Female Indigenous leader takes office in Panama

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PANAMA CITY (AP) — The first elected female leader of Panama’s Wounaan Indigenous group took office Monday.

The inauguration of Aulina Ismare Opua marks a strengthening of women’s positions in the country’s Indigenous communities.

Recently, Elena Cruz Guerra won the leadership of the Indigenous territory of Ngäbe-Buglé. And a woman from the Guna community was elected to the national congress in 2019.

Ausencio Palacio, the country’s assistant minister for Indigenous affairs, said women’s roles in leading Indigenous communities is growing stronger.

“There is an increasing trend of alternating power between men and women in the Indigenous territories,” said Palacio. “Women have been demanding their space and daring to compete in traditional elections.”

The Wounaan are one of the smaller communities that make up Panama’s total 450,000 Indigenous population, in a country of about 4.3 million people.

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