We Indigenous Women need strategic funding that respects the self-determination of our peoples

We Indigenous Women recommend that international funding mechanisms and policies be inclusive, culturally sensitive, and designed with deep knowledge of indigenous cultures, practices, and needs.  To achieve this, we must participate in the decision-making processes.

March 15, 2024 – In a virtual event held parallel to the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68), women leaders and organizations allied with the InternationalIndigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI) discussed the the financing opportunities and windows for supporting the implementation of GR39 

In the virtual event, From the commitment to the Action: Funding for Implementing General Recommendation 39 (GR39), we reflected on some initiatives that demonstrate that violence can be addressed, reduced, and, with perseverance, systematically eradicated  if sufficient funding is provided that eliminates the gaps of structural inequality that impact Indigenous Women.

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, from the Mbororo community in Chad, a country in Central Africa and member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, highlighted that it is mainly the women who protect the territories and their natural resources.  “We need funding that goes directly to indigenous communities, and specifically to women, in order to strengthen their capacity and ensure they have the tools they need to do what they are already doing,” she said.

During her presentation, Hindou mentioned  that there is an urgent need to guarantee Indigenous Women’s access to land: “We have to give them the tools they need to map their territories and strengthen their rights to land ownership.  Giving access to the land and territory provides food sovereignty  for the entire community.”

Tarcila Rivera Zea, a Quechua leader and FIMI President, explained that funding should be given to grassroot organizations and advocate  with local and regional governments in favor of implementing GR39 worldwide.  “Our path as Indigenous Women is to learn about international instruments, coordinate ourselves, and strengthen our local organizations,” the leader urged.

Likewise, Abigail Erikson, Chief of the UN Trust Fund, explained that since its establishment in 1996, the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women has supported 670 initiatives in 140 countries and territories around the world, through the provision of a total of US$225 million.  Erikson shared that “we at the Trust Fund are profoundly committed to learning from grassroots organizations in order to end violence against Indigenous Girls and Women.”  She explained that since 2022, 30 local organizations have received support from the Fund.  “We know it’s not enough, but are making an enormous effort to add more beneficiaries from grassroots organizations,” she added. 

Lourdes Inga, Executive Director of the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples (IFIP), stressed that implementing CEDAW General Recommendation 39, which protects the individual and collective rights of Indigenous Girls and Women, is a powerful opportunity to increase philanthropic support for grassroots organizations and collectives.  “We should increase access to long-term, flexible funding to stabilize, support, and strengthen their organizational work,” she commented.

At the same time, Joanna Kazana, UN Resident Coordinator for Trinidad and Tobago, recognized that Indigenous Women have strong voices and much to say.  “It is essential for women to be a part of the decision-making process.  We have proposed a new focus for providing funding to ensure it is centered on resilience and includes Indigenous Peoples fighting the extractive processes.  For example, we have identified that Indigenous Women are agents of change because they know what their communities need,” she highlighted.

From her side, Cynthia Brizuel, an Inclusion and Education Specialist with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), explained that UNICEF prioritizes working with children and indigenous persons with disabilities.  Nonetheless, she specified that “we are trying also to involve Indigenous Women because they are the ones who know their children’s needs.  To include them, we are working to remove the language gaps to ensure that women and teachers, who are also leaders in their communities, establish trust-based relationships with the children, which in turn translate into better conditions in the areas of health and education for everyone.”

Lastly, Florence Varghese, Project Director for the Organization for Community Development in India,  shared her experience from India where Indigenous Women face a patriarchal society based on a cast system that pushes women to the lowest level of society.  “As such, economic independence is essential to liberate themselves from the violence they experience,” she declared.  “We have identified 250 survivors of domestic violence in 44 coastal communities,” the activist added.  “We provide them with legal support, education, and accompany them as they develop production-based projects that help them achieve financial stability.”

Through this event and various other interventions in CSW68, we Indigenous Women recommend that international funding mechanisms and policies be inclusive, culturally sensitive, and designed with deep knowledge of indigenous cultures, practices, and needs.

Furthermore, we call for the substantive inclusion of Indigenous Women in decision-making processes at all levels, including national, local, and indigenous autonomous governments, particularly relating to issues of   land, environment, territory, and administration of justice.

We call for financial resources to be allocated equitably, with a specific focus on supporting initiatives led by and for Indigenous Women.  We encourage the establishment of financing mechanisms that are accessible, transparent, and responsive to Indigenous Women’s needs.

Lastly, though no less importantly, we urge the UN Women’s Trust Fund to End Violence against Women to allocate a significant percentage of its funds directly to Indigenous Women’s organizations.  This measure would promote inclusion and recognize the unique challenges faced and solutions contributed by Indigenous Women.