Venezuela: Noelí Pocaterra

We women, as givers of life, are also responsible for taking care of that life and, for that reason, we need strong organizations of indigenous women.

— Noelí Pocaterra

She is an indigenous woman, a Wayuu woman. She is militant, socially and politically, and has committed herself, for over 40 years, to the defense of the human, political and territorial rights of her country's native people. The discrimination and exclusion experienced by her people motivated her to fight tirelessly, in a number of different ways, for the inclusion, in 1999, of the indigenous people's rights in the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Noelí Pocaterra was born in Mocoomatira, in 1936, in the Venezuelan Guajira. In 1956, she was the first Venezuelan indigenous woman to graduate as a social worker. She has a long history of social and political militancy dedicated to the promotion of culture and to the defense of justice, freedom and rights for the indigenous communities and their people. She is a founder member of the National Indigenous Council of Venezuela (Conive), which served her as platform during the process when the new constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was being drawn up, in 1999. She was the co-writer of the section about Indigenous People's Rights, where, for the first time in the country, those rights were explicitly recognized. As a member of the National Assembly, she has been the driving force behind the discussion and approval of several laws in favor of the native communities, such as the ones concerning the demarcation of their habitat and land, providing them with guarantees and others about education and use of their language. There are also laws regarding their identification as citizens. “I feel so pleased when I look at what our struggle has achieved. I feel happy. Before I joined the constituent process, when we came to Caracas to talk with the deputies, some of our men were not allowed to enter because they were not wearing jackets or ties. Nowadays, my work in the Assembly puts me in contact with resources and power. But I am aware that this is transitory, so we have a lot to do and no time to waste.”

Network of Wayuu Indigenous Women Permanent Commission for Indigenous People in the National Assembly of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela