Indigenous Women in Latin America
Table of Contents
The situation of indigenous women by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues’ perspective
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues explains at its third session that it recognizes the unique contributions made by indigenous women within their families, communities and nations and at the international level. However, it explains at the same time their experience of multiple forms of discrimination based on gender and race/ethnicity, and the complex problems stemming from this discrimination.
In its point of view, globalization presents, in addition, new challenges and problems for indigenous women in many parts of the world. Indigenous women’s roles have eroded due to the compounding factors of loss of natural resources and depletion of the ecosystems.
Indigenous women, while sharing many of the concerns in the areas of Poverty in Focus: Gender Equality Universal Declaration of Human Rights , and economic and social development with other women throughout the world, also offer a distinct and important perspective on these issues. Also “indigenous women” are not a homogeneous category but represent a wide variety of cultures with different needs and concerns.“The Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues”, http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N04/384/66/PDF/N0438466.pdf?OpenElement
Human rights issues
Indigenous women face significant challenges to the full enjoyment of their human rights. Multiple forms of ILO Gender and Non-Discrimination Programme often stand for lack of access to education, health care and ancestral lands, disproportionately high rates of poverty and violence, such as Domestic violence sexual abuse, including in the contexts of trafficking and armed conflict.
Indigenous women have sought to address such issues at the local, national and international levels. At the United Nations , indigenous women have been advocates and leaders since the very first year of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, in 1982 in Geneva. Indigenous women were active participants and contributors during the more than two decades of negotiations regarding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 2007 (resolution 61/295).
The human rights of indigenous women are protected by all of the provisions of the Declaration, which calls, in article 22, for particular attention to be paid to their rights and special needs, and calls upon States to take measures to ensure that indigenous women enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.
Today, at the Permanent Forum, indigenous women participate in great numbers, have their own caucus and have a strong voice. Since its first session, the Permanent Forum has paid special attention to indigenous women. The special theme of the third session of the Permanent Forum was indigenous women. During its seven sessions, the Permanent Forum has adopted 76 recommendations directly referring to the situation of indigenous women.“The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues”, http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/E_C_19_2009_8_en.pdf
In Latin America
The indigenous population in Indigenous Women in Latin America is estimated at around 40 to 50 million people, or 8 percent to 10 percent of the region’s overall population. Indigenous peoples account for at least half of the population in countries such as Bolivia, Guatemala , and Peru . The more than 400 indigenous peoples in the region are culturally and linguistically heterogeneous. Despite their cultural richness, indigenous peoples are disproportionately poor, and represent the poorest segments of the population in most countries.
Situations in different Latin American countries
The scant data available in various countries reflects the same situation: indigenous peoples are disadvantaged compared to non-indigenous people, and indigenous women even more so compared to indigenous men. In Peru, where 50% of the population lives in poverty, this reality affects 80% of indigenous people. In Mexico , a country where 18% of the population is poor, 80% of the indigenous population lives in poverty (PAHO – Pan American Health Organization, 1998). In Bolivia, 78% of indigenous households do not have access to drinking water, 72% do not have sanitation services and infant mortality rates are the highest in South America. In Chile , in 1992, the infant mortality rate among the indigenous population was 40 points above the national average.
In Mexico, the mortality rate among pregnant indigenous women is three times higher than that of non-indigenous women, and the infant mortality rate of 58% is higher than the national average (IFHR – International Federation for Human Rights). Furthermore, illiteracy is more common among indigenous women. In Ecuador ’s rural areas, 48% of indigenous women and 32% of indigenous men are illiterate, compared to 18% of non-indigenous women (El Comercio, 2003). In Guatemala, in 1995, 53.4% of women of childbearing age had never attended school (INE – Encuesta Nacional de Salud Materno infantil, Guatemala). Illiterate indigenous women are usually unilingual and have difficulty accessing public services when they migrate to urban centers where services are only provided in the language of the majority.
Representing over one-third of involuntary migrants in Colombia , displaced indigenous peoples and AfroColombians are highly over-represented in the statistics. Indigenous women are among the poorest, are more likely to be illiterate, to die of infectious disease or to be victims of perinatal death. In addition, they are the object of multiple forms of discrimination, namely gender and racial discrimination.“Droit et Démocratie (Rigths and Democracy ; Canadian NGO, http://www.dd-rd.ca/site/_PDF/publications/indigenous/sheetsWomen/1en.pdf
Projects helping Indigenous women’s empowerment
In December 2005, the General Assembly approved the project entitled Engaging indigenous women: local-government capacity-building through new technologies in Latin America under the Development Account. The main objective of this project is to strengthen the capacity of institutions at the national and community levels in Bolivia, Ecuador and Perú to engage indigenous women in decision-making processes by utilizing new information and communication technologies (see document A/60/6(Sect. 34), annex, sect. W, for a fuller description). Through capacity building and indigenous women’s meaningful participation, the project intends to elevate indigenous women’s self awareness and esteem in critical areas, improve their participation in decision-making processes and promote self-affirmation of their cultural and gender identities. The project is implemented by the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (SPFII) in cooperation with other United Nations bodies and indigenous women’s organizations.“the UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Peoples”, http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/dev_acct.html
- International Indigenous Women's Foundation (IIWF)