Dr. Mirna Cunningham is an Indigenous Miskita from Nicaragua and is knowledgeable in many fields; she worked first as a primary education teacher and then studied medicine and surgery, becoming the first female Miskita doctor. She currently serves as the Chair of the UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues. For her dedication to indigenous and rural women’s rights, Dr. Cunningham was presented with the 2012 NGO CSW Woman of Distinction Award.
I’m often frustrated when challenges are discussed but no practical solutions are offered. I really appreciated how clearly and directly Dr. Cunningham expressed the needs of the indigenous and rural women of Nicaragua. Some of these included the need for sustainable management systems, equal access to land through land titles, banking services and microcredit/entrepreneurial opportunities, natural resources training, and education in indigenous languages.
Of course not all issues have easy solutions—“Indigenous women have suffered as a result of capitalism and Western-centric development.” Dr. Cunningham also spoke of the economic and social marginalization, structural discrimination, and institutional violence that rural women face.