Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Economic, Social, and Cultural Dimensions of Indigenous Women’s Rights 14/20

Chapter 6A1:

185. Despite some advances in the past years in their economic, social, and cultural well-being, indigenous peoples continue to live in precarious conditions, as compared to the rest of the population, with higher rates of poverty, lack of access to basic services, education, and health care.438 In Guatemala, for example, the highest levels of poverty are found in the 12 departments inhabited by an indigenous majority.439 In Colombia, there are significant gaps in the effective enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights of indigenous peoples in comparison with the general average of the non-indigenous population of that country.440 The same situation can be seen in Mexico, where indigenous peoples show considerably higher rates of illiteracy than the non-indigenous population, as well as difficulties in gaining access to health services.441 On its country visit to Honduras in December 2014, the IACHR noted with concern that indigenous peoples experience higher levels of poverty than the rest of the population of the country, posting lower literacy rates, higher malnutrition rates, and a high incidence of contagious diseases and infections.442 

186. As was indicated above, indigenous women in the Americas are exposed to multiple forms of discrimination, placing them in a situation of greater vulnerability, as compared to the rest of the population and to indigenous men, because of the various layers of discrimination that they face simultaneously. The IACHR has previously observed, with regard to economic, social and cultural rights, that discrimination against women, and especially against indigenous women, continues to be reflected in the labor market, in limited access to social security, in higher rates of illiteracy, as well as in the serious situation of poverty and social exclusion affecting them.443 
187. This chapter examines the situation of economic, social, and cultural rights that indigenous women in the hemisphere are experiencing, as well as the major obstacles preventing them from fully enjoying these rights. It begins by describing the main issues faced by indigenous peoples in the Americas related to enjoyment of their economic, social, and cultural rights –with an emphasis on the rights to education, health, water, food, and work– and the impact that this situation has on indigenous women. Lastly, it addresses the importance of cultural rights to indigenous women. As a crosscutting issue, it discusses the importance of employing an intercultural and gender-based approach in the design and implementation of laws, policies, and programs aimed at addressing these issues. 

A. Barriers to the enjoyment of economic, social  and cultural rights 
1. Education 
188. Education is a human right and a precondition for the realization of other rights. It constitutes a powerful tool for gender equality and a life free from poverty. 444 Indeed, education is one of the most economically sound investments for an individual or society; and this is particularly true for women, as it increases directly their wages and facilitates their access to broader health and social benefits.445 Although this section of the report refers to the right to education of indigenous women in general, it will for the most part focus on access to education for indigenous girls, with a specific focus on primary education, as it constitutes a determining factor which has a direct impact on the socio-economic conditions of indigenous women throughout their lives, and conditions their ability to pursue their education to the secondary level and beyond. 

189. Based on this understanding and on the framework of its Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations made the right to education its target number 2, establishing that States should “[e]nsure that, by 2015, all children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling”. 446 In addition to the treaties at the international level, the Inter-American Court has established that States have the duty to ensure access to free basic education.447 When indigenous communities are involved, the State must foster the right to education from an ethno-educational perspective, in other words, it must “take positive measures so that education is culturally acceptable from an ethnically differentiated perspective.”448 

190. The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has underscored that indigenous peoples’ right to education “includes the right to provide and receive education through their traditional methods of teaching and learning, and the right to integrate their own perspectives, cultures, beliefs, values and languages in mainstream education systems and institutions.”449 It must also be taken into consideration that the right of indigenous peoples to education encompasses mental, physical, spiritual, cultural, and environmental dimensions.450 In addition to the intercultural perspective referred to above, education must be provided in conditions of equality and free from stereotyped gendered roles. 451 As the IACHR has indicated, indigenous women and girls encounter specific barriers to access and attendance in school, given the lack of educational options that fit their cultural and socio-economic context. 452 It is therefore essential that education for indigenous women and girls be inclusive, as well as culturally and linguistically appropriate, to avoid perpetuating their marginalization. 

191. Information provided to the IACHR demonstrates that illiteracy continues to be too common amongst indigenous women. In Guatemala, information from the second thematic report of the Office of the Ombudsman for Indigenous Women indicated that an average of 58.3% of all indigenous women in the country are illiterate, a proportion which was dramatically higher in some specific areas, reaching 87% amongst chuj indigenous women for instance.453 In Paraguay, the illiteracy rate of indigenous women 15 years of age or older is 42.7%.454 In Mexico, information from the 2010 National Survey highlighted that illiteracy among indigenous women who speak an indigenous language is four times higher (34.4%) than for those women who do not (8.1%), in addition to being much higher than that of men.455 

192. As a result of the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the past decade has been marked with a solid improvement in terms of access to education and school attendance for indigenous children. According to information received at the IACHR, MDGs have improved gender parity as well as included an additional 52 million children in school around the world.456 In addition, Intercultural Bilingual Education (IBE), which has focused on the promotion of both the indigenous language and the national language, and included indigenous knowledge in the curriculum, has proven to be successful. Available evidence suggests that IBE has boosted school attendance, cultural awareness of children and self-esteem, as well as has increased both student and parent’s interest in education.457 Indeed, access to education has increased substantially for indigenous girls and adolescents between the ages of 6 to 22.458 For instance, between 2000 to 2010, school attendance of indigenous girls ages 6 to 11 years old increased by almost 20% in Costa Rica and Panama, reaching attendance rates of 88% in the former and 92% in the latter.459 During the same period, the increase in school attendance of indigenous girls between the ages of 12-17 was even more significant, rising from as low as nearly 50% in some countries in Latin America to 70% of indigenous adolescents.460 Some important increases have also been seen among indigenous young women between the ages of 18 and 22, where attendance was reported to have doubled over the last decade; however it did not surpass 40% in any country of Latin America.461 

193. Nonetheless, and despite this marked increase in school attendance for indigenous girls of every age group, a significant gap remains between indigenous and non-indigenous girls, and it increases progressively with every additional year of education.462 Indeed, there continues to be a lower probability that indigenous girls attain completion of elementary and high school.463 The Commission has found it difficult to obtain recent data on access to education of indigenous children which was disaggregated by gender, but the data it was able to gather provided a basis for concern. In several countries, only a small percentage (less than 10%) of indigenous girls complete high school - in Panama (5.7%), Colombia (6.8%), Nicaragua (7.4%), and Ecuador (7.9%). In other countries, completion rates range from 10% to 20%: in México (13.1%) and Costa Rica (14.5%); while a few countries’ rates are higher than 20%: in Uruguay (23.5%) and Peru (28.6%).464 This has been attributed to factors including: failures in the implementation of EIB, such as the lack of sustained and secure funding, of infrastructure, and of qualified teachers; the unsatisfactory reflection of indigenous cultures, traditions, histories, languages and perspectives in the curricula; the persistence of negative stereotyping of indigenous culture and identity; ethnic, generational and gender inequalities; teenage pregnancy; the lack of recognition and support for second chance literacy and nonformal education programs, as well as the persistence of structural causes such as poverty, which require indigenous children to work and contribute to the family’s financial subsistence.465 

194. Another factor to be considered is the school completion rate at the different levels of education, as school attendance by indigenous girls and women by no means guarantees that they will remain in school until completion. The primary school completion rate has considerably increased in all countries, particularly in Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama, where rates have risen 20 percentage points between 2000 and 2010.466 Ethnic inequality continues to be greater than gender-based inequality: with the exception of Uruguay, young indigenous girls complete primary school at a lower rate than nonindigenous girls in all countries. This inequality is more significant in comparing rural and urban settings, which exposes sharp differences between rural and urban indigenous girls.467 

195. Several different barriers make it particularly difficult for indigenous girls and young women to access and remain in school. The lack of adequate infrastructure in schools, such as properly outfitted and functioning bathrooms, in indigenous communities and economically disadvantaged areas, affects young and adolescent girls when they enter puberty.468 School location is another one of the most common barriers, inasmuch as in many instances education facilities are located too far away from their communities, entailing a long journey, and the attendant transportation costs and risks of sexual violence.469 The additional costs that must be incurred for school supplies and textbooks just add to the list of obstacles encountered by them.470 The State of Peru has noted, for example, that indigenous women tend to not complete their education, due to lack of economic resources, especially when they attempt to access higher education.471 

196. Indigenous girls and women are also up against cultural barriers, when their families believe that the investment made in educating their daughters is not worth the cost, or when these girls have family and caregiver responsibilities that they are required to perform instead.472 Based on information provided by the State of Peru, the highest school dropout rates for women are posted in rural areas, as little girls are required to drop out of school to do domestic chores.473 Another reason girls may be compelled to leave school prior to completion is early motherhood. 474 In this regard, it is important to underscore that indigenous women’s particular exposure to sexual violence has an impact on the exercise of their right to education.475 ECLAC has identified that, given the remoteness of many indigenous communities and the long distances that must be travelled for children to attend school, families’ fear for the safety of the girls and the risks of being victims of violence and sexual assault on the way to or back from school is an additional detractor to attendance.476 

197. It is fundamental for States to pay special attention to the particular situation of indigenous women and to consult them regarding the design of responses to address the sexual violence perpetrated against women in the education sector, with the goal of ensuring measures that are sensitive to their worldview and reflect an intercultural perspective. 477 The IACHR has previously stressed that an intercultural education, free of all forms of discrimination includes the right to live free from all forms of violence.478 
198. Another major barrier for indigenous girls and women to access education is language. According to the United Nations Rapporteur on the Right to Education, teaching in the predominant language of a State, instead of indigenous languages, is a factor that has a bearing on accessing and remaining in school, inasmuch as it places linguistic, pedagogical, and psychological limitations on indigenous students.479 ECLAC has found that students, whose mother tongue is not integrated into education programs or is only taught as a separate course, tend to perform poorly,480 and that they perform even more poorly when the curriculum lacks sensitivity to the subject of cultural diversity.481 The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has consistently expressed concern that indigenous peoples in Guatemala do not always enjoy the right to an education taught in their native tongue.482 It has been reported that departments of the country with 90% indigenous population have a very low number of educational establishments with a bilingual/intercultural education program in place.483

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