CEDAW for Indigenous Women and Girls: Filling the gap for the path ahead

From our diverse  identities, we women make our contributions to the world. We must, however, highlight the inequalities that Indigenous Women still have to deal with, like the lack of access to education, economic and social opportunities. Indigenous Peoples make up 6.2% of the world’s population (ILO, 2019)1, yet we represent 15% of the world’s impoverished people (UNPFII, 2020). The recent Global Study on the Situation of Indigenous Women and Girls in the framework of the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, shows that Indigenous Women consistently find themselves at the bottom of all social and economic indicators.2

In this context, we must ensure the measures that protect our rights are culturally appropriate and take into account the particularities that prevent us from fully exercising our rights. Accordingly, international instruments must offer specific responses to address the difficulties we face and guarantee our access to equal opportunities. A good example of this is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), whose States Parties must take actions to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of women and girls in all circumstances. It is important to emphasize that the Convention is a legally binding instrument, which means that the adhering states are forced to comply with these obligations. 

In a world where women, in all our diversities, experience profound inequalities, this instrument has a special relevance for our lives. However, CEDAW does not specifically recognize Indigenous Women and Girls as bearers of individual and collective rights. This means that the Convention does not offer adequate protection against the multiple forms sources of discrimination we face. 

Following our worldview, we are connected with Mother Earth. We resist and fight discrimination and violence not only as individual women, but as collective beings, intrinsically related to our peoples to form a whole. Therefore, we have given ourselves the task to carry advocacy work in decision-making spaces, with the goal of transforming the realities of inequalities and injustices. 

In order to carry out this process, we have had to join forces through dialogues between women leaders, Indigenous Women’s organizations,  allied organizations from the civil society, as well as to persevere over time. This is a strategic task for improving the lives of 186 million Indigenous Girls and Women, a task which we can only carry out collectively.

We are filling the gaps for the path ahead. Today, the force of the wind is in our favour. Sisters, without losing the strong and constant rhythm of our pace, FIMI, the regional networks of Indigenous Women and MADRE invite you to join the CEDAW Campaign for Indigenous Women and Girls. This initiative is the fruit of what we have sown previously, and our energy is required to get the CEDAW Committee to formally adopt a General Recommendation for Indigenous women and Girls  in 2022. Together we are stronger and can bring about a world free from racism and discrimination! 


1 Implementing the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention No. 169: Towards an inclusive, sustainable and just future, International Labor Organization, 2019

2 Global Study on the Situation of Indigenous Women and Girls in the Framework of the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, FIMI, 2020

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