Now the women are rising up. And when the women rise up from a nation, they are the strongest voice that can be heard and it’s a voice that cannot be silenced.”
- Diane Reed, President of the Cree Society for the Communications in the 1990’s
Indigenous Women and the UN system
Indigenous women have always been part of their peoples’ struggles, whether nationally or at international fora. There is a legacy of extraordinary women, who came to the UN since the very first year of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, in 1982 in Geneva, Switzerland. Today, at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues indigenous women participate in great numbers and have a strong voice.
The interface between indigenous women’s movement and the international women’s movement varies through the years. Not always were they close, most of all due to particularities in the situation of indigenous women who live in communities in struggle. However, in recent years the two movements are getting closer. For instance, indigenous women are now raising stronger voices in claiming the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Despite their enormous assets and contribution to society, indigenous women still suffer from multiple discrimination, both as women and as indigenous individuals. They are subjected to extreme poverty, trafficking, illiteracy, lack of access to ancestral lands, non-existent or poor health care and to violence in the private and the public sphere. This violence is exacerbated when indigenous communities find themselves in the midst of conflict and women become the target of violence with political motives, when going about their daily work, fetching wood or water for the family.
Indigenous Women and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Today, at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues indigenous women participate in great numbers, have their own caucus and have a strong voice. Since its first session, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) has paid special attention to indigenous women. The special theme for UNPFII’s Third Session, held in 2004, was indigenous women. The session was enriched by three preparatory meetings held in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. During the fifth session of the UNPFII in May 2006, within the special theme “the Millennium Development Goals and indigenous peoples: redefining the Goals”, special attention was given to indigenous women. An important set of recommendations on indigenous women, which can be found below, was adopted by the Forum.
The Permanent Forum has adopted more than 100 recommendations directly referring to the situation of indigenous women. The recommendations of the UNPFII regarding indigenous women have reflected its broad thematic mandate, addressing a wide range of issues, including education, culture, health, human rights, environment and development, conflict and political participation. Recommendations on these and other topics have been addressed to States, UN agencies and bodies, indigenous peoples and civil society.
During its eighth session, the Permanent Forum reviewed the extent to which its previous recommendations regarding indigenous women had been implemented. In preparation for the review, the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues prepared an analysis paper on the subject which is available in all official UN languages (AR | EN | ES | FR | RU | ZH).
The International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI) also prepared a study, entitled Análisis y Seguimiento de las Recomendaciones sobre Mujeres Indígenas del Foro Permanente de las Naciones Unidas para las Cuestiones Indígenas. The Executive Summary is available in English and Spanish.
Indigenous Women and the Commission on the Status of Women
Indigenous women's participation at the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, 4 to 15 March 2013
A major success at the 57th CSW was the adoption of agreed conclusions on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls on 15 March 2013. The result is due not only to the marvellous work of States but also to the persistence and advice of the more than 600 NGOs gathered at the United Nations, including Indigenous women from around the world. In this regard, “27. The Commission reaffirms that indigenous women often suffer multiple forms of discrimination and poverty which increase their vulnerability to all forms of violence; and stresses the need to seriously address violence against indigenous women and girls.”
Agreed conclusions CSW57 (E/CN.6/2013/L.5)
Other events with the participation of Indigenous women at CSW57:
About 30 indigenous women from different parts of the world participated at the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2013 in New York. Indigenous women participated very actively in a press conference organized by DPI/SPFII in cooperation with FIMI; side events including “Indigenous Women’s Watch Against Violence” organized by FIMI; ''Indigenous women building their autonomy for the eradication of violence and a life with dignity’’ organized by FIMI and co-sponsored by UNICEF & SPFII. Also, a reception in honour of Indigenous Women was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the United Nations.
A Declaration of Indigenous Women of CSW57 was adopted which is available in Spanish and English.
Indigenous women's participation at the 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, 27 February to 9 March 2012
The Chairperson of the Permanent Forum presented the report of the international expert group meeting on "Combating violence against women and girls: acticle 22 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" on 8 March 2012.
A major success at the 56th CSW was the adoption of Resolution 56/4 Indigenous women: key actors in poverty and hunger eradication (page 22) of document (E/CN.6/2012/16). This is a landmark achievement in terms of the recognition of the role of indigenous women and their traditional knowledge in the development process towards poverty eradication.
Indigenous women's participation at the 49th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, 28 February to 11 March 2005
About 60 indigenous women from different parts of the world participated at the 49th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March in New York, where the review and evaluation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action took place. Indigenous women participated in two official panels and six side events, held two press conferences, attended a week-long seminar on international issues, adopted a declaration and proposed a resolution on indigenous women and girls that was finally adopted at the Commission on the Status of Women.
At CSW49 the Resolution 49/7. Indigenous women: beyond the then-year review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (page 23) of document (E/CN.6/2005/11) was adopted. It is the first resolution on indigenous women at the CSW, it highlights their rights and specific needs, including poverty and violence, and was considered a big achievement of the indigenous women’s work.
Publications on Indigenous Women
Briefing Notes on Gender and Indigenous Women
Recommendations of the Permanent Forum Relevant to Indigenous Women
Indigenous Women and the United Naitions System: Good Practices and Lessons Learned (Report on the Inter-Agency Task Force on Indigenous Women)
Mairin Iwanka Raya, Indigenous Women Stand against Violence FIMI Companion Report to the UN Secretay- General's study on Violence against women.
Relevant UN Bodies and Instruments
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action
Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women CEDAW
UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
Resolution 49/7. Indigenous women: beyond the ten-year review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted at CSW 49th session
Resolution 56/4 Indigenous women: key actors in poverty and hunger eradication (pag. 22) of document (E/CN.6/2012/16).