Every other Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. sharp, a group of 26 Mexican women meet for an hour to discuss the progress of their work and immediate tasks. Anyone who arrives late must pay a fine of about 25 cents on the dollar.
"Pachamama (Mother Earth) is upset with all the damage we are doing to her," says Hilda Roca, an indigenous Peruvian farmer from Cusipata, in the Andes highlands of the department of Cuzco, referring to climate change and the havoc it is wreaking on her life and her environment.
The seed was planted more than 20 years ago by a group of indigenous women who began to gather to try to recover memories from their people. Today, women are also the main protagonists of La Voz Indígena (The Indigenous Voice), a unique radio station in northern Argentina that broadcasts every day in seven languages.
53-year old Aleta Baun of Indonesia’s West Timor province is a proud climate warrior. From 1995 to 2005 she successfully led a citizens’ movement to shut down 4 large marble mining companies that polluted and damaged the ecosystem of a mountain her community considered sacred. After their closure in 2006, she became a conservationist and restored 15 hectares of degraded mountain land, reviving dozens of dried springs and resettling 6,000 people who were displaced by the mining.
Three indigenous communities from the Chilean highlands have just received solar panels, which will be set up and maintained by unlikely solar engineers: five native women who travelled halfway around the world to India and overcame language and other barriers to bring photovoltaic energy to their villages.
"Atispa mana atispa ñawpajman rinanchis tiyan" ("Power without power, we have to keep moving forward”) in the Quechua language, Ruth Rojas told her listeners at the end of a series of radio programmes on political culture, broadcast to indigenous women in Bolivia.
The deafening din of the lunch gong is sweet music to the 200-odd tribal girls rushing down the stairway, clutching stainless steel plates and tumblers.
A growing number of Bolivia's indigenous women are participating in politics, ready to break the barriers of gender and ethnicity.