On February 25th, the second edition of the Women’s Leadership Summit 2023
took place in the Assuria Event Center. Chairwomen and co-founder of the
Mulokot Foundation, Ms. Jupta Itoewaki, was one of the speakers in a panel on
women’s success stories.
On defining, what success means to her, Ms. Itoewaki stated that she views success
as a feeling of being satisfied and content. But most importantly, being successful
means the realization of goals that she has set.
“Surviving should also be defined as success”
Ms. Itoewaki went on to share her life’s story. Her mother being 16 when she got
pregnant, was shunned by the community and was forced to abort Jupta. Which her
mom tried to do a few times. Thus, from birth she was faced with challenges, says
Jupta. She further reflects on the fact that according to her community, her
existence should not have even been a fact. Yet, she has grown into a woman who
has dedicated her life to fight for the rights of that same community.
During her upbringing, she was faced with many more challenges. From growing
up in a village where there were no schools, thus no access to education, to lack of
clean drinking water due to illegal goldmining. And also the ongoing fight for
Indigenous land rights to prevent their land from being stolen. The obstacles she
faced were ever so many.
Due to the lack of access to quality education for Indigenous and tribal
Communities, Ms. Itoewaki’s family was faced with the choice of which sibling to
send to the capital to attend primary school. This is a reality that many IndigenousCfamilies are faced with. Often times this is a best case scenario, since some
families do not have the means to send any of their children to the capital for
Ms. Itoewaki went on to share the story of her brave grandmother. The Itoewaki
family had decided that Jupta’s older brother would be sent to Paramaribo to attend
primary school. Jupta was not chosen because many stigmas were placed upon her
because of her being a girl. It was said she would get pregnant at an early age and
would not complete her education, thus it would be a waste.
Jupta’s grandmother believed in her however and vouched for her grandchild.
Thus, Jupta was sent to Paramaribo for education.
“Negativity makes me stronger, it works like fuel”
Itoewaki says that during her life, from a very young age, she has learnt to
transform negativity into fuel for her goals and dreams. She was determined to
prove all who doubted her wrong. When she was in primary school, a teacher told
her she would not achieve anything in life because Indigenous people are not smart
and should remain in the forest. Jupta decided to prove this particular teacher
wrong. She completed her education and until this day she continues to educate
herself through various programs and training courses.
Jupta also faced sexual harassment several times in her career. she
faced men who made extremely racy and inappropriate jokes because it was seen
as normal. When she would speak against this to defend herself against the
harassment, the men took this as an insult and would curse at her and call her
degrading names. She needed to speak up many times before the harassment
Jupta’s concluding statement during the panel discussion regarded the way she
deals with anger. She says that if you let anger consume you, you will be filled
with negative energy. Instead, she urges women to forgive when needed.
“Be resilient, but do not choose to hold on to anger. Instead, work on finding
your purpose; if you do not set your goals, you will not be able to find success”