iquitos? We need your help to reach our goal in our crowdfunding campaign to Build An Indigenous Student Centre on the Global Giving platform! To donate & find out more, visit our project page.