Indigenous Women and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
The Permanent Forum continues to play a key role in addressing the situation of indigenous women and making recommendations thereon. First, it has strategically positioned the rights of indigenous women as a priority at its annual sessions, either as the special theme or as one of the substantive areas, and has advocated, through its recommendations, concrete action to include their rights and perspectives in major intergovernmental frameworks. Second, it has created a global platform for indigenous women to share experiences and difficulties and exchange ideas and strategies to achieve their goals. Third, it provides an institutional venue for indigenous women to establish networks with non-governmental organizations and United Nations system entities to respond to some of the challenges that they continue to face around the world.
In response to indigenous women’s concerns, the Permanent Forum over the years has adopted a large number of recommendations containing direct references to the situation of indigenous women in connection with a wide range of issues, including education, culture, health, human rights, environment and development, conflict and political participation.
In addition, each year, the Permanent Forum has a stand-alone agenda item devoted to indigenous women’s issues. For example, in 2016, it held a session entitled “Indigenous peoples: conflict, peace and resolution”, and one of the two plenary meetings was focused on the unique case of indigenous women. Among its other recommendations, the Permanent Forum emphasized that the protection, security and rights of indigenous girls and women in conflict settings constituted an urgent priority, including within the framework of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women and peace and security. It also noted that sexual and gender-based violence increased in settings of conflict. Sexual violence has also been systematically used as a weapon of war against indigenous women. In the light of the particular risks and vulnerabilities of indigenous women and girls related to sexual and gender-based violence, the Permanent Forum recommended that Governments, local authorities, specialized agencies of the United Nations system and civil society collaborate with indigenous peoples to establish multisectoral and holistic approaches to combat the various forms of violence against women and girls (E/2016/43, paras. 56 and 57).
One of the mandates of the Permanent Forum is to raise awareness of and promote the rights of indigenous peoples. In line with this mandate, in 2017, the Permanent Forum launched the first indigenous media zone in cooperation with indigenous community media to provide a space for indigenous and mainstream media channels and platforms to cover the issues discussed during the sessions in their own languages and through their own media channels. Indigenous women also used this platform to broadcast on issues such as violence against indigenous women and girls, female genital mutilation and the economic empowerment of indigenous women and young people. The participation of indigenous women in the media zone has increased over the years, with indigenous women taking the lead in designing the agenda and the briefings.
In 2017, in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Commission on the Status of Women held an interactive dialogue at its sixty-first session on the focus area “Empowerment of indigenous women” (E/CN.6/2017/12). This was in response to a call made in 2014 in the outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (General Assembly resolution 69/2, para. 19), and a recommendation of the Permanent Forum (E/C.19/2015/10, para. 43) to consider indigenous women as a priority theme. The interactive dialogue marked the first time that the subject of indigenous women had been discussed as a stand-alone topic at an official meeting of the Commission. In the discussion on gender violence, education and economic opportunity for women, many speakers also called for increased consultation with indigenous women on environmental issues, especially climate change. They noted in particular that indigenous women’s knowledge and capacities could provide solutions to climate change.
Every year, the General Assembly adopts a resolution on the rights of indigenous peoples, which is discussed by the Third Committee. The Assembly refers in these resolutions to issues of particular relevance to indigenous women, such as violence against indigenous women and girls and their empowerment and full and effective participation in decision-making processes at all levels, and encourages States to consider including in their reports information on indigenous women in relation to the progress made and challenges faced in the implementation of Commission on the Status of Women resolutions 49/7 of 11 March 2005, entitled “Indigenous women: beyond the ten-year review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action” (E/2005/27, chap. I, sect. D), and 56/4 of 9 March 2012, entitled “Indigenous women: key actors in poverty and hunger eradication” (E/2012/27, chap. I, sect. D). It is relevant to note that the annual report of the Permanent Forum contributes to the analysis and rationale used to address the rights of indigenous women at the highest levels of the United Nations.