March 6, 2023 – With the objective of ensuring that the principles of inclusion and intersectionality guide technological innovation and reduce gender discrimination and inequalities, the International Indigenous Women’s Forum organized the Coordination Meeting of Indigenous Women in parallel to the 67th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67).
CSW67 is the main international body dedicated exclusively to promoting gender equality and developing international standards that foster women’s empowerment. This year will also be a crucial space to amplify our voices and fight for the effective implementation of CEDAW’s General Recommendation Number 39 (GR39), an international binding instrument for the protection of the individual and collective rights of Indigenous Women and Girls around the world.
During the event, women leaders from different regions gathered to reflect on our objectives, achievements, and pending gaps and challenges in the promotion and protection of our rights. We discussed the obligation that the party States have to develop and implement comprehensive policies that effectively protect the rights and principles of substantive equality and non-discrimination, and we agreed on the urgency of promoting the participation of Indigenous Women and Girls in the construction of a digital era that may close gender gaps and promote inclusive technological innovation ecosystems to eliminate violence.
The meeting began with a spiritual ceremony led by Malia Nobrega-Olivera, an Indigenous Woman from the Hanapēpē Valley, Kona, Kaua’i in Hawaii, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Community Engagement at the Hawaiian Knowledge School, and Director of the Loli Aniau, Makaala Aniau (LAMA) program.
During her intervention, Tarcila Rivera Zea, a Quechua woman from Peru and FIMI’s President, offered warm words of welcome and recalled that the International Indigenous Women’s Forum, made up of organizations from seven sociocultural regions, has its origin in the meetings we held in 1995 during the signing of the Beijing Indigenous Women’s Declaration, “laying the foundations for our claims as Indigenous People and as women”.
Today, almost 30 years later, the articles with which we then “defined our rights and positions as Indigenous Women are more relevant than ever so that we can recover, share, reflect, and continue projecting our aspirations globally”, Tarcila Rivera Zea pointed out.
In a video transmitted during the event, Lucy Mulenkei, a Masai woman from Kenya and the Co-founder and Vice President of FIMI, said that the meeting would be important because “we will hear diverse voices that will enrich our experience working on issues that impact Indigenous Women and Indigenous Peoples in general”.
Teresa Zapeta Mendoza, a Maya K’iche woman from Guatemala and FIMI’s Director, recognized the strategic alliances that have been forged over time to achieve common historical milestones among Indigenous Women from different regions, despite the violences and inequalities. “This year, in addition to discussing together the challenges we face in the digital era to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, we are celebrating the approval of GR39, which serves as a bridge to protect our rights.”
“The General Recommendation represents a historical turning point that favours not only Indigenous Women and Girls, but also the human rights of Indigenous Peoples around the world,” she insisted.
The participating sisters recognized that governments must assume their responsibilities and commitments in the fight against violence, and we identified some demands and actions to move forward with civil society and other key stakeholders in order to implement technological solutions that allow for the empowerment and transformation of traditional social roles and norms: to promote access to digital technologies for Indigenous Women in rural and non-rural areas to reduce inequalities; to strengthen the feeling, living, and thinking as women belonging to Indigenous Peoples through digital education; to eliminate technological gaps to guarantee the rights of Indigenous Women and Girls with disabilities, so they know about the international instruments that protect them; to understand that the installation of digital infrastructure, especially in rural areas, is not the solution to achieve connectivity for all, because it is necessary to learn about what limits women in the handling of technology and generate strategies for adoption and use close to the users and their communities; and to generate and promote access to information on digital violence or cyber crimes against Indigenous Women and Youth.
Finally, Teresa reiterated that the women’s articulation was crucial for the adoption of CEDAW’s General Recommendation 39, and she insisted that this is a unique opportunity to integrate the collective priorities, worldview, experiences, and shared lessons of Indigenous Women to achieve real change and ensure the preservation of our different cultures and individual and collective identities.