Executive Summary: Working Group on Indigenous Peoples, Gender and
Maria Peñaloza (Women’s World Summit Foundation)
Sylvia Biss and Anaïs Gfeller (Mandat International)
During the seven sessions of this working group we listened to 21 speakers:
7 men and 14 women, 9 Indigenous and 11 non-indigenous, plus interventions from
participants. The speakers who came from all over the world, spoke to us of
their experience as Indigenous leaders, as civil servants in the United Nations
system, or as development workers with NGOs. The wide variety of topics covered
included women, leadership, education, health, land rights and international
cooperation. Despite the different fields, all the sessions led to nearly
identical conclusions: the need to achieve gender equality, the need of
Indigenous Peoples for self-determination, and the need for the industrialized
world to stem its consumption of natural resources and to adopt a more human
rights based approach to development.
One can draw a parallel between the problems of women and those of
Indigenous Peoples. Both groups are victims of marginalization and oppression.
Governments are not the only institutions responsible for oppressive practices,
but religious institutions as well have been guilty of this as well. Oppressed
peoples cannot develop. As stated by Mililani Trask, the right to
self-determination is by definition “the right for all peoples to
determine their political status necessary to achieve their social, cultural
and economic development”. Thus development arises from
self-determination, and without the latter there can be no real development.
People need full access to their human rights in order to develop. Oppression
in the long run leads to low self-esteem. Rebuilding self-esteem is necessary
for human development and a prerequisite for material development. Women, who
comprise over half the world’s population, still do not have the same
access to development means as their male counterparts, and they are
underrepresented in positions of power. By denying women full access to their
human rights the world deprives itself of the contributions of 50% of its
population. Giving women full access to their human rights is in itself a
solution to many of the world’s problems. Women will ensure the
preservation of Indigenous cultures as they are often the main ones responsible
for the transmission of Indigenous knowledge.
Recommendations stemming from individual sessions
To lobby for the ratification of all UN Conventions recognizing the rights
of women; to promote empowerment programmes for women; to encourage people in
industrialized countries to consume less and lead more ecologically sound
lives; to release more funds for women to attended conferences such as World
Civil Society Forum and to promote gender equality with respect to access to
credit for development, especially regarding amounts of credit. (Session 1)
To support legislation to end racism; to back the UN Permanent Forum on
Indigenous Issues and to support the ratification of the all UN Conventions
recognizing the rights of women. The World Civil Society Forum should promote
gender equality, i.e. a 50/50 ratio in decision-making positions, in the
Permanent Forum and other bodies including the World Bank, the WTO,
governments, etc. (Session 2)
To lobby for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
to allow children to be taught in their own language; to promote modifications
in school curriculums in accordance with local culture and to focus more on
human development and the protection of the environment; to support legislation
to end the racism that leads to people abandoning their culture. (Session
To support the full participation of Indigenous Peoples in any development
project; to lobby against the TRIPS agreement on the patenting of living
organisms; to support the right to self-determination of Indigenous Peoples,
who must be the ones to decide what model of development they want: when, how
and where; to support the full participation of women, who are major holders of
traditional knowledge, in development projects. (Session 4)
To support the self-determination and the land-rights of Indigenous Peoples,
as a prerequisite for health by growing nutritious food and plants for
traditional remedies; to support measures to stem pollution by foreign
companies in order to ensure a healthy environment for Indigenous Peoples; to
support empowerment programmes for Indigenous women, who are the major food
providers and caretakers of their families; to lobby to block the adoption of
the TRIPS agreement to prevent the theft of knowledge of medicinal plants; to
lobby against trade agreements such as FTAA, which counter food security in
developing countries, by flooding them with cheap food imports from developed
countries. (Session 5)
To support the land-rights of Indigenous Peoples and the right to
self-determination; to include Indigenous Peoples, including Indigenous women,
as full participants in all negotiations and decisions concerning any
development projects, large or small, on or impacting their territories.
To support the right to self-determination and the land-rights of Indigenous
Peoples; to promote a more sustainable model of development in industrialized
nations, which consumes fewer natural resources and pollutes less; to include
the full participation of Indigenous Peoples, including women, in all aspects
of development projects; to lobby for the UN to adopt the Draft Declaration on
the Rights of Indigenous.(Session 7)
Summary of recommendations for the Working Group
- To lobby for the ratification of all UN conventions recognizing the rights
- To promote gender equality in all aspects of development, in particular with
regard to the amounts of loans or grants made to women.
- To aim for 50/50 gender ratios in all positions of power, whether it be
governments, civil society or other.
- To lobby for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the
- To lobby against the Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property rights
agreement (TRIPS) on patenting living organisms.
- To support the right to self-determination of Indigenous Peoples.
- To include Indigenous Peoples, including Indigenous women, in all
negotiations and decisions concerning any large or small development projects
on their territories.
- To lobby against trade agreements which make it impossible for people to
sell their products.
- To promote a more sustainable model of development which consumes fewer
resources and pollutes less.
- To support legislation which fights racism.
- To lobby for the UN to adopt the Draft Declaration on the Rights of
- To back the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
- Indigenous representatives at international conferences must bring decisions
and information back to their communities and make sure that they involve them
in all aspects of such conferences.
Individual sessions in this working group
- Indigenous Peoples, Gender and Development
- Indigenous women
- Indigenous children
and the role of traditional education
- Role of indigenous
knowledge in development
- Land rights and
access to natural resources
- Indigenous peoples, health and traditional
- Improving international cooperation
with indigenous peoples
- Wrap-up Session
Elly Pradervand, Pelpina Ohorella Sahureka, Anne-Marie Mukwazanzo, Fati Ali
Abdoulaye, Helen Sayers, Angela Brown, Julia Damiana Ramos Sánchez,
Patricia Borraz, Diego Gradis, Ricardo Cox Aranibar, Ruben Ortiz, Leonor
Zalabata, Elizabeth Reichel, Mililani Trask, Talkalit Aboubacrine, Nafissatou
Tall, Adelard Blackman, Alejandra Pero, Marc Steinlin, David Lin, Urs Thomas,
Lee Swepson, Marc Rwabahengo, Denise Allen, Moana Sinclair, Catarina Eleuterio
Gomez Ixmata, Marta Llanos, Anna Pinto