Women-led community networks in Costa Rica transmit Indigenous identity to next generations
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Two Cabecar women and two Cabecar girls kneel in discussion over a diagram. They are in a hut with dirt floor in the middle of a circle of people watching them.

Women-led community networks in Costa Rica transmit Indigenous identity to next generations

A WACC-supported protect in Costa Rica is helping women Indigenous leaders of the Cabécar nation use digital technologies strategically to connect younger generations with their community’s culture, knowledge, and language.

“Cabécar young people influenced by Western culture are becoming disconnected from ancestral wisdom,” says Kemly Camacho, director of Cooperativa Sulá Batsú, WACC’s partner for the project.

Women leaders in this matrilineal culture in Talamanca province are concerned about the role of the internet in accelerating this disconnection, which threatens the survival of the Cabécar language and the very existence of the Cabécar nation, she says.

A communication infrastructure adapted to the community

To strengthen the Indigenous young people’s identification with their culture, the project is scaling up two local, women-led communication initiatives: Kakabalo, a community network of walkie-talkie radios, and Okamasuei, a women’s digital knowledge platform.

Developed by Sulá Batsú and the Association of Cabécar Women of Alto Pacuare over the past five years, the WACC-supported initiatives are now being expanded from Kjalabata, a territory of 800 inhabitants, to reach the entire Cabécar nation of 5,000 people.

A collage of 6 images showing women, children, and other members of the Cabecar community in discussion and learning.

“Women from other Cabécar territories have learned about the work done in Kjalabata around the community network composed of Kakabalo and Okamasuei and consider it crucial to scale up what has been done there to have a greater impact of their worldview, their language, their territory,” Camacho says.

According to the WACC partner, the project is helping the Association of Cabécar Women understand how the internet works and its impact on their community so they can better determine how it should be introduced in Indigenous territories and what role Cabécar women play in this process.

Using technology to strengthen women’s leadership

The Cabécar women want to establish technological and communication tools, strategies, and infrastructure that they design themselves and that serve and strengthen their capacity for resistance and empowerment, Camacho notes.

While the first aim has been vital, the second is an equally important achievement, according to Camacho, who reported on the women-led communication initiatives at the Internet Governance Forum last October.

“The women’s leadership has been built from deep reflection on the impact that a totally external technology could have on the community. [And] also reflection about all the actions of resistance to put into practice and allow what we want, while not allowing what we don’t want,” she explained at the Forum.

Graphic for UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 with dark blue background and in white the number 16, the words "peace, justice and strong institutions" and a dove holding an olive branch and sitting on a gavel“We [Sulá Batsú] have gone from thinking that this is a technological project to a shift towards strengthening women’s organization and leadership with the use of technology, but not only with that.”

The project is co-funded by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC).

WACC works in partnership with Cooperativa Sulá Batsú and other communication rights and sustainable development organizations worldwide through its Communication for All Program (CAP), with support from Bread for the World-Germany.

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