Ms. Liew Wanitchaya
Indigenous Women’s Network in Thailand (IWNT)
Executive Committee Member
Ms. Meiliana Yumi
Ms. Myentthein Promila
Bangladesh Indigenous Women’s Network / BIPF
Ms. Ching Chippa Lhomi
National Indigenous Women’s Federation (NIWF)
Ms. Mamta Kujur
Adivasi Mahila Maha Sangh (AMMS) & Jashpur Jan Vikas
Convenor & Secretary respectively
Ms. NK Kenny
Sumi Ethnic Tribe, NE India
Mr. Joshua Shuaboih
Disability Development Initiative (DDI)
Mr. Ergilio Ferreira Vicente
Covalima Youth Centre (CYC)
Mr. Ned Tuguinay
Asia Indigenous Youth Platform
Ms. Troung Luong Thi
Centre for Sustainable Development in Mountainous Areas (CSDM)
Voices from the ground
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Session I Recorded Video
Join Us: Session II
Time: 02:00-04:00 pm
Self-determination is a social necessity for the continuity of IPs way of life and as peoples in the 21st Century. It is at the heart of IPs struggle because it underpins IPs capacity to develop as individuals and as communities based on a social order that is determined by themselves. However, the retreat of Asian leaders from their commitment to democracy and human rights have magnified and compounded the obstacles for IPs to realize their right to self-determination.
There is little empirical evidence on the effect of the rule of law on State practice in Asia. The contradiction over principles and practice among states in Asia is becoming a predominant feature. The region’s social conflicts have been severe, and the ability of social groups or civil society to use formal political institutions to resolve, mediate, or mitigate them has been much less effective. In the process, IPs are facing intensified suppression, experiencing rolling back of rights and commitment, and peace talks and political negotiations are reaching dead-ends across the region.
The main aim of this session is to understand why democratic institutions in Asia are not resilient and easily become susceptible to authoritarianism or populism? What are the institutional design defects and its weaknesses, and suggest possible ways of strengthening the political and institutional capacity of states in responding to problems and issues raised above? Does COVID-19 only deepen the problem of human rights and democracy, or does it also offer an opportunity to address these issues? Furthermore, it will also examine how the worldviews, values and principles of democracy found in the community living among Indigenous Peoples in Asia can be elaborated and used in strengthening the foundation of democracy in Asia among states.
- Challenges to democracy in Asia and the right to self-determination of Indigenous Peoples: Where are we heading?
- What does self-determination and self-government mean for Indigenous Peoples? Examining the right of self-determination and Indigenous Peoples’ conception of self-government.
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Session II Recorded Video
Day 2: Thursday, 6th August, 2020
Join Us: Session III
Time: 10:30-12:00 pm
Indigenous Peoples are increasingly facing dispossession of land and denial in enjoying the rights enshrined in UDHR and UNDRIP on access to land, territory, and resources and local rights within the nation-states. There are some existing laws and policies recognizing the customary land rights in some of the countries in Asia, but oftentimes, Indigenous Peoples are denied those rights and land are appropriated for development initiatives focusing on merely on economic growth with lack of balance and consideration of social and environmental sustainability aspects. The large-scale acquisition of land concession for commercial food and agriculture production have impacted Indigenous women also disproportionately. As such, they are not only losing ancestral and traditional land but also threatening their food sovereignty and security along with traditional knowledge on natural resource management especially if they cannot continue to practice their knowledge.
The lessons we are learning in the pandemic times is that, the success of pandemic-fighting initiatives can be directly linked to secured rights over lands. In India, there are several examples where Gram Sabhas, with secured community forest resource (CFR) rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), have used revenues generated from collecting Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) to invest in distributing essential food supplies to all village households. In Malaysia, forest-fringe communities and semi-nomadic communities, such as the Jahai and Bateq, have been able to meet their subsistence needs better than settled communities who depend on incomes generated through cash crops. In Indonesia, Perempuan AMAN, has reported how the varying degrees of land rights recognition over customary territories – secured tenure, granted concession and no rights – has influenced communities’ ability to respond to the risks associated with COVID-19. As demonstrated in the cases of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, community initiatives are undermined when the rights to their traditional lands are either poorly enforced or not recognised.
However, instead of recognising this crucial aspect, what we are now witnessing is that the lockdowns to contain the novel corona virus have made Indigenous Peoples more vulnerable to losing their land. This has opened an opportunity for activities such as illegal logging and land grabs across Asia. Indigenous Peoples Land rights defenders are at constant risks with limited or no access justice during the lockdown. These incidents are not isolated, governments across Asia have used COVID-19 as a cover to pass regressive legislations with potentially devastating impacts on IPs.
This session aims to unfold the trends on laying claims on land territories and resources across Asia and learn from the experiences on how Covid-19 is impacting the land rights of Indigenous Peoples. The session will also help to derive a common narrative on securing land rights in addressing the pandemic and self-determination of Indigenous Peoples.
- What are the trends and challenges in relation to recognition of Land Territories and Resources in the region
- What are the impact of Covid-19 on rights to lands territories and resources. Share experiences from the sub-region
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Session III Recorded Video
Join Us: Session IV
Time: 02:00-3:30 pm
In Asia, Indigenous Peoples’ traditional livelihoods primarily involve small scale agriculture, fishing, hunting, gathering from nearby forests and shifting cultivation. In Southeast Asia, it is estimated that at least 14 to 34 million people practice shifting cultivation. There is no estimate available in the literature for South Asia, but it is likely that several millions are practicing shifting cultivation.
The study undertaken by AIPP, IWGIA and FAO on shifting cultivation in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Nepal, and Thailand on shifting cultivation in 2015 reaffirmed that shifting cultivation is playing a significant role in providing livelihoods, and ensuring food security to indigenous communities and particularly Indigenous Women perform 70% of the work related to shifting cultivation where they are responsible for the selection of seeds, for weeding the fields, gathering, processing, and selling the surplus products. This clearly shows an important role of Indigenous Women in the cultivation, transfer, and practice of Indigenous Knowledge relating to IPFS. The study also reconfirmed that Indigenous Peoples’ life, values and culture are intricately linked to Shifting Cultivation. So, there is a need for consistent and concerted evidence-based policy advocacy by Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations to get the recognition, respect, and promotion of IPFS as their cultural heritage.
Indigenous foods are diverse and healthy that meet the nutritional needs of community members and contribute to their wellbeing. However, large scale mining and extractive industries; logging; agri-business; mega dams, and monoculture plantations driven by profits and declaration of protected areas without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Indigenous Peoples are adversely affecting the traditional livelihoods and food security of Indigenous Peoples. For this to stop and enhance Indigenous Peoples’ contribution to the SDG2 and beyond, Governments and private companies should recognize and respect Indigenous Peoples as partners and shall take urgent policy actions in providing ownership to their land, territories and resources, strengthening customary governance systems, and recognizing, supporting and promoting traditional livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples.
This session will bring in perspectives of human rights activists, shifting cultivator and UN agency on Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems and respond to the following questions:
- What are the good practices and initiatives of Indigenous Peoples on traditional livelihoods?
- What are the key roles and contributions of Indigenous Women?
- Why Indigenous Knowledge, Culture and Customary Land Rights are key to strengthen Indigenous Peoples contributions to SDG2 and beyond?
 Mertz, Ole et al (2009). Swidden Change in Southeast Asia: Understanding Causes and Consequences. Human Ecology.
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Session IV Recorded Video
Day 3: Friday, 7th August, 2020
Join Us: Session V
Time: 10:30-12:00 pm
Around two-thirds of the estimated 410 million Indigenous Peoples in the world live in Asia with over 1,000 distinct ethnic groups with their own language, history, customs, and social and cultural norms. In general, the groups of Indigenous Peoples are now facing a time of key life transition and uncertainty about the future due to a lack of recognition and access to rights. The challenges they face touch upon cultural and linguistic preservation, land rights, and exploitation of natural resources, self-determination and autonomy, environmental degradation and inclusion, ill health, substandard education, and discrimination.
It is assumed that one-third of the total Indigenous population in Asia are Indigenous youth. But in most of countries, Indigenous youth are lagging behind opportunities and space to showcase their capacity and leadership. The future depends on how the young Indigenous Peoples are playing role in the change of Indigenous society and how and what extent they are engaging in the Indigenous movement. In this context, this session aims to analyze the perspectives of Indigenous youth in relation to their engagement, role and contribution in strengthening Indigenous Peoples’ Movement.
- What are the challenges that Indigenous youths are facing to be in the leadership roles
- Where do Indigenous Youth are when it’s about Indigenous Peoples’ Movement
- What should be done to increase and attract youth’s meaning participation and engagement in strengthening Indigenous People’s Movement ?
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Session V Recorded Video
Join Us: Session VI
Time: 02:00-03:30 pm
Realization of Indigenous Women’s contribution in Indigenous movement is progressive, but yet not notable. Indigenous Women are found to be evident and proactive in frontline but are invisible with change in tiers. Their struggles and leadership are recognized and sung at community level. However, their voices and representation in decision making is mostly confined due to limited capacity of articulation, storytelling, influencing and negotiation. With few exceptions, Indigenous heroes like Bai Babylon, Malti Tirkey, Shirley Seng, Madhabilata Chakma and many more have paved path for collective movements. Yet, they have not received deserving recognition for their extraordinary contribution in Indigenous World and are invisible in global Indigenous Movement.
Although solidarity and collective actions among Indigenous Women across world is improving, and to some extent, their voices are becoming stronger than ever. But the situation has not improved in terms of recognition of Indigenous Women’s rights and creating enabling environment for their empowerment. UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)’s impact and influence analysis (UN 2019) has revealed the terribly slow progress and grave ground realities of Indigenous Women. Similarly, Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), 2019 has indicated worsening gender disparity and foreseen the greatest challenge to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) third session in 2003 and Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 2017), had recognized the special issues and needs of Indigenous Women with recommendation for Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) committee to make special consideration for Indigenous Women. Similarly, Beijing platform for action (BPFA) has completed 25 years but it’s reflection in 2019 has accounted Indigenous Women’s circumstances limitedly.
While the world commemorates International Indigenous Peoples’ day, AIPP will facilitate Indigenous Women in Asia to reflect and assess the implementation of the international instruments, especially UNDRIP and CEDAW from Indigenous Women’s perspective. The session will analyze the movements of Indigenous Peoples, Women as well Indigenous Women and discuss Indigenous Women rights intersecting in both the international instruments.
- Where do you see Indigenous Women in the Indigenous Peoples’ and Women’s Movement?
- How different movements can collectively contribute to analysis situation, facilitate discourses, initiate changes and transformations in policies and practices at all level for Indigenous Women’s rights?
- How can we build inter-linkages between Indigenous movement, feminism, and Indigenous feminism?
- Why and where Indigenous Women need attentions at different level while celebrating IPs’ day?’
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Session VI and Closing Session Recorded Video
Session VI: Questions and Answers
Networking and solidarity building, and sharing experiences are key two important aspects that Indigenous Women in Cambodia can benefit from. Indigenous Women of Cambodia are strong leaders and front liners at community level protecting their land, forest and combating gender-based violence. We are very active at national level. One of the challenges is language barrier due to which the two-way communication and information sharing is difficult.
Besides, we also need the technical support and capacity building on political education, advocacy, policy and English language so as to make their voices stronger and impactful. Enhanced participation for stronger voices at international level is also important but very limited resources are available. Network of Indigenous Women of Asia (NIWA) and other regional and global organizations can be strong foundation to voice out their issues and concern and reach out to development partners and global arena.
In Cambodia, there is quota for women at different level of public services. In policy for Indigenous People development, there has been mentioning of providing enabling environment for Indigenous Women to be in public services. Indigenous Women’s representation is gradually increasing in public services and law.
In Nepal, Indigenous Women organizations have collaborated with local government to enhance the awareness on their rights over land, territories and resources, and UN mechanisms. Following such awareness program, Indigenous Women have reached out to local government for allocation of budget allocated for marginalized community and program specific to the needs of Indigenous community. Indigenous Women in some rural areas have been included in rural municipal management and school management committees.
In Indonesia, Political Law has given quota of 30% for women participation in political parties and electoral politics. However, it has missed out to put forth special consideration for Indigenous Women who are far disadvantaged compared to elite and urban women.
To comprehend the rights and respect of Indigenous female partner, there has to be more of awareness raising on gender equality and women rights to non-indigenous male partner. Such awareness could aid them to comprehend the challenges faced by Indigenous Women based on their multiple identity and extra burden that Indigenous Women bear. There has to be understanding, motivation and support to Indigenous Women and divide the gender role at household.
Indigenous Women, Indigenous Women with disability and LGBTIQ Indigenous Women have to be united and voice out on our rights together. There should be lobby and advocacy for implementation of rights of Indigenous LGBTQ and Indigenous Women with disability.
In Indonesia, intersectionality is common as in the Bugis tribe as they have recognized 5 different genders. These gender roles are accepted by all Indigenous communities where Indigenous Women are more open to accepting differences.
In Nepal, NIWF has worked with LGBTIQ and Indigenous Women with disability to enhance their capacity on UN mechanism and rights solicit to Indigenous Peoples. There has been joint effort from Indigenous organizations, and non-Indigenous organization on addressing the issue of intersectionality focusing on LGBTIQ and disabilities.
One of the big victories is that we are connected with each other and have collective effort now. Mobilization of Indigenous Women leaders by different organizations has aided in building solidarity and stand against challenges with collective actions. Indigenous Women leaders are playing vital roles at regional and global level by advocating of our rights at global level in protecting our community, land, territories and resources. Indigenous Women’s resistance and pursuance towards achieving our rights despite the threats is commendable and is a mark of victory in a way.
In 2011 and 2018, Indigenous Women Organizations of Nepal submitted CEDAW shadow report. In 2018, there were 15 points on Indigenous women and intersectionality included and on Nov. 14, 2018 CEDAW committee recommended to Nepal government in 41a " Amend the Constitution to explicitly recognize the right of Indigenous women, in particular their right to self-determination, in line with United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples."
They have been able to convince mainstream women to address the intersectionality within women as heterogenous group. There has been enhanced capacity of Indigenous Women through lobby and advocacy.
The challenges in coaching local Indigenous women to be leaders are language barrier, poverty, lack of resources, and lack of interest in learning about policies, confinement of Indigenous Women in private sphere, and influence of patriarchy. Lack of critical reflection of IPs movement on gender equality is another critical challenge.
Satisfying aspects are that some of the IP women leaders are coming forth to discuss about their rights, participation and representation with government and traditional institution. They are being part of consultation and dialogues in some places. Their persistent effort and trust on us have been satisfactory.
Indigenous Women are invisible due to lack of segregated data and documents which leads to the exclusion of Indigenous Women. Mainstreaming Indigenous Women issues and rights in policies, framework, and action plan is required. Recommendation from different Human Rights mechanisms can be a basis for our advocacy.
In Cambodia, Ministry of Women has highlighted Indigenous Women role and rights related to land and Climate Change with the engagement of Indigenous Women representative for discussion. National Strategic plan for Indigenous people has also included the needs and aspirations of Indigenous Women through dialogues and consultation.
In Nepal, the full participation and consultation of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Women at National Action Plan and strategies is nominal. The political influence among the Indigenous leaders at decision making level limits the issues of Indigenous Peoples to be included and highlighted.