Saturday, August 8, 2015

A framework to advance indigenous women’s issues

86. Indigenous women are emerging as a powerful and compelling voice in the indigenous rights and the women’s rights movements, promoting conditions for the improved exercise and better enjoyment of their rights on the basis of equality, and in a nuanced manner, so as to ensure respect for these rights while continuing to maintain and transmit indigenous cultures and values. 

87. Within this context, there has been a steady progress in the achievements made by indigenous women at the national and international levels. Indigenous women have made headway in highlighting their issues through increased participation at international forums, both as part of that processes related to indigenous peoples and those that relate to women more broadly. These efforts have ensured that indigenous women’s rights and concerns are recognized and reflected in international instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention of the International Labour Organization (Convention No. 169), as well as in the more recent outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. 

88. Nevertheless, 20 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, indigenous women are still facing significant challenges to the full enjoyment of their human rights. The analysis of national reviews highlights indigenous women’s specific situations and progress made by States, as well as insights into the numerous outstanding challenges. The wide array of measures reported by States show that advances in indigenous women’s rights vary greatly across regions and countries and are influenced by national priorities and political opportunities, as well as by financial resources. It is worth noting that certain States and regions have various initiatives that include a specific focus on indigenous women, while others are largely silent on the issue. 

89. The most targeted action by States appears to be in the areas of violence against women, health, education and capacity-building. These areas are more clearly gender-specific (especially violence against women and health concerns affecting women in particular), or are areas in which indigenous women have been shown to experience a particular vulnerability or disadvantage (such as illiteracy rates). Within these areas, several States recognized that indigenous women face specific challenges that merit differentiated action. Certainly, some of the measures described by States in their reports to address concerns could be described as emerging good practices, which could be built upon or replicated in other countries or contexts. 

90. An overarching concern identified by States is the level of participation by indigenous women in power and in decision-making, both at the local and national levels. Across the board, women still face discrimination in this regard, despite the modest gains made in some countries. The low level of participation by indigenous women presents both a problem in and of itself as well as a hurdle to the raising of awareness about and developing solutions to the wide range of other concerns for indigenous women in areas including education, health, violence, poverty reduction and access to justice. Increasing the participation of indigenous women in powerand in decision-making should be a priority both for States and within indigenous communities.

 91. Furthermore, responding to the particular issues faced by indigenous women could be improved by mainstreaming and by considering their rights a s a crosscutting issue in general policies and programmes on women and/or indigenous peoples. In addition, responses to the concerns faced by indigenous women could be improved by increasing awareness of the issues of concern to indigenous women among national decision makers and authorities. This would enable policymakers to have a better understanding of the many issues that indigenous women are currently facing. In this regard, the disaggregation of data by sex and ethnicity is a fundamental tool for identifying and measuring problem areas and developing solutions. 

92. Finally, it is worth noting that addressing concerns facing indigenous women and girls requires that both their rights as women and their rights as indigenous peoples be made a priority. In this regard, the rights enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be advanced concurrently with initiatives designed specifically for indigenous women so as to help in tackling the structural problems affecting indigenous peoples that further contribute to the difficulties affecting indigenous women in particular. This includes advancement of the right to self-determination by indigenous peoples so that they can themselves participate in the development of effective, culturally appropriate and sustainable solutions to the problems faced by indigenous women.

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