Inuit Women of the Arctic design strategies for collaboration between Indigenous Organizations and the UN for the implementation of CEDAW’s General Recommendation No. 39

April 20, 2023.- To strengthen the Inuit Women’s movement in the Arctic and keep an open dialogue on the implementation of CEDAW’s General Recommendation Number 39 (GR39), we met in a parallel event to the 22nd session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). The event was organized by the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), the Permanent Mission of Denmark in New York and the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI), with the aim of promoting the application of this binding international instrument with which States are required to protect the individual and collective rights of Indigenous Girls and Women around the world.

In his opening address, Binota Moy Dhamai, Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2022–2023), a subsidiary body of the United Nations Human Rights Council, explained that GR39, which has been adopted thanks to the hard work of the Indigenous Women’s movements, recognizes the voices of girls, youth and women as agents of change and leaders inside and outside their communities.

“The General Recommendation identifies and addresses the different forms of intersectional discrimination they face, but also mandates access to justice,” Moy Dhamai said. “They have worked hard so that the plan of the Danish government to implant contraceptives to reduce the birth rate in Greenland, carried out in the 1960s and 1970s, never happens again for the Inuit Women and Girls,” she said.

Tarcila Rivera Zea, FIMI’s President, gave a brief overview of the GR39 in her speech. She recalled that different Indigenous Women’s organizations have been articulating themselves in a continental network to protect their rights over the past 30 years. “There were many international instruments that worked to guarantee equality between women and men, but a fundamental piece was still missing: an instrument that specifically addressed the protection of the rights of Indigenous Girls and Women,” she said.

Rivera Zea recognized that the implementation of the GR39 is a challenge. “The objective of the Recommendation is to guide the States to adopt relevant legislative, political and other measures to guarantee compliance with their obligations in relation to the rights of Indigenous Girls and Women. We need to strengthen the negotiation between national governments and international organizations. We need to discuss the actual implementation to see it come down from the global to the local levels, and from there fight corruption to strengthen the protection of rights and access to justice,” she explained.

Gerri Sharpe, President of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, expressed her gratitude for the dialogue that was launched at this meeting between representatives of international organizations and the Inuit women who live in the different arctic regions of the world.

“We are committed to ensuring that the human rights and priorities of Inuit women are equitably included in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Action Plan, which is now being developed by the Canadian federal government in partnership with indigenous organizations,” Sharpe stated. “GR39 will be an excellent tool for collaborative work with the different local authorities,” she added.

Tove Søvndal Gant, member of the UNPFII, recognized that there are still inequalities, structural violence, and alarming corruption rates in some of the countries that have ratified their participation in programs to protect women. “The political will of public officials will be key to adapting the recommendation to local circumstances, and to preventing dishonesty from blocking its full operation,” she said.

She further added that “the governments of Denmark and Greenland should strengthen their political cooperation and ensure that the document is translated into the respective indigenous languages, so that the inhabitants can understand it”.

Finally, talking about how to design collaboration strategies between Indigenous Organizations and the UN, which promote the implementation of GR39, Rosalee Gonzalez, co-coordinator of the northern region of the Enlace Continental de Mujeres Indígenas de las Américas (ECMIA), explained that the most important thing is to continue strengthening the political and citizen participation of Indigenous Women at the General Assembly.

“We need to train the Indigenous Women at the UN so that we may be highly qualified and have experts in the Office of the High Commissioner who know about our needs and issues inside and outside of the indigenous territories,” she said. 

The women leaders, she said, play a very important role in monitoring and overseeing the actions implemented by the governments to guarantee effective implementation. Additionally, the women members of civil society organizations can present alternative reports to the committees, showing the gaps and challenges in the application of the recommendation that may not be mentioned in the official reports presented by the States.

Indigenous Women Discuss and Develop Strategies to Advance the Implementation of RG39

April 17, 2023.- In a parallel event to the 22nd session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) at the UN headquarters in New York, Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI), the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples, the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), The Christensen Fund, The Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University, the Abya Yala Indigenous Forum, and the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI) came together to keep moving forward in the implementation of CEDAW’s General Recommendation number 39 (RG39), a historic achievement for Indigenous Girls and Women around the world, considering the multiple forms of discrimination we face.

The UNPFII is an advisory body that promotes the respect and full application of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In this occasion, it was a key bridge for international institutions, UN agencies and Indigenous Organizations to meet in order to continue advancing in the implementation of RG39, a legally binding human rights instrument that contemplates the different dimensions of discrimination suffered by Indigenous Women, both as women and as Indigenous People.

During the meeting’s introduction, Joan Carling, Kankana-ey Igorot activist from the Philippines and IPRI’s Executive Director, explained that the Recommendation addresses the individual and collective rights of Indigenous Women, “specifically the issues and concerns of Indigenous Women defenders, recognizing the risks and various forms of attacks that loom over them when they carry out their daily activities, seeking access to and control over their lands and natural resources”. She added that the implementation is important in that it calls on the States to guarantee that the rights defenders are not criminalized or made the target of reprisals for their work.

Tarcila Rivera Zea, Quechua woman from Peru and FIMI’s President, warned that the actual implementation of the Recommendation faces great challenges: “we must help our own organizations understand that the implementation not only benefits girls and women, but that the Indigenous Peoples as a whole can use it to push for a national policy that directly serves the communities”.

In her opening address, Arhuaca leader Leonor Zalabata Torres, Colombian ambassador to the United Nations, affirmed that “social participation in the States’ decisions plays an important role for peace, the sustainable development of the Earth, and the brotherhood and solidarity of the Peoples”. CEDAW’s Recommendation Number 39, she added, “allows us to decide how we want to live our cultures, in consensus and in unity with our realities”. Indigenous Women “have had a relevant role in this because we have been able to guarantee and preserve our ancestral wisdom and, with it, the permanence of the First Peoples”.

Gladys Acosta, former president of the CEDAW Committee, commented that “at a time when the dynamics of death seem to want to prevail, RG39 is a broad reflection on the rules of life and their prevalence”. She assured that “what we have achieved with the Recommendation, working with Indigenous Women and Organizations, is to respectfully collect the worldview, the spirituality of the Peoples and to recognize the deep connection between their rights and the communities’ territories and natural resources”. General Recommendation Number 39 “is a tool to use in our fight”, she said.

“It insists on the obligation of the member States to provide access to education, health and political participation inside and outside the communities, urging them to take measures against gender violence, including those perpetrated by the State or associated organizations,” she warned.

Nukila Evanty, Executive Director of the Women Working Group (WWG), and Rosalee González, Co-Coordinator of the Northern Region of the Enlace Continental de Mujeres Indígenas de las Américas (ECMIA), agreed that structural racism aggravated by gender discrimination continues to be a daily reality for the Indigenous Girls and Women of the world. RG39 “responds to a permanent call from the First Peoples to create a specific instrument to promote and protect our rights. It represents a growing movement for greater inclusion while preserving the cultural identity of our peoples,” said González.

The Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, Åsa Regnér, recognized the valuable partnerships that Indigenous Organizations and Women established to achieve this strategic recommendation, noting that it is important that we all continue working on its implementation. “There is evidence that Indigenous Girls and Women are three times more likely to suffer violence than their non-indigenous counterparts. Indigenous Women defenders are even killed for protecting the rights of other women, and yet these attacks seldom make it to the headlines in the news.” “The actions that we promote, she said, should help make visible the degree of violence that is really experienced.”

Sara Olsvig, International President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), recalled when the Danish government forced the implantation of contraceptive devices on women to reduce the birth rate in Greenland. “Between 1966 and 1975, some 4,500 Inuit girls and women received an intrauterine device (IUD), often without their knowledge,” she explained. This forced family planning project violated the health of women who suffered pain, infections and difficulties getting pregnant for several years after, she said. “The recommendation that we have in our hands can help us make sure that such shameful violations of women’s bodies never happen again,” she added.

Concluding the event, Puyr Tembé, president of the Federação Estadual dos Povos Indígenas do Pará (FEPIPA), explained that despite this Brazilian Indigenous Women’s organization being relatively young, “we have managed to strengthen and multiply our voices by occupying institutional spaces that help us to create public policies that are better aligned with our needs and interests”.

“We have made significant progress in the formal recognition of our rights from within the government, and General Recommendation Number 39 is a relevant tool that recognizes us as Indigenous Women agents of change, inside and outside our communities, allowing us to reach for the full exercise of our political rights,” she concluded.

Indigenous Women open a strategic dialogue at CSW67 between key stakeholders, United Nations mechanisms and the donor community for the effective implementation of CEDAW’s GR39

March 10, 2023 – In order to strengthen the Indigenous Women’s movement and agree on a global advocacy agenda among key stakeholders, member States, allies, and United Nations mechanisms for the actual implementation of CEDAW’s General Recommendation 39 (GR39), which protects the individual and collective rights of Indigenous Girls and Women, the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI) and the Indigenous Peoples and Development Branch of the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (IPDB/SPFII) held a strategic dialogue to broaden the reach of the Recommendation and to define and accelerate the next steps for its application around the world.

The event, held within the framework of the 67th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67), brought together Indigenous Women leaders from regional networks in Asia, Africa, the Americas, the Arctic and the Pacific, government delegations, and donors with the aim of discussing the progress and gaps in the implementation of GR39, and the opportunity it represents to stop discrimination against Indigenous Women and Girls.

At the opening of the meeting, Tarcila Rivera Zea, a Quechua woman from Peru and FIMI’s President, insisted that the foremost challenge for the actual application of the Recommendation will be to make sure the member States create public policies that contribute to the individual and collective empowerment of Indigenous Girls and Women around the world. “The implementation will not be easy. We have worked hard and in solidarity at the local, regional and global levels, touching the hearts and minds of key decision makers to ensure the rights of women and girls are protected,” she said.

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Deputy Minister for Indigenous Health in Australia’s Northern Territory, declared having experienced violence firsthand as a woman. “Indigenous People, especially women, must be included at all levels of the decision-making process to reflect their strengths, knowledge and cultural identities.”

She explained that the implementation of GR39 in Australia will be done “through the creation of a permanent advisory body, which will advise Parliament on issues impacting this sector. We will be working in partnership with political actors and the donor community to achieve key economic, social and reform objectives to bridge the gaps as part of our national agreement. The authorities are determined to ensure that the Australian Parliament works together with Native Peoples to improve their lives,” she affirmed.

Haley Bathern, a young Anangu woman from Australia and a teacher at a local Indigenous Girls’ School, expressed her gratitude for this dialogue by saying, “There is no better space to promote the implementation of GR39, which will serve to maintain the connection of young women with their ancestral knowledge, work towards the recognition of their rights, and build spaces where they feel accepted, financially independent, and able to generate change in their communities.”

Joining the event remotely, Leticia Bonifazan expert from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), stated during the meeting that “it is not possible to imagine a world where the ancestral customs and worldviews of Indigenous Peoples and communities are not recognized and valued”. In this sense, she said, the Recommendation is a historical document that was generated from discussions among Indigenous Women from different parts of the world reflecting on key issues such as education, health, work, and economic empowerment. The Recommendation is built upon an intersectionnal approach, bringing together the voices of women with disabilities, LGBTI+, migrants, or those who are deprived of their freedom without knowledge of their rights.

According to Leticia Bonifaz, the most important thing will be to communicate the content of the recommendation broadly, and for the member States, through their governing bodies, to develop public policies that seek to eliminate inequalities and provide access to justice.

Rule of Law Adviser and Focal Point on indigenous issues at UN Women, Beatrice Duncan,explained that after the adoption of GR39, all member states will have four years to submit a report for the Committee to evaluate the reach of the Recommendation in the daily lives of Indigenous Women.

As she clarified, the reports will have to describe the measures taken, and the Committee may request that additional information be provided whenever it deems it necessary, in order to know how the rights affirmed in the Recommendation are being fulfilled, including collaboration strategies with Indigenous Women’s organizations at the national level.

Mariam Bouraima,from the Fulani community of Benin and a member of the African Indigenous Women’s Organization (AIWO), insisted that “member States will have to take measures to end discrimination and, through the application of GR39, involve women in decision-making spaces, as they must participate directly in the political life of their communities if they are to prevent and eradicate violence”.

Regarding how the Ford Foundation can collaborate with Indigenous Women’s movements to promote the implementation of the Recommendation, Mónica Alemán,Director of the International Program on Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice, explained that to implement GR39, the Ford Foundation “will allocate greater and better resources” to Indigenous Women’s organizations and other groups, so that international norms can become local realities and not just faraway dreams. “It is important to initiate and maintain an open ongoing dialogue with the International Indigenous Women’s Forum, so as to keep identifying new partners for the allocation of financial resources.”

She said that “one of the decisions we have made is to also provide political support to the movements of Indigenous Women that we support financially”. This opens an important opportunity for organizations that already receive support from the Foundation to co-participate actively in the dialogues and decide which direction to take with their partners or other donors.

In her intervention, Erika Unnis, from the Saami Women’s Forum, stated that although there have been several earlier international agreements aimed at protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples in general, and of Indigenous Women in particular, there are still regulatory gaps that keep blocking their access to food security, to the natural resources of their communities, and to their cultural identities. All of this is manifested through the ongoing dispossession of their languages, lands, territories and natural resources. However, GR39 represents “a new starting point for all women fighting for the defence of these rights, living in rural or urban areas alike, to be aware of all the legal and administrative resources they can rely on”.

According to Eleanor Dictaan-Bang-oa, Kankanaey Igorot woman from the Philippines, from the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN), the Recommendation includes important reflections on the issues of equality and non-discrimination, with special attention to the intersecting forms of discrimination. “As Indigenous Girls and Women, we experience intersectional forms of violences that are embedded into the very structures of the colonizing States, systematically affecting our ability to exercise our individual and collective rights,” she highlighted.

Patricia Torres Sandovala Purhépecha leader from Mexico and founder of the National Coordinator of Indigenous Women (CONAMI-Mexico), warned that the efficient and effective implementation of the Recommendation will require “political will and an adequate allocation of funds from the States and the donor community, so that programs and policies, developed based on the needs of Indigenous Girls and Women around the world, can be built collaboratively”.

Nadine GasmanPresident of the National Institute for Women (INMUJERES), recognized that the biggest challenge for the different governments will be to ensure GR39 is made available in the languages of the Peoples and communicated broadly to the communities so that more women may take ownership of this tool for the protection of their rights from childhood.

“The full institutional adoption of the Recommendation is key to achieve its effective application in institutions at all levels, whether federal, local, municipal and national. At INMUJERES, we are going to support this process to keep guaranteeing the full participation of Indigenous Women and Girls as protagonists within their communities as well as outside.”

Finally, Gladys Acosta, former president of the CEDAW Committee, pointed out that this strategic dialogue highlighted the enormous potential of the recommendation in itself, specifying that “the bulk of the responsibility to communicate GR39 in all languages through all the channels falls on the member States”. She also stated that this international instrument would have to be adopted by women’s organizations, institutions and key political actors in a collaborative and coordinated manner.

Indigenous Women urge the effective implementation of CEDAW General Recommendation 39 and the construction of a digital age with cultural relevance and gender equality

March 6, 2023.- To guarantee that the principles of inclusion and intersectionality guide technological innovation and reduce discrimination and gender inequalities, within the framework of the 67th session of the Commission on the Legal and Social Condition of Women (CSW67 ) at the UN, the Coordination Meeting of Indigenous Women organized by the International Forum of Indigenous Women (FIMI) was held in parallel.

CSW67 is the main international body dedicated exclusively to the promotion of gender equality and the development of international norms that promote the empowerment of women. This year will also be a fundamental space to amplify our voices and fight for the effective implementation of CEDAW General Recommendation Number 39 (RG39), a binding international instrument for the protection of the individual and collective rights of Indigenous Girls and Women around the world. .

In the event we gather leaders from different regions, who reflect on our objectives, achievements, gaps and pending challenges in the promotion and protection of our rights. During the reflection, we discussed the obligation that the States Parties assumed to develop and implement comprehensive policies that effectively protect the rights and principles of substantive equality and non-discrimination, and we agreed on the urgency for Indigenous Girls and Women to participate in the construction of a digital age that narrows gender gaps and promotes inclusive technological innovation ecosystems that eliminate violence.

The gathering began with a spiritual ceremony led by Malia Nobrega-Olivera, an Indian from the Hanapēpē Valley, Kona, Kaua’i in Hawaii, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Community Engagement for the School of Hawaiian Knowledge, and the Loli Aniau, Makaala Aniau program. (THE MA).

During her participation, Tarcila Rivera Zea, Quechua from Peru, President of FIMI, gave a warm welcome and recalled that the origin of the International Forum of Indigenous Women, made up of organizations from seven socio-cultural regions, is based on meetings that we have maintained since 1995 during the signing of the Beijing Declaration of Indigenous Women, “laying the foundations for our claims as indigenous people and as women,” she said.

Today, more than 30 years later, the articles with which we then “defined our rights and positions as Indigenous Women, are still more valid than ever to recover, share, reflect and continue projecting our aspirations globally,” said Tarcila Rivera Zea.

In a video broadcast during the event, Lucy Mulenkei, Masai from Kenya, Co-Founder and Vice President of FIMI, said that the meeting will be important because “we will hear diverse voices that will inform our experience working on issues that impact Indigenous Women and Indigenous Peoples in general”.

Teresa Zapeta Mendoza, Maya K’iche from Guatemala, Director of FIMI, recognized the strategic alliances that have been made over time to achieve common historical purposes among Indigenous Women from different regions, despite violence and inequalities. “This year, in addition to discussing together the challenges we face in the digital age to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, we are celebrating the approval of RG39, which is a bridge to ensure our rights.”

“The General Recommendation is a historical fact that not only favors Indigenous Women and Girls, but also the human rights of Indigenous Peoples around the world,” she insisted.

The participating sisters recognized that governments must assume responsibilities and commitments in the fight against violence, and we named some demands and actions to move forward with civil society and other key actors to implement technological solutions that allow empowerment and the transformation of roles and social norms. traditional; promote the access that Indigenous Women have to digital technologies in rural and non-rural areas to reduce inequalities; strengthen, through digital education, feeling, living and thinking as women belonging to Original Peoples; eliminate technological gaps to guarantee the rights of Indigenous Women and Girls with disabilities so that they know the international instruments that protect them; understand that the installation of a digital infrastructure, especially in rural areas, is not the solution to achieve connectivity for all because it is necessary, they said, to learn what limits women in managing technology and generate adoption and use strategies close to users and their communities; Generate and promote access to information on digital violence or cybercrimes against young people and Indigenous Women.

Finally, Teresa reiterated that the articulation of women has been essential for the adoption of CEDAW General Recommendation 39, and assured that this is a unique opportunity to integrate the collective priorities, worldview, experiences and lessons shared by the women. Indigenous Women to achieve transformative change and guarantee the preservation of different cultures and our individual and collective identities.