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Raising the voices and needs of indigenous women in Africa and Asia

Indigenous women all over the world suffer from triple discrimination as they are not only discriminated simply for being women or for being indigenous, but also for being indigenous women. Indigenous women are often not only left out of local and national political processes but are also excluded from decision-making processes and structures within indigenous communities.

This exclusion translates into a continued spiralling reality that women’s concerns and women’s critical input are lacking and marginalised in policy making and community governance to address their issues as well as those of their communities. Most immediately and dangerously, this exclusion also propagates the cycle of violence indigenous women face, including sexual violence, gender-based killing, traditional harmful practices, domestic violence, violence in the context of conflict and human trafficking.

However, rather than seeing indigenous women and girls as victims, they are in reality active change agents in society and champions of sustainability, standing at the forefront of promoting indigenous peoples’ rights and women’s rights, as well as playing an essential role in safeguarding and passing along indigenous knowledge, tradition, culture and language.

After listening to the specific needs voiced by indigenous women, through pioneering indigenous and women’s organisations in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Kenya and Tanzania, IWGIA is pleased to work alongside these valued national partner organisations to build the indigenous women’s movement and reverse some of these troubling trends.

“We are excited to support the indigenous women network and organisations in Kenya to build their capabilities with indigenous peoples’ wisdom, hope and self-determination to define their future,” Jane Meriwas, Director of Samburu Women Trust and IWGIA project partner, said. “We are excited to be part of this journey and we hope to achieve meaningful results within the indigenous women movement in Kenya.”

Over the next three years (2020-2023)—with the financial support of UK-based charity Comic Relief—indigenous women organisations in the five countries will be able to carry out activities not just in their communities, but also at national, regional and international levels. Organisations will carry out these projects based on the most pressing issues indigenous women face, specifically including violence against women and lack of inclusion in political processes.

The project also seeks to establish a platform for these groups and women to exchange knowledge, strategies and experience across indigenous communities within and between the five countries and two regions to learn and share from each other and support the global indigenous women movement.

In that spirit, project partners will form an alliance to act collectively to promote change in the lives and political power of indigenous women, as well as jointly engaging on advocacy work, including the documentation of human rights violations, making submissions to regional and international human rights mechanisms, and participating in relevant international meetings.

“The side-lined voice of indigenous women is an unfortunate reality for far too many communities in Africa and Asia. Our progressive and inspiring project partners have listened to the needs of indigenous women and are acting to make sure those voices are heard, amplified and a substantial part of community, national regional and international dialogue and decision making,” Signe Leth, IWGIA Senior Advisor, said.

The project will benefit 4,000 indigenous women and girls in the five countries, as well as 40,000 indigenous people more broadly in the communities.


Read more about indigenous women in the following reports:

>> The Place of Women in Naga Society

>> Indigenous Women and Their Human Rights in the Americas

>> State of Indigenous Women and Girls in Bangladesh: Issues at a Glance

>> The Unspoken Vice in Samburu Community

>> Indigenous Heroines: A Saga of Tribal Women of India


>> Find more reports on indigenous women by clicking here




IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Read more.

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Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for Indigenous Peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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