UNPFII16: Statement of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Caucus on Agenda Item 3: Follow-up to the recommendations of the Permanent Forum: “Empowerment of indigenous women” of the 16th UNPFII

16th Session of United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
UN Headquarters, New York, 24 April – 04 May 2017

Delivered by: Eleanor P. Dictaan – Bang-oa
(on behalf of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Caucus and the Asia Indigenous Women’s Network)

Agenda Item 3: Follow-up to the recommendations of the Permanent Forum: “Empowerment of indigenous women”

In the 10th year of UNDRIP and 38th of CEDAW, indigenous women have yet to realize the fulfillment of their rights as indigenous peoples and women. The commitments and gains achieved at the international level have not been translated well into substantive actions at the national and local levels.  Indigenous women, in particular, continue to feel the impacts of discrimination and non-recognition of their multiple identities as women. They continue to lose their lands, livelihoods and lives due to brazen   initiatives for socio-economic development and environment conservation. This is on top of the lack of and inefficient delivery of basic social services that appropriately responds to their actual needs. Promises of better access to and delivery of basic social services as part of corporate social responsibility are used to appeal to indigenous peoples’ consent.

The political arena and public spheres are dominated by men. In many communities, indigenous women are often excluded from political participation and major decision making processes and positions. Most countries have zero or very limited measures for ensuring participation and inclusion of indigenous women in the State decision-making power including the national parliaments, regional and local government bodies and government offices. [1]

The complex interphase between traditional and behavioral obstacles to gender empowerment such as discriminatory laws on inheritance, marriage, child custody, guardianship and access to and rights over lands that tend to privilege men over women, among others, persist. Many indigenous women still face multiple forms of discrimination when trying to access basic public services such as education, employment, health, sanitation and safe drinking water. Such structural injustices keep indigenous women impoverished, dependent and vulnerable. Patriarchal mindset and discriminatory attitudes prevailing in mainstream and indigenous society continue to marginalize and discriminate indigenous women and girls. This marginalization and discrimination can be worse especially among indigenous women and girls with disabilities.

Conflict and militarization of our communities remain unabated, aggravating human rights violations, insecurity including devastating impacts on resources, livelihoods and indigenous socio-political structures. The recent military operation in Abra province, Philippines in the name of the state’s anti-insurgency campaign, for example, has resulted to abandonment of farms, loss of livestock and burning of the communal forests of three indigenous peoples’ communities. [2]

Violence against women, in different forms and intensity, i.e.  unlawful killings, murder after rape, rape, attempted rape, physical assault, abduction and trafficking is intensifying across different countries in Asia. This is specially noted in areas affected by conflict and militarization.  In Bangladesh, 492 incidents of violence against indigenous women and girls were documented between 2007 and 2016 (including 122, 85 and 58 cases in 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively).[3]

Violence persists as a cause of disempowerment among indigenous women and girls. Violence against indigenous women and girls has become a key concern of indigenous peoples in the region because in many cases the perpetrators enjoy absolute impunity.


  1. We share the vision for sustainable development but there is a need to address the following
  2. Peace – as a precondition to just and sustainable development. Consistent with Article 30 of the UNDRIP, we demand the pull out of military elements and other armed groups from our communities, to enable us to determine and implement our sustainable development initiatives free from threats, intimidation and violence.
  3. Land security – as a primary economic resource that has been deprived from most indigenous women and girls. Consistent with CEDAW, and the principles of economic empowerment,  state and indigenous communities should provide facilitating mechanisms to ensure that indigenous women and girls have equal access to and security of land tenure.
  4. We welcome the results of the UNCSW 61 with direct references on the empowerment of indigenous women. We particularly appreciate the effort done in the development of its Strategy on Visibility and Inclusion of Indigenous Women. We look forward to the UN Women’s leadership in mobilizing national women machineries towards the implementation of this strategy at the national and local levels where indigenous women and girls are not just  part of the stakeholders but are effectively participating as rights-holders.
  5. We reiterate the need for capacity building among indigenous women and their communities, including timely and appropriate information, technical and logistical support as  enabling process and services towards meaningful participation. In light of Agenda 2030, participation  should not just be  measured in numbers.  States and other implementing agencies, should ensure that quality and substance are factored into the measures of inclusion and participation.
  6. There is equally a need to enhance capacities among UN Country teams, state and other concerned agencies to understand and appreciate the specific situations of indigenous women and their communities in relation to the UNDRIP and other international instruments.
  7. In relation to state obligations and commitments, we call on the UNPFII to  push for  the  development  and implementation of indigenous sensitive- and gender-responsive programs and approaches in consultation and partnership with indigenous women or peoples’ organizations at the national and local levels.


[1] In Bangladesh, out of 350 seats in the national parliament, 50 are reserved for women, and not even one of the 50 is an indigenous woman. Except for the specialized CHT Regional Council and the Hill District Councils of the hill region, there are no specific reservation of seats for indigenous peoples (including indigenous women) in local government councils, whether in the CHT or in the plains.

[2] Northern Dispatch. April 2017.

[3] Kapaeeng Foundation, Human Rights Reports 2016 on Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh, 2017.

Click here to download full statement.

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