On July 29th, 2008 the self-proclaimed “Shuar Constitutional Assembly” of the Independent Shuar Federation of Ecuador (FIPSE) convened its fifth session and formally presented its proposal for the new Shuar Constitution. The proposal will replace the existing by-laws established in 1994, which did not recognize the Shuars’ collective rights or their own vision of “Penker Pujustin” (living well). The new Constitution is rooted in their collective vision of healthy and self-sufficient families, living in harmony with one another, and defending their common territory and resources. It is based on traditional values of justice, while also incorporating principles for cultivating strategic alliances with external actors.
The Shuar Constitution was developed through five rounds of meetings in all 11 Shuar Associations, facilitated by their own community leaders. Each round of meetings brought together 350 to 550 Shuar men, women, elders and children to talk about their vision for their pueblo and territory. Pachamama worked with the community leaders in five three-day intensive workshops that focused on developing facilitation techniques and leadership capacities. The 20 local leaders formed the “Shuar Constitutional Assembly” and were responsible for structuring and documenting the community dialogues about the different topics included in the constitution: “Penker Pujustin” (living well), a good Shuar government, rights and responsibilities of elected officials and community members, Shuar justice, and other diverse aspects of Shuar daily life.
During the next six months, the Shuar Constitution will be translated to Shuar Chicham (the native Shuar language) by a select group of Shuar educators and elders. An audio version of this translation will be recorded and disseminated so that all Shuar members – including the predominantly illiterate elders and women – can have access to this important text and can voice their opinion about its contents. Hopefully, by early 2009, in FIPSE’s tri-annual Congress, the Shuar Constitution will be approved by the general Assembly and begin the most challenging phase of all – putting it into practice!