International Day of Indigenous Peoples - August 9 - Indigenous Women


2014 Theme: "Bridging the Gap: Implementing the Rights of Indigenous Peoples." 



IWGIA - International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs - is an international, non-governmental human rights organization. We support indigenous peoples' struggle for human rights, self-determination, right to territory, control of land and resources, cultural integrity, and the right to development.





Indigenous women often face double discrimination: they are discriminated as indigenous and as women. Discrimination as women they experience not only from the surrounding society but often also from within their own communities. Integration into national society and the adoption of elements of mainstream culture often leads to a further weakening of the status of women in indigenous societies.

Indigenous women thus suffer from a range of problems related to the violation of their rights. These include among others: lack of participation in decision-making processes, lack of control over income to sustain themselves and their families, lack of land rights, lack of access to education, harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation, domestic violence and gender based violence in situations of armed conflicts and militarization.

As part of the general human rights principles guiding IWGIA’s work it promotes gender equity and mutual respect in all of its activities. The support for indigenous women’s rights and empowerment is a cross-cutting aspect in IWGIA’s activities whenever it is relevant and feasible. IWGIA seeks to integrate the issue of women’s rights and participation in key activities such as in the land and natural resource rights and capacity building/awareness raising projects. While promoting gender sensitivity and participation of women in all its activities, specific women-focused projects will be supported when considered of particular urgency.

Promoting gender equality among indigenous peoples can pose significant challenges. IWGIA aims at both supporting gender equity and at supporting indigenous peoples’ cultures, customary laws and institutions, and these two aspects might at times collide. Among and within indigenous communities there are different views on the issue of women’s rights, and some of those views might contradict the principle of gender equality and women’s empowerment. There are no easy solutions to such dilemmas. However, IWGIA, in its partnerships with indigenous and other organisations, seeks to uphold the fundamental human rights principles including women’s rights.

IWGIA perceives cultures as dynamic, constantly adapting to changing circumstances, and in which there are different perceptions of and “voices” on a particular matter, such as gender relations. IWGIA chooses to strengthen those voices in society which are in accordance with fundamental human rights principles, including women’s rights. In line with its non-interference principle IWGIA shall not actively do its own advocacy on women’s rights, but shall support partners who work for empowerment and equity of women. The work of such organizations should not be perceived as contradicting traditional cultures and values, but rather as attempts of promoting discussions and gradual change of particular aspects of traditional cultures which are harmful to women. Such work should be done in a sensitive and respectful manner that does not create tensions and conflict within the respective communities.


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Sent: Monday, January 20, 2014 12:34 PM

Subject: Latin America - Indigenous Women Gaps in Education, Health, Work











MDG : An indigenous woman performs a traditional dance in Lima, Peru

An indigenous woman performs a traditional dance in Lima, Peru. Data suggests indigenous women are more likely to die in childbirth in Latin America. Photograph: AP

01/11/2013 - Urgent action needed to close 'unacceptable gaps' in access to work and education across Latin America and Caribbean

Indigenous women in Latin America continue to face great gaps in access to higher education, health services and employment, although there have been significant educational advances, according to a report by the UN's Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The findings were published this week at a conference in Lima, Peru, which brought together more than 180 indigenous women from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australasia, the Pacific and Russia in an array of colourful traditional costumes.

A lack of economic and academic opportunities at home, coupled with growing damage to the environment from mining and other extractive industries, have led women to leave their ancestral territories for urban centres, where they face new struggles, the report said. In Peru, more than half the estimated 3.2 million indigenous women live in cities.

"There are improvements," said the report's author, Fabiana Del Popolo. "In urban centres, for example, the infant mortality is lower, and they have greater access to education and clean water. But the discrimination they face in the cities remains great, and the jobs they obtain are menial and often provide no social protections."

Access to education has improved dramatically for indigenous girls, adolescents and young women in Latin America, the report showed, with data indicating more than 90% of indigenous boys and girls are getting some schooling. In 2000 about half of the girls aged between 12 and 17 were not in the educational system at all.

However, higher education remained out of reach for many, with only Costa Rica making significant advances, doubling the proportion of indigenous women between 18 and 22 in school or university. Years in education was seen to cut the number of children had by indigenous women by up to half.

Despite advances in maternal healthcare in Latin America, data suggested that indigenous women were much more likely to die in childbirth or pregnancy complications. In Peru, where 23% of women are indigenous, the maternal mortality rate in 2009 was 103 per 100,000 births. But the rate in Puno, where the population is mostly indigenous Aymara and Quechua, maternal mortality rose by an additional 45% in 2011.

"The bottom line is indigenous women remain invisible to society," Del Popolo said. "Guaranteeing and respecting the rights of indigenous women and their communities is a prerequisite for addressing these unacceptable gaps in access to health, security, education and rights to land for millions of indigenous women throughout Latin America."

Del Popolo said when indigenous women leave their home territories they risk losing their ethnic identity. Wider society loses out, she added, as the women cannot fulfil their role as protectors of crop diversity.

Myrna Cunningham, a member of the UN permanent forum on indigenous issues at the conference, said: "The analysis covers only Latin America, but we know from accounts of women at this event, as well as from recent surveys, that the problems identified here are universal."

In a declaration, the conference participants called for indigenous women to be a priority at the UN's world conference on indigenous peoples next year.

The declaration also called for nation states to respect "our rights to lands, territories and resources as enshrined … in the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples", adding that "indigenous women are active human rights defenders of all individual and collective human rights of our peoples".

Agnes Williams, clan mother of the Nation of Seneca Indians, part of the Iriquois confederacy in both the US and Canada, told the Guardian that the pollution from extractive industries was the principal threat to their "cultural integrity and sacred relationship with the earth".

Amid the challenges posed by climate change, pollution and loss of territory, many of the women leaders showed they were well-versed with the modern world while maintaining their traditional lifestyles.

The Sami in Norway have three-hour broadcasts in their language on state television, said Gudrun Lindi, maintaining their cultural identity in Europe's wealthiest nation.

Wearing a traditional red hat and blue dress, Lindi said the women in Sami communities were often better educated than the men and had found new ways to deal with problems. "The women have to do it because they are giving birth and they have to protect life and see that there are future generations in our communities," she said.

Ana Samante, a Masai from Kajiado county, Kenya, said she was tackling the issue of women being left out of the decision-making process in village politics through intense lobbying.

The only woman in western Kajiado county with a masters degree, Samante, 32, said educating girls was the best tool to eliminate the practice of female genital mutilation, which is still common in Masai societies.

By Dan Collyns - The Guardian