A record number of Indigenous women are running for office in Brazil in a bid to increase Indigenous representation after four years under far-right president Jair Bolsonaro.
Sixty Indigenous candidates, including 31 women, registered to run for federal government in the country’s election on Sunday Oct. 2, the most on record.
The candidates hope to undo the policies of Bolsonaro, whose term has seen deforestation of the Amazon hit a 15-year high, invasions of Indigenous lands and surging violence against Indigenous people.
“We understand that this year is crucial to elect our representatives in order to try to combat this increase in violence, murders, deforestation,” Sonia Guajajara, an Indigenous candidate for federal Congresswoman for Sao Paulo, told Reuters.
“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,” she added.
The Indigenous candidates hope to reform the institutions that are meant to protect their peoples and territories including the Indigenous agency FUNAI, which Bolsonaro gutted by reducing staff and replacing anthropologists with police and former military officers, according to Reuters.
Bolsonaro has stopped demarcating Indigenous territory, instead pushing for mining and industrial farming on the lands.
Under him, deforestation of the Amazon has threatened the habitats of Brazil’s roughly 300 tribes, who are essential in protecting the rainforest, according to environmental scientists.
“Our relationship with the land, has saved the environment, the savannah, the Amazon, the Atlantic Forest, the Pampas and the Caatinga region,” Celia Xakriaba, an Indigenous woman who is running for Congress from Minas Gerais state, told Reuters.
Bolsonaro is running against leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, also known as Lula, who has pledged funding to fight deforestation and protect Indigenous rights.
“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,” Vanda Witoto, who is running for Congress from Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon, said.