The Global Study on the Situation of Indigenous Women and Girls in the Framework of the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPfA) describes the situation of Indigenous Women and Girls (IWG) in five regions of the world (the Americas, Asia, Africa, the Arctic and the Pacific), outlining progress over the last 25 years, as well as ongoing issues and challenges according to the 12 critical areas of concern identified in the BDPfA.
Since the Beijing Conference in 1995, inspired by that powerful process, various national and regional Indigenous organizations across the world have been consolidated or established, and new alliances among different regional organizations have been created, giving rise to new international networks such as the International IndigenousWomen’s Forum (FIMI). Through advocacy strategies based on their ancestral knowledge, worldview and experience in different spaces of action, Indigenous Women (IW) have contributed to the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action at the local, national and international levels, defending their individual and collective rights. However, despite the achievement of meaningful progress and the widespread recognition of IW as actors of change, after 25 years, many challenges persist.
Globally, there are an estimated 476.6 million Indigenous people, of whom 238.4 million are women and 238.2 million are men. Overall, they represent 6.2% of the world’s population (ILO, 2019), but they make up 15% of the world’s poorest (UNPFII, 2020). Information for all regions identifies poverty as a multidimensional problem that affects.
IW, representing a critical barrier to equality and to the full enjoyment of human rights. Additionally, poverty is the consequence of persistent dis- criminatory policies and of an economic growth development model based on capitalism and new forms of colonialism. Poverty is also deeply related to land dispossession, loss of livelihood assets, armed conflicts and experiencing the effects of climate change. Migration by IW in general, and to urban areas in particular, has been documented in all regions, due to limited economic opportunities, lack of basic social services, land dispossession and food insecurity, among others.
Although there has been an improvement in access to education for women and girls globally, challenges persist for IWG in particular in obtaining basic education in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, and secondary and tertiary education in all regions. Dropout rates of Indigenous Girls are of- ten linked to child pregnancy, forced marriage or forced labour. Limited access to quality education that is culturally and linguistically relevant is still a key challenge in all regions, undermining the transmission and preservation of Indigenous language and culture.
Regardless of their geographical location or so- cio-political situation, health indicators are always poorer for Indigenous Peoples and IW than for non-Indigenous ones. The effects of colonization, the loss of ancestral land, environmental violence, exclusion, inequality, discriminatory cultural prac- tices by mainstream health care providers and discrimination with regard to traditional health practices are among the most striking factors in IW’s health situation.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is also an alarming and pressing issue among IWG globally. Although there is a widespread lack of data and research on this topic, available information shows that IWG generally experience a higher rate of gender-based violence compared to non-Indigenous women and girls, a lower rate of reporting, limited or no access to quality services that are culturally and linguistically relevant, racialized policing, limited or no access to justice and an absence of relevant public policies to prevent and protect them from violence. During armed conflicts or militarization of Indigenous territories, they are also likely to be subjected to sexual violence and rape.
Indigenous Women face specific challenges in the world of work that can exacerbate marginalization and poverty. Their heavy reliance on informal work and their concentration in areas threatened by climate change place Indigenous Women in a disadvantaged position compared both to their non-Indigenous counterparts and to Indigenous men (ILO, 2019). In addition, they are likely to face many other challenges: macroeconomic adjustment policies that affect them disproportionally; discriminatory laws related to land rights, natural resources, loans and credit; and aggressive development projects such as mining and agribusiness on Indigenous land which result in land contamination, dispossession and loss of traditional livelihood assets. IW also carry most of the responsibility to provide unpaid care and do- mestic work in their communities.
There has been progress regarding the political participation of IW at the national and international levels, thanks to the strengthening of Indigenous Women’s organizations and their advocacy capacity. However, Indigenous Women continue to face critical barriers to their effective and equal participation in Indigenous and non-Indigenous local, national and international institutions. They are less represented and even excluded in meaningful political decision-making at the national and local levels, due to a lack of recognition of Indigenous Peoples in national constitutions and laws, discrimination and marginalization, lower levels of education, domestic and care related responsibilities and political violence.
Moreover, national and global statistics frequently lack disaggregated data to capture socio-economic and cultural inequalities, jeopardizing the visibility of Indigenous Peoples, including IWG, in official data. This critical issue encompasses all areas: education, health, economic empowerment, political participation and freedom from violence. In countries where IP lack formal recognition (Africa, Asia and the Pacific), data collection and the development of evidence-based public policies represent an even greater challenge. Twenty-five years after Beijing, the advancement of the situation of Indigenous Women is still constrained by the major barrier that is the full andeffective recognition, protection and fulfilment of the rights of IP enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The absence of recognition of Indigenous Peoples in national legislation, as well as land dispossession and the lack of protection of IP’s land rights, are key human rights issues that affect IP’s collective and individual rights, having specific consequences for Indigenous Women. Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Women are also systematically criminalized, persecuted and killed for defending their land and rights.
Although Indigenous Women’s participation in media has increased, there are still many obstacles to their engagement in communication and the broadcasting of information, including poor communication infrastructures in Indigenous territories, gender discrimination, legal barriers to the establishment of community media and the criminalization of journalists and reporters, among others. However, media may also be used as a tool for exercising IW’s rights to self-determination, to enable their empowerment through reclaiming their narratives, allowing them to be voices for social change.
Finally, Indigenous Women live in some of the most fragile ecosystems in the world, and they are being affected by the impacts of climate change more than anyone else. As for their specific relation to land, Indigenous Women are most likely to experience the first and worst consequences of climate change globally, including natural disasters and emergencies, food insecurity, forced migration, limited access to natural resources and related concerns. Although Indigenous Women hold important knowledge for both mitigation and adaptation, they remain underrepresented in environmental policymaking at multiple levels. Besides, environmental violence caused by large development projects, extractive industries and agribusiness, as well as military contamination on IP’s territories are having alarming consequences on IW’s reproductive health and spiritual well-being.
To deal with these pressing challenges, Indigenous Women have been building alliances among themselves and with other social organizations and movements. Everywhere in the world, there are many positive examples of IW, particularly young IW, who are leading innovative initiatives on many important issues such as self-determination; violence and access to justice and sexual and reproductive rights; environmental justice and climate change; emergency responses to the COVID-19 pandemic; criticizing and challenging colonialism and capitalism; and promoting and protecting IW’s collective and individual rights.
Read it in full here: Global Study