Four keys for Indigenous Women to benefit from the CEDAW
| 2022-08-09
Understanding the CEDAW; influencing the reports from State Parties with inputs from Indigenous Women organizations and preparing shadow reports; participating in sessions; and promoting General Recommendation No. 39 on the Rights of Indigenous Women and Girls. Four fundamental steps to take ownership of this instrument for change. Discrimination moves forward on our bodies, our loved ones and our land, but we, Indigenous Women and Girls, come together to face it. We resort to ancestral knowledge and turn ourselves into agents of change. We combat gender-based violence; we cure physical and spiritual diseases; we produce food and reclaim traditional medicine; we protect Mother Earth, animals and plants, because we may live in harmony thanks to them. However, oftentimes, ancestral knowledge and the collective struggle t need to be accompanied by international legal instruments to support them. The CEDAW, which is mandatory for its States Parties, is an essential instrument, as it proposes that women and girls may fully exercise their rights and freedoms.  How can we, Indigenous Women and Girls, benefit from the CEDAW?  Here are four keys to do so. 
  1. Understand what the CEDAW is, an international Convention to demand respect for the rights of women and protect them against discrimination.
The CEDAW is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. It is the only binding international instrument that specifically protects the rights of all women. The CEDAW Committee is formed by 23 independent expert women of the Americas, Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Europe/Central Asia and Middle East/Northern Africa regions. It receives reports from the State Parties, communications from persons or groups who submit reports or claims on systematic violations to the rights of women.  In addition, the Committee may open investigations, if the State so allows.  This international committee also makes general recommendations that must be taken into consideration in the national laws or other approaches to respect the rights of women and girls. General Recommendation No. 39, which is about to be adopted, addresses Indigenous Women and Girls.
  1. Know in advance which States will submit reports in the next CEDAW Committee session and, if our country is convened, participate in the preparation of reports.
At each session, the CEDAW usually invites eight State Parties. The Committee suggests that they consult national non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and women associations in the preparation of their report. Through our organizations, Indigenous Women and Girls may exert pressure so that the States take into account our situation in such documents and implement national policies that promote honoring the Convention.  If the State fails to take us into consideration in the document produced, we may prepare a parallel or shadow report that outlines the actual problems affecting Indigenous Women and Girls in regard to the breach of the Convention and include specific recommendations for the change. 
  1. Attend the Geneva session and advocate for inclusion of Indigenous Women by means of policies and programs.
The CEDAW Committee invites NGOs to provide oral information in the public meeting; this option may be availed by Indigenous Women. It is about lobbying, influencing decision makers so that they may intervene in public policies.  We, Indigenous Women, understand the art of lobbying; our interventions, filled with stories, images and experiences, usually have a persuasive force with an impact on public opinion in various spheres. By lobbying, we may go from a mere claim to a concrete proposal for a solution. When taking part at the Committee sessions, Indigenous Women and Girls will notify the States how our communities are affected by the lack of compliance with the Convention. In addition, we will provide sustainable solutions to face such problems. In these sessions, we, Indigenous Women, may highlight why a General Recommendation is required to demand the States to incorporate policies that guarantee our individual and collective human rights as Indigenous Women and Girls. 
  1. Keep a close watch on future steps and add more voices to promote the CEDAW General Recommendation on the Rights of Indigenous Women and Girls.
Indigenous Women have struggled and continue making our   rights visible individually and collectively. We believe that we can accomplish more if we are informed and united. Upon its adoption, the Recommendation will be transformed into a strategic instrument for this fight. Therefore, regional organizations and networks are joining in an effort to disseminate it, through the campaign. Add your signature to promote the adoption of the Recommendation.