From The Indigenous Women of CSW57

For immediate release 8th March 2013 – International Women’s Day


In New York this week thousands of women from around the world are meeting, along with Member states and non-governmental organizations to discuss the priority theme “the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls” at the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57). This annual two-week long meeting of the United Nations is one that always attracts a large numbers, but this year’s priority theme has seen it attract more participants than ever before.

A special delegation of women attending are representatives of Indigenous women, who throughout the world experience diverse forms of violence due to marginalization within their own communities, and in society at large. In addition to facing individual violence, Indigenous women face harm collectively. For example, when development such as extractive industries come to Indigenous communities, the incidence of sexual assault and harassment increase, from men who come there for work and from men within their communities, cultural practices are eroded and the environment is polluted.

Indigenous women are also often over represented in other areas of vulnerability including poverty, disability, remoteness and caring responsibilities and consequently suffer from intersectional discrimination, which must be holistically addressed.

In some regions Indigenous cultural practices still take place, such as female genital mutilation, and forced early marriages, where girls are denied formal education. As Kenyan representative Agnes Leina said, “We are not saying we should get rid of our culture, we love it, but who wants to be illiterate?” The Indigenous women of CSW are calling for support for the positive aspects of their traditional cultures and to leave behind the aspects that are detrimental to the rights of Indigenous women.

The experiences of Indigenous women are diverse, but there are also many similarities. The International Forum of Indigenous Women (FIMI) is a network that is working to bring together the voices of Indigenous women from all over the world, as FIMI Program Coordinator Mariana Lopez explains:

“FIMI’s mission is to bring together Indigenous women leaders and human rights activists from different parts of the world to coordinate agendas, capacity-build, and to develop leadership roles. FIMI encourages Indigenous women’s participation in international decision-making processes by ensuring the consistent and serious inclusion of indigenous women’s perspectives in all discussions regarding human rights,” said Ms. Lopez.

The Indigenous Women of CSW57 are calling on the Commission to ensure that the rights of Indigenous women and references to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are included in the Agreed Conclusions. Please see attached the full statement of the Indigenous Women of CSW57.


For further information about FIMI and the delegation of Indigenous women attending CSW57, please contact Mariana Lopez on download photographs of the delegation and representatives listed below, click here.



Michelle Deshong is a Kulka Yulanji woman from northeast Australia. She is a member of the Australian Government Delegation to CSW57 and the Program Manager of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance (NATSIWA). She is passionate about women’s rights as a survivor of domestic violence and actively campaigns for reform in Australia:

“The incidence of violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is at an alarming rate with our women 45 times more likely to experience family violence, with 69 per cent of assaults being committed by partners. One of the outcome areas of Australia’s ‘National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children’ specifically focuses on Indigenous responses that are both culturally and gender appropriate. My hope is that we can change the dialogue within our families to provide safer communities for our women and children. Whilst the impact of this violence is complex, I see that there are a number of key strategies that can be implemented including but not limited to, engagement with women to provide practical and culturally appropriate prevention, inclusive community participatory action as a holistic response, working collaboratively with men to prevent violence and community awareness campaigns that promote respectful relationships and communities,” said Ms. Deshong.

To download a photograph of Michelle, click here.


Michele Audette is the President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. She comes from the Innu Nation in Northern Quebec and is a mother to five children. She explains the situation in Canada and why her organization attends CSW and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues:

“This year’s priority theme is really important for us, because of issues of missing and murdered Indigenous women. In Canada, our Indigenous women are eight times more at risk to die from a violent crime and three times more likely to be assaulted by their spouse. We also know that in about 60% of the cases, the violence is not reported. The violence is often linked to circumstances of vulnerability including poverty, housing insecurity, age, geography and gender and to historical factors including Indian Residential Schools. Unfortunately, in our communities women don’t have appropriate access to programs, services and safety. CSW is important for us to attend because it provides an opportunity for us to meet with the State and NGOs and to remind the Federal Canadian Government that there is still a need to change legislation, policy and programs,” said Ms Audette.

To download a photograph of Michele, click here.


Shimreichon Luithui-Erni is a Naga woman from Northeast India, a heavily militarized region. She has been a human rights activist for many years and is currently working with Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) as the Programme Coordinator of Indigenous Women Programme. She explains about the situation for Indigenous women in India.

“In my community, women are vulnerable to sexual assault by the paramilitary forces as well as non-state actors. However most of the atrocities against Indigenous women have been committed by the paramilitary forces, who are posted in the region for counter-insurgency.In the recent years another underlying cause of violence is development aggression. There are dams being constructed on Indigenous Peoples’ territories despite their opposition. When communities protest, they are met with violence. For example, in one of the protest rallies, a young mother of five children was hit by a tear gas canister on her head, now she is paralyzed.Domestic violence is also prevalent. However women do not want to talk because of a culture of shame and family honour. Moreover women often take domestic violence as normal,” said Ms Luithui-Erni.

To download a photograph of Shimreichon, click here.


Agnes Leina is an Indigenous woman from Kenya with links to the Masai, Samburu, Turkana, Somali, Borana and Rendele peoples. She is a fierce advocate for Indigenous women in Africa, as the Executive Director of Il’laramatak Community Concerns. About female genital mutilation she said: “In Kenya, a woman will be circumcised and the next day, she is made to marry and has to walk ten kilometers, while still bleeding. We have come to realize that this is not an honor for the woman, it’s an honor for the man, and an abuse of the woman. We are grateful that many people are now talking about it and that the silence has been broken.”

Ms. Leinaalso spoke about ‘bids of bondage’,but said it was too emotional to go into detail, and encouraged people to Google the term to learn more. In regards to this and other violence against Indigenous women in Africa, she stressed that education is the answer:“When a girl is educated then she knows how to say no. No to violence against her body, her soul, and against her mind. Women need to be in school, not in villages as sex slaves for men. I’m angry that education which is supposedly free, is not available for our women. It’s high time we talk about it whether people like it or not,” she said.

To download a photograph of Agnes,click here.


Vibeke Larsen is Sami woman and member of the Executive Council of the Sami Parliament in Norway, providing advice to the Norwegian Government. Gender equality is within her area of responsibilities in the Executive Council.

“Indigenous women suffer from intersectional discrimination in Norway. In the Sami area our concern and focus is on the domestic violence. We have however little knowledge about violence against women and girls. We are about to do some research. But we know for sure that it is a problem for us as well as the rest of the Norwegian society. In Norway the Sami have the same right to the Norwegian welfare system as all other citizens, which is great. But the health care and social systems do not have knowledge about Sami culture and language. That is our challenge. When a woman is in a vulnerable situation it is important that she can use her own language, and that the health service works in respect for our culture. To end violence against women and girls we need to take violence against women on the political agenda and to talk about it at all political levels,” said Ms. Larsen.

To download a photograph of Vibeke, click here.


Tarcila Rivera Zea is a Quechua woman and Coordinator of the Enlace Continental de Mujeres de lasAméricas. She has been involved in advocating for the rights of Indigenous women on a global level for many years. For the women in her communities, it is the impact of the extractive industries that are causing the most concern.

“The extractive industries and the pollution and degradation of the earth impacts on the life of Indigenous Peoples and women and in fact all of humanity. The natural resources like water are being affected, which impacts on our food production. This is one kind of violence affecting the lives of women who live from the land. Women are responsible for water management and resources. We cannot provide anymore when the lands are destructed.”

To download a photograph of Tarcila, click here.


  • Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Service of Victoria
  • Adivasi Women’s Network, India
  • Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)
  • Asia Indigenous Women’s Network
  • Bangladesh Indigenous Women’s Network
  • Chirapaq Centro de CulturasIndigenas del Peru Perú
  • Conservación, Investigación y Aprovechamiento de los RecursosNaturales (CIARENA)
  • Consejo Regional Indigena de Risaralda Colombia
  • Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas (ECMIA)
  • Coporwa – La Communauté des Potiers du Rwanda
  • Il’laramatak Community Concerns
  • Indigenous Women’s Forum for Northeast India, India
  • Indígnenos Youth Network
  • Indigenous Youth Network of Ayacucho – Ñuqanchik
  • International Forum of Indigenous Women (FIMI)
  • Kapaeeng Foundation
  • La Alianza de MujeresIndigenas de Centroamerica y Mexico
  • La organization WangkiTangi
  • Naga Women’s Union, India
  • Mudgin-gal Aboriginal Corporation
  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance
  • National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples
  • Native Women’s Association of Canada
  • Partners of Community Organization (PACOS), Malaysia
  • The Communication Forum for Women in East Timor – FOKUPERS
  • The Sami Parliament 

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