United under the banner of the Gbabandi platform, more than 32 Baka and Bagyeli indigenous peoples from Cameroon met to validate data on indigenous peoples’ experiences of the protection of their rights.
The attendees, representing nine indigenous-led organisations, came together not only to validate and share the findings of the Indigenous Navigator project questionnaire, but also to discuss future actions.
The Indigenous Navigator, which is funded by the European Union, is a framework and set of tools for indigenous peoples to systematically monitor the level of recognition and implementation of their rights. A questionnaire was used as a tool to gather relevant data at the community level. Together, the data highlighted how the implementation of laws and policies – and absence thereof – impacts their lives and integrity. It serves as a framework through which indigenous peoples can monitor their rights and development.
A main objective of the workshop, following discussions on the data, was defining a common roadmap for future activities. During the workshop, for example, participants decided to set up a committee to monitor the status and use of the Baka and Bagyeli languages. They felt their languages were very vulnerable.
Valere, from the organisation ASBAK, said: “Our language is our culture. We have to ensure that the status of our language should never change from being vulnerable to being endangered.”
The questionnaire is solidly anchored in the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which covers the full range of indigenous peoples’ rights. Discussing this questionnaire during the workshop also helped participants further understand the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Gervais NZOA, a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), attended the workshop, which was held from May 24-26 in Yaoundé, to discuss the role UNPFII plays to enhance the rights of indigenous peoples around the world, while MESSE Venant, coordinator of the Gbabandi platform, gave a presentation that reminded people that the three main pillars of the Indigenous Navigator project were the data collection on rights, advocacy at the national level, and conception and implementation of community micro-projects.
Timothee Emini, of Association OKANI, said: “This data we have collected is pivotal for us to convey our perspectives and make our voices heard. The goal is for us to advocate for our own rights; that is why we will be meeting again in the coming weeks to develop our capacities on advocacy and use this platform to work for a common goal.”
The questionnaires were completed in February in some 32 Baka and Bagyeli communities. The organisations who convened in Yaoundé to discuss the results are Association Okani, ABAWONI, ABAGUENI, ADEBAKA, ARBO, ASBAK, ASKOBAK, Buma Bo Kpode and CADDAP.
Gbabandi formed in October 2016 to represent the views of indigenous forest peoples in Cameroon.
A version of this article is available to view on the Indigenous Navigator website.