Statement: International Women’s Day

Be Bold for Change

International Women’s Day

March 08, 2017

On March 08, 2017, we are once again celebrating International Women’s Day. We, as indigenous women, join in solidarity for this year’s theme: ‘Be Bold for Change’. On this day, we call for all indigenous women, our allies and advocates to join the worldwide mobilizations, as the global community faces threats from climate change to geo-political power surges. Now is indeed the time to rise and be bold for change that will lead to the empowerment of women in general, and indigenous women in particular.

Indigenous women in Asia are ready to join the global movement for change. We need to reflect on and reinvigorate our unique struggles to overcome our continuing marginalization and discrimination. We, indigenous women in Asia, are estimated to be around 130 million. Each one of us experiences a complex interaction of barriers and challenges to uphold our dignity and wellbeing as women and as indigenous peoples, resulting from prevailing patriarchal, oppressive and undemocratic systems which frame our society.

Statistics tell us that when women have access to work, economies flourish. When women have access to and control over household income, children benefit. Increasing women and girls’ education leads to higher economic growth for the household and the community. A study of 219 countries, completed in 2009 found that for every additional year of education a woman or girl receives, child mortality is decreased by almost 10%. UN Women has reported that in developing countries, women work more than men and have less time for education, leisure, political participation and self-care1.

We, as indigenous women have less access to education; less access to livelihood opportunities; less access to health care; less rights when inheriting property and less employment opportunities than our male and mainstream counterparts. Yet, we have much to offer. We conserve and manage our natural resources, which enhances biodiversity. We mitigate climate change. We sustain our cultural heritage and languages. We play a crucial role in peacekeeping and conflict resolution. We are the holders and teachers of invaluable traditional knowledge. We are caregivers and we are child bearers; we manage households and secure food for our families.

However, we are excluded in decision-making processes at all levels and our specific needs for appropriate social services, skills development and economic empowerment are continuously being denied. Furthermore, we continue to be subjected to all forms of violence, without proper recourse to justice.

In recognition of this, we demand an end to our oppression and discrimination. We call for equality in inheritance of land and other property in legal and customary laws and systems. When customary land titling and ownership systems are replaced with policies of private property under patriarchal system, indigenous women are denied their rights and dignity. Without security to our land and resources, indigenous women will not be able to sustain their traditional knowledge, practices of sustainable management of resources, food security or cultural heritage. Likewise, we are further forced into financial, and other forms, of dependence on their male counterparts.

We call for access to credit, capital, new and innovative markets and other economic resources including the promotion, value and revival of traditional and sustainable livelihood activities and innovations; equitable educational and employment opportunities which are reflective of our responsibilities in the household and community; access to proper health care services and information,

We call for our meaningful inclusion and participation in decision-making at all levels including in customary institutions, and the full protection of our dignity and wellbeing at indigenous women.

We call for widespread acknowledgement and recognition that non-market domestic work and caregivers work are productive work forms, needing support and protection. Indigenous women often face a double burden of having to undertake home-based work as well as taking on low-paying roles within the labour market to compensate for chronic poverty and limited levels of education.

Along with an increase in information and skills development, indigenous women will be able to adapt to new and emerging technologies, improving the economic livelihood of our families and communities while at the same time sustaining our cultures and positive values. Likewise, by exercising freedom of association and freedom of choice, indigenous women can further empower themselves and contribute to overall sustainable development.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2017, we call upon States, Civil Society and indigenous communities to commit to taking bold actions for the genuine empowerment of women in general, and indigenous women in particular. This change that empowers women is needed and urgent to make this a better world for all.

1 UN Women (2015). Facts and Figures: Economic Empowerment. Retrieved 21 February 2017. < http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/economic-empowerment/facts-and-figures >.

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