Joanna K. Cariño

Cordillera Peoples Alliance (Philippines)

I have been a human rights defender practically my whole adult life. I became a student activist while in college, and have never looked back. I am a survivor of martial law, having been illegally arrested, tortured and detained during the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines.

Much of my work has been in the field of indigenous peoples’ rights. Indigenous peoples have been fighting to defend our ancestral lands and environment, indigenous identity and honour from the incursions of destructive large-scale projects for profit, such as mines, logging and mega-dams, which is usually a collusion between big business and State instrumentalities. Although indigenous peoples account for only 5% of the world’s populations, we, disproportionately, account for 15% of the world’s poor.

As we fight for our rights, we are killed, disappeared, imprisoned with trumped-up charges, displaced, vilified, and labelled as terrorists and anti-development. Colonialism and the historical oppression we have been forced to endure have minoritized us and made us victims of discrimination from the wider society.

But oppression breeds resistance. There is a tipping point where victims of human rights violations say ENOUGH! and stand up to fight for their rights, notwithstanding the odds. We have to build strong indigenous peoples organizations and learn how to assert our democratic rights. We have to unite with other human rights defenders to build a better world.