AIWN focal points take stock of their potentials towards sustaining actions for indigenous women empowerment

29 April 2019, 7:44 am Written by 
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Nine focal points of the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN) have gathered in Baguio City, Philippines last April 2-7 for a strategic coordination meeting and training.

The meeting was called to review the results of the Fourth AIWN Conference last 2018 and to define and unite on actions and strategies for AIWN for the next three years while banking on the conference declaration and looking forward to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Beijing Platform of Action (BfPA).

The meeting also introduced the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as the financial entity of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The focal points were also taught how to maximize social media for visibility of indigenous women in broadening their advocacy reach.

The current United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNSRRIP) Victoria Tauli-Corpuz who is also the convenor of the AIWN stressed in her keynote address that the measure of indigenous women’s success is how they have succeeded in empowering their communities especially the indigenous women.

“We assert our right to self-determination to pursue our economic, social and cultural development,” she said, while emphasizing that strengthening their communities is where the power comes from and that AIWN has many works to do.

Describing the situation of the indigenous women, Tauli-Corpuz said that the indigenous women are highly discriminated, being trafficked, indigenous women human rights workers criminalized among others.

The UNSRRIP also stressed that indigenous women can develop and strengthen their communities creating possibilities on their own and should continue asserting their rights to governance, cultural integrity and diversity. She encouraged the focal points to look at the SDGs and determine what activities to be undertaken including submission of consolidated assessment report on the SDGs and indigenous women in Asia.

As the UNSRRIP, she will submit her thematic report on indigenous justice systems this 2019 and encouraged the women to submit their contributions to her report.


“We cannot say, ‘Cannot’”

The regional and country focal points, who were identified during the fourth AIWN conference in Bangkok, Thailand last October 2018, have identified major and specific activities they can do for the next three years, from 2020 to 2022, while mapping their capacities, the current and emerging challenges they confront and their proposed actions in response to the challenges.

Activities are primarily on building the capacities of indigenous women especially on their leadership skills and raising their awareness, lobbying and advocacy, documentation and reporting, and economic empowerment.

Being organized at the community to the regional level with capabilities and high commitment to reach out to other stakeholders, to monitor the situation of indigenous women, to lobby the governments are among the strengths of the indigenous women’s organizations the focal points have presented.

They also said that lack of resources, government regulations and government insensitivity to indigenous peoples, language barrier, lack of capacity or expertise of indigenous women, political conditions, discrimination against indigenous women from highly patriarchal relations, lack of appropriate information and communications technologies, lack of disaggregated data, lack of participation of indigenous women in decision-making are among the challenges they face in the implementation of the three-year activities they set.

Capacity building through trainings of indigenous women including men, fund raising, continuing lobby and advocacy and participation to important fora a such as at the sessions of the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues are also among the actions they identified to undertake in response to the challenges.

Ms Lat Sok Em, participating on behalf of the focal point of indigenous women in Cambodia, said that they cannot say they cannot work on the activities they have identified as those are all geared towards the best interest of the indigenous women in their communities.


Understanding the Green Climate Fund

Ms Helen Biangalen-Magata, the Southern CSO alternate active observer at the GCF and staff of Tebtebba, provided an overview of the GCF and its Indigenous Peoples (IPs) Policy as part of the training of the focal points. She said that there are project portfolios with the GCF that affect indigenous communities and understanding the GCF is an important step for the AIWN focal points.

The GCF, headquartered at Songdo, South Korea, was established during the UNFCCC’s 16th Conference of Parties (COP) in Cancun, Mexico in 2010, as an operating entity of the Financial Mechanism of the UNFCCC. The GCF Board composed of 24 members representing developed and developing countries equally govern the Fund and are accountable to and functions under the COP.

In 2018, it adopted the Indigenous Peoples’ Policy which a team of indigenous peoples including Ms Biangalen-Magata and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have worked and lobbied for. The IP Policy applies to all indigenous peoples around the world. The right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples is included in the policy among other essential elements of indigenous peoples’ wellbeing. Ms Biangalen-Magata also mentioned that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is used as a standard in the GCF.

Ms Biangalen-Magata also stressed on some important details of the IP Policy such as its scope, its guiding principles, avoidance of adverse impacts of GCF-funded projects, meaningful consultation, equitable compensation and shared benefits, and grievance and redress mechanisms.

She noted that an Indigenous Peoples’ Advisory Group composed of four indigenous peoples’ representatives is created to advice the GCF Secretariat, National Designated Authorities (NDAs), Accredited and Executing Entities in case of GCF-supported projects affecting indigenous peoples as well as to monitor and review the implement of the IP Policy and provide guidance and advice to the Board as may be requested.

Mr Raymond de Chavez, the Deputy Executive Director of Tebtebba and also part of the IPs engaging at the GCF, gave an overview of the engagements of IPs at the GCF Board Meetings. He emphasized that IPs are engaging the GCF because they are the most vulnerable and most impacted to climate change and the consequences of ill-conceived climate change solutions. In addition, the IPs play key roles and offer valuable contributions to increasing resilience to climate change impacts through their perspectives, traditional knowledge and sustainable resource management and practices. IPs also engage as the Cancun Agreement explicitly acknowledges the obligations of State Parties to respect the rights of indigenous peoples in any climate change actions and programmes while the Paris Agreement recognizes the positive contributions of IPs’ traditional knowledge to climate change adaptation.

Mr de Chavez said that there are three key demands of IPs engaging at the GCF meetings: respect the rights of indigenous peoples including the recognition of their traditional knowledge, full and effective participation, and access to resources.

Mr de Chavez also mentioned that the engagements of IPs resulted to remarkable gains such as the increased prominence of indigenous issues within the Board, sustained and effective engagement with the Board and the CSOs, engagement at the national level, scoping on readiness and IPs and the approval of the IP Policy.

Ms Biangalen-Magata disclosed opportunities for engagements of indigenous women at the national level which include participation in readiness programmes, Board meetings of the GCF and regional multi-stakeholder consultations, submission of petitions and letters to the GCF, online presence, one-on-one engagements with the Board Members and country negotiators, direct engagements with the NDAs and focal points, and monitoring and reporting of implementation of GCF policies and projects.

The participants were also able to get a glimpse of the project proposals targeting some communities in their countries which are submitted at the GCF with some under the Board’s deliberation.


News writing and utilizing social media for indigenous women visibility

As part of the training of the focal points, Ms Biangalen-Magata provided a review of news and feature story writing to enhance their skills in sharing the day-to-day stories of indigenous women in their communities to a broader audience.

She emphasized on accuracy, brevity and clarity as well as on some key tips in writing news and feature stories.

A short news story writing of the women and critiquing ensued.

Mr de Chavez, in addition, provided a lecture on the use of social media by IPs where he stressed that IPs worldwide are interacting online and supporting indigenous issues and causes. He, however, noted from a research the setbacks of using social media to IPs such as cyber bullying and cyber racism.

Facebook, he said, is the most widely-used social media and can be maximized by and for AIWN members. He also provided tips in utilizing Facebook and its various features such as the Facebook Live.

The focal points who participated in the strategic coordination meeting and training came from Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Cambodia, India and Nepal.

This activity, organized by AIWN, is a part of the Strengthening the AIWN and Mobilizing Change project being supported by Leading from the South Programme of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (IIWF/FIMI). ***

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