Over 500 Indigenous Women from the world’s seven sociocultural regions came together virtually at the Second World Conference of Indigenous Women between 12th August and 2nd September 2021 to strengthen the Indigenous Women’s movement and agree on a global advocacy agenda. After 47 dialogue sessions split between open plenaries and working groups, where the major issues facing Indigenous Women were discussed (from political participation to climate change, the many different kinds of violence they endure and strategies for resilience), the Indigenous Women concluded that ‘we continue to face obstacles that limit us from fully and effectively exercising our rights’.
Specifically, Indigenous Women experience multiple levels of structural and systemic violence; marginalisation, discrimination, and racism; increasing aggressive appropriation of their territories by States, transnational corporations and the private sector; environmental violence by contamination of soil, air, and water sources; colonisation; globalisation; the militarisation of territories; forced displacement and migration; the criminalisation and repression of social dissent and human rights defenders; gender-based violence; exploitation and trafficking; missing and murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and inaccessibility to justice.
These situations have worsened with the Covid-19 pandemic, which ‘has demonstrated the great disparities that exist among civil society and the Indigenous Peoples of the world’. Nonetheless, the importance of ancestral knowledge, alongside intergenerational dialogue and transmission, has been pivotal for the survival of Indigenous Peoples. When their lands and territories are at risk, their medicines and their own survival are as well. This is why they denounce the ‘paternalistic approach’ towards Indigenous Peoples still evident today at different institutions of power, and demand it be replaced by an equitable collaboration.
The working days enabled participants to shed light on the positive actions and solutions being implemented by Indigenous Women to fight inequalities and exercise their rights, from how they deal with gender-based violence to how they recover their lands with levees on atolls in the South Pacific to fight rising sea levels due to climate change.
‘This conference allowed us to address our dreams, proposals, concerns and values, and arrive at a reaffirmation of our solid commitment to the advancement of our rights, our cultures, our livelihoods, and the great responsibility of continuity that we owe the future generations and our peoples’, states the Global Political Declaration from Thursday 2nd September.
In their political declaration, Indigenous Women call on Member States, and UN agencies and mechanisms to ensure effective implementation of the international instruments that defend the rights of Indigenous Women and their communities. In turn, they demand States align their legislations with these undertakings. They also express their concern over corporate infiltration and monopolisation through ‘the formation of alliances and other mechanisms between corporations, UN bodies, mechanisms and agencies which undermines the rights of Indigenous Peoples’ which fails to reflect equitable participation in these spaces policy and decision-making take place.
For Indigenous Women, these issues ‘lead us away from fulfilment of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and from each of the Objectives of the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, with its main purpose of “leaving no one behind”’.
They demand that affirmative actions and programmes be adopted that are aimed at addressing the diversity of Indigenous Women, whether this be at origin, functional or sexual, in order to mainstream the rights of Indigenous Women with disabilities or LGTBQ+ in the implementation and monitoring of the 2030 Agenda.
They assert their Indigenous healing practices, medicinal knowledge and intellectual property, as well as advocating for States to ensure that Indigenous Women are able to access, control and use their customary lands and resources. Indeed, many positive actions were shared during the conference days.
They encourage States to integrate mechanisms that reflect the collective dimensions of the right to equality, non-discrimination and self-determination; social and economic rights, including the right to decent work and the right to land, territory and resources; the rights to water and food; cultural rights; civil and political rights; the right to live free from any form of violence, and the right to access the justice system without fear of reprisal for those Indigenous Women and Girls who report violations of their rights.
As in all the events, the closing ceremony was accompanied by a multicultural spiritual ceremony thanking our ancestors and Mother Earth. In addition to Indigenous Women, the preceding panel included allies such as Francisco Cali, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Gladys Acosta, Chair of CEDAW.
During the event, renowned Indigenous Women leaders also participated, such as the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta; the Bolivian Minister of Cultures, Decolonisation and Depatriarchalisation, Sabina Orellana; former Guatemalan-Maya Member of Parliament, Rosalina Tuyuc Velásquez; Chair of the Saami Council in Norway, Christina Henriksen; Pratima Gurung, from the Global Network of Indigenous Peoples with Disabilities; Victoria Tauli, former UN rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples; Tarcila Rivera Zea, Quechua activist, and the Chair of the Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network, Lucy Mulenkei.
The International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI, for its acronym in Spanish), in collaboration with the Regional Networks of Indigenous Women, co-hosted the conference as part of the strategy to strengthen global alliances and facilitate the full and effective political participation of Indigenous Women in international decision-making processes, ensuring the monitoring of commitments made by States parties.
For more information, please visit the conference website: https://worldconferenceiw.org/