Bangladesh: Indigenous women form a network aiming at realising their rights through united movement
In the first ever National Indigenous Women Conference held in Dhaka, indigenous women leaders and representatives of indigenous women’s organisations formed a network naming Bangladesh Indigenous Women Network (BIWN) aiming at realising their rights through social, economic, political and cultural movements.
The two-day national conference was organised by Kapaeeng Foundation in cooperation with Oxfam at the CBCB centre in Dhaka on 31 March and 1 April 2012 with the slogan ‘Come forward to establish equal dignity and right of indigenous women and to ensure violence-free life for them’. A total of 23 indigenous women’s organisations across the country attended the conference while indigenous women rights activists, leaders of national mainstream women organisations and indigenous experts spoke in the conference and shared their experiences regarding the causes of the indigenous women in Bangladesh. It is mentionable that more than 54 indigenous ethnic communities with a population of nearly three million have been living in the country for centuries. Indigenous women both in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and plain land face serious violation of human rights, sexual violence, insecurity, harassment, threats and so on in their daily life. Due to non-implementation of CHT Accord of 1997, no basic and noteworthy progress has been made for indigenous women’s participation in development processes, education and healthcare in CHT. The biggest concern in rape and other violence against indigenous women both in CHT and plain land is the lack of access to justice and absolute impunity that perpetrators enjoy. The indigenous women’s organisations have been working at local level across the country aiming at realising their social, economic, political and cultural rights. With this backdrop, Kapaeeng Foundation, a national human rights organisation of indigenous peoples, organised the National Indigenous Women Conference in order to raise strong voice against discrimination on and violence against indigenous women at national level; to bring indigenous women activists to a common platform to fight against violence and discrimination and to develop network among indigenous women organisations and national mainstream women organisations. A declaration on the causes of indigenous women was adopted in the concluding session of the national conference. The following recommendations approved at the declaration include: - leading united struggle against all kinds of oppression over the indigenous women in the country; - strengthening networking and solidarity among the indigenous women’s organisations, activists and organisers; - continuing movements to ensure the indigenous women’s participation and representation in society and the state; - continuning movements to establish equal dignity and right of indigenous women at state, society and family life; - stressing on the need for raising public awareness regarding indigenous women rights; - spreading their networks at international level to communicate successfully with the international rights organisations. Finally a committee for smooth functioning of BIWN was formed with Ms. Minu Mrong as convenor, Ms. Masanti Murmu, Ms. Flora Bably Talang and Ms. Chanchana Chakma as joint convenors and Ms. Nishi Dewan as member-secretary.