Indigenous women run for Brazil's Congress in Bolsonaro backlash

STORY: These indigenous women are running for federal office in Brazil's election in December,

in a backlash against the policies of President Jair Bolsonaro.

31 of the 60 registered indigenous candidates are women – the most ever on record.

(Sonia Guajajara)

“Today, it is the women who are taking up the fight and leading the struggle of indigenous people in Brazil."

Since far-right President Bolsonaro came to power in 2018,

the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, invasions of indigenous lands and violence against their peoples have surged.

Several of the candidates say they are joining the political fray with a sense of urgency.

One of them is Sonia Guajajara, head of the country's main indigenous organization, the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.

“We understand that this year is crucial to elect our representatives in order to try to combat this increase in violence, murders, deforestation - we are experiencing the greatest deforestation in the last 15 years - these attacks, these withdrawals of rights that are happening. For us it is only possible to reverse this if indigenous representatives occupy a space of power and decision.”

Deforestation of the Amazon has risen to a 15-year high under Bolsonaro,

threatening the habitat of many of Brazil's roughly 300 tribes.

The president has also stopped demarcating indigenous territory

and pushed for mining and industrial farming on existing reservations, emboldening violent land grabs and illegal miners.

Celia Xakriaba from the state of Minas Gerais says her main objective is to unwind these policies.

“That is why we indigenous peoples are much more than environmentalists - environmental activists - because our way of life, our relationship with the land, has saved the environment, the savannah, the Amazon, the Atlantic Forest, the Pampas and the Caatinga region.”

Brazil's first indigenous congressman, the Xavante tribesman Mario Juruna, was elected in 1982.

In recent years, women have been increasingly common in tribal leadership roles.

And more female chieftains are taking up the fight to defend their rights.

Vanda Witoto is running for Congress from Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon.

“I strongly believe in this power, in the strength of these women, in the ability of these women today to be in Congress making this journey and raising these voices in favour of this collective, in favour of this shared good living that we have always sought”.