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In Cambodia, indigenous families are being displaced from their territories due to the production of sugar cane.
Cambodian indigenous women demanded stop the activities of the Chinese multinational corporations Rui Feng and Lan Feng. They indicate that cultivation and extraction of sugar cane is displacing indigenous peoples from their territories.
According to the portal ruom.net, the Indigenous Peoples’ crops have been burned, their animals have been slaughtered, and their houses have been destroyed. Also, it is reported that thousands of indigenous people have been left destitute. Even, those who raised their voices of protest have been imprisoned.
The indigenous who are displaced are forced to work for these companies, obtaining an average wage of $2.50 per day. In many cases, it is also reported that children are working on sugar plantations.
According to activist group in favor of human rights Adhoc, about 3000 families in the region of Preah Vihear, were affected by the activities of these multinationals.
Through a statement issued last Friday, Cambodian Indigenous Women demanded the implementation of mechanisms to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, and in particular, of indigenous women.
Also, they demanded the effective application of free, prior and informed consent, as well as revocation of land concessions in the region of Bunong.
The complaint is being done within the framework of the celebrations for the Human Rights Day, date in which it is urged to take the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.
We, the indigenous women leaders from eight provinces in Cambodia, together with our advocates from our men leaders, national and regional indigenous peoples organizations, and national NGOs, have come together in this 1st National Indigenous Women’s Human Rights Training on Documentation and Advocacy from 3-6 December 2013 at Phnom Penh, Cambodia, shared and analysed our situation, and have come to the conclusion that our condition of marginalization, discrimination and violence arises mainly from the failure of the Royal Government of Cambodia to respect, protect and fulfill its obligations under national laws and international human rights law. Our lands and resources are being taken away and given to corporations and cronies. Oftentimes, we only know about these when machines come to flatten our farms and homes and clear our forests. This is exacerbated by the failure of the government to implement effectively, judiciously and without delay, the law which allows us to have legal recognition of our collective land rights. Divide and rule is reigning in our communities due to the confusion from the directive to choose individual private land titles over collective land titles. Information on developments coming to our territories, be it economic or social land concessions, dams, mines, researches, land titling, or others, are not available to us in a language we understand, nor given in a manner which respects our traditional decision-making processes, nor in a time which will allows us to process the information and make our own decisions. In almost all instances, we are told that whether we like it or not, our lands will be taken away.
The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) voted for the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 for which it has committed to respect, protect and fulfil our individual and collective rights. The RCG has its Land Law of 2001 and Forestry Law of 2002 which recognizes the collective rights of indigenous peoples to their territory and provides for measures to fulfil these. However, more than 10 years after the legislation of these affirmative laws on our rights, we, indigenous women and our peoples, are fighting for our lives as our lands, territories and resources are being taken away in favor of corporate and state interests. As indigenous women, we suffer disproportionately because we are the main users of forests, keepers of the spirit forests, and responsible for the maintenance of our farms and gardens for the subsistence and welfare of our families. The RGC has assured us under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women to promote gender equality and combat discrimination against women.
On the occasion of the celebration of the 2013 International Human Rights Day, we call on the Royal Government of Cambodia to:
1. STOP granting economic or social land concessions on indigenous territories without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the affected communities. Information on all such concessions, dams, infrastructure development, mines, research and other activities undertaken in our territories must be provided to us within a sufficient period of time for us to study, assess and decide through our own decision-making processes, and in a language which we can understand. This will allow us to say NO to such developments.
2. SUSPEND the implementation of Directive 01BB. Instead FAST-TRACK the implementation of the Sub-decree on communal land titling by providing resources for the information, education and communication on the Sub-decree to all indigenous communities and for meeting the requirements of the communal land registration; allow for experts, including indigenous experts and human rights organisations, to assist indigenous communities to understand the Sub-decree, meet the requirements, and go through the process.
3. STOP IMMEDIATELY the activities of Rui Feng Co. Ltd. and Lan Feng Co. Ltd. in Pramer Commune in Preah Vihear Province which is continuing with impunity destroying our farms, forests, including spirit forests and sacred sites, despite our continuing protests made known to authorities at the local to the national levels. Up to now, no action has been made to finally resolve our concerns except for the issuance of promises while allowing the corporations to continue to destroy our lands and livelihoods. Related to this is the delay in the process of our collective land registration while the ELCs have been easily granted to the corporations.
4. INVESTIGATE immediately the allegations that SOCFIN is threatening villagers in Bousra Commune, Pichreada District, Mondulkiri Province as they go about their traditional livelihood activities and cheating villagers through violations of the provisions of the contract on share-cropping, denying indigenous women and their families to meet their subsistence needs.
5. REVOKE the Social Land Concession in Bunong territory in Bousra Commune, Pichreada Dsitrict, Mondulkiri Province where provincial authorities have granted such concession to non-indigenous people who have destroyed conservation, spirit forests and graveyards, and which has jeopardized the collective land registration process of the affected Bunong communities.
We call on the RGC to respect, protect and fulfil our rights as indigenous women.
Twenty-nine indigenous women and three men representatives from the Bunong, Suy, Kui, Tampoun, Stieng, Jarai, Chorng, Prov and Por peoples from Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Koh Kong, Kratie, Mondulkiri, Preah Vihear, Pursat, Ratanakiri, Steung Treng.
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact
Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association
Indigenous Community Support Organization
Indigenous Rights Active Members
Organization to Promote Kui Culture
Geneva — The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has kick-started Beijing+20, a process to assess how far Member States and other stakeholders have come in implementing the commitments made at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in 1995. This action was part of a resolution on the future organization and methods of work proposed by the Commission on the Status of Women which ECOSOC adopted today.
Since 1995, the Commission on the Status of Women has played a central role in monitoring, reviewing and appraising progress achieved and problems encountered in implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – the most comprehensive global policy framework to achieve the goals of gender equality, development and peace, which world leaders committed to in 12 critical areas of concern.
At its annual sessions, the Commission has focused on particular priority themes in an effort to accelerate implementation. It led the first five-year review in 2000, when the 23rd special session of the General Assembly adopted a political declaration and further actions and initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Commission also conducted comprehensive reviews in 2005 and 2010, which both resulted in declarations on the occasion of the 10- and 15-year anniversaries of the Beijing Conference.
The review and appraisal process launched today by ECOSOC will include: comprehensive national-level reviews to be undertaken by all States of the progress made and challenges encountered; regional reviews to be undertaken by the five UN regional commissions; and a review and appraisal at global level, to be undertaken by the Commission on the Status of Women at its 59th session in March 2015. At that time, the Commission will also assess opportunities for strengthening gender equality and the empowerment of women in the post-2015 development agenda, currently under consideration by UN Member States.
ECOSOC strongly encouraged Governments to continue to support the role and contribution of civil society, in particular non-governmental organizations and women’s organizations, in implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcomes of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly. In this regard, it called upon Governments to collaborate with relevant stakeholders at all levels in their preparations for the 2015 review.
“This comprehensive review and appraisal process is critical for ensuring accountability by Member States for commitments made to the world’s women and girls nearly 20 years ago in Beijing,” said Acting Head of UN Women Lakshmi Puri. “While much progress has been made, in no country in the world has true equality for women and girls been achieved.”
Ms. Puri stressed the timeliness of the review process, which coincides with the target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. As Member States, the UN system and other stakeholders redouble their efforts during the 1,000 Days of Action drive, targets directly related to women’s well-being lag behind many of the others.
“The Beijing+20 review is not only an opportunity to critically assess progress as well as remaining gaps and challenges,” said Ms. Puri. “Even more importantly, we must turn it into a galvanizing process for implementing the norms, policies and measures identified in the Platform for Action, for reaffirming and strengthening political commitment, mobilizing all stakeholders, and making the investments needed at all levels to achieve gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment. UN-Women will be a strong and committed partner to Member States, the UN system and civil society as we work towards this common goal.”
25 November 2013 – Today is an opportunity for each person to recommit to ending the harm being committed against one out of three women, senior United Nations officials said marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
“Violence against women and girls directly affects individuals while harming our common humanity,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day, which this year focuses on the theme of raising awareness by wearing the colour orange.
Mr. Ban applauded leaders who are helping to enact and enforce laws and change mindsets, and paid tribute to the heroes who help victims heal and become agents of change. Among those, Dr. Denis Mukwege, founder of the Panzi hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), who the UN chief met last month, and who in turn, is inspired by the courage of the women he treats.
We, Indigenous women from the seven sociocultural regions of the world, met at the World Conference of Indigenous Women - ‘Progress and challenges regarding the future we want’ in Lima, Peru, from October 28-30, 2013. Our gathering included elders and youth, urban and rural, knowledge holders and healers, activitists and artists. We were honoured by the participation of our allies and supporters, including UN agencies, donors, governments and organizations in solidarity. We shared our stories, struggles, victories, challenges and proposals to move us forward building upon what we have already achieved.
We based our discussions on the contributions of those women who came before us, as well as our aspirations for future generations. We celebrated the strength, beauty and expertise of indigenous women at this gathering and around the world.
Indigenous Women assert our right to self-determination, which encompasses the direct, full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples, including the vital role of Indigenous women, in all matters related to our human rights, political status, and well-being. We endorse the principle: “Nothing about us, without us", and further declare "Everything about us, with us.”
Indigenous Women affirm our responsibility to protect the Earth, our Mother. Indigenous women experience the same pain and impacts from the physical abuse and excessive exploitation of the natural world, of which we are an integral part. We will defend our lands, waters, territories and resources, which are the source of our survival, with our lives. Protection of Mother Earth is an historic, sacred and continuing responsibility of the world’s indigenous peoples, as the ancestral guardians of the Earth’s lands, waters, oceans, ice, mountains and forests. These have sustained our distinct cultures, spirituality, traditional economies, social structures, institutions, and political relations from time immemorial. Indigenous women play a primary role in safeguarding and sustaining Mother Earth and her cycles.
Today, at this time of compounded crises of climate change and impending irreversible loss of biological diversity, Indigenous Women underscore the duty of States to protect the territories of Indigenous Peoples, as critical areas for the social, cultural and ecological recovery and resilience of humankind and the natural world.
For Indigenous Peoples, our lands and territories comprise not only the geographical and physical areas of our lands, waters, oceans, ice, mountains and forests, but also the profound cultural, social and spiritual relationships, values and responsibilities, that connect us to our ancestral homelands.
Indigenous Peoples’ sovereign jurisdiction over our lands, territories and resources is the foundation of our rights to self-determination, self-governance and free, prior and informed consent. State violations and failure to uphold these rights are a primary source of conflicts and overlapping claims by extractive industries, forest concessions, energy programmes, and other harmful projects arising from a failed and exploitative model of economic growth and development.
Indigenous women call upon states to recognize and respect our rights to lands, territories and resources as enshrined in Indigenous customary law, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and other international human rights instruments. This includes our right to freely pursue our own economic, social, and cultural development.
There is an urgent need to implement the rights enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous women are active human rights defenders of all individual and collective human rights of our Peoples. We often bear the burden of social and environmental harms arising from the consistent denial and violation of our human rights and the lack of implementation and accountability of States.
Indigenous women and girls experience multiple forms of discrimination, lack of access to education and health care, high rates of poverty, maternal and child mortality. We are subject to all forms of violence, such as domestic violence and sexual abuse, including in the contexts of trafficking, armed conflict, environmental violence, and extractive industries.
As Indigenous women, we recognize the importance of sexual and reproductive health and education for all ages. This includes our associated rights to culturally appropriate health and education services in our communities, and the right to exercise, maintain, and control our own health knowledge and practices. We call for zero tolerance for all forms of discrimination, and all forms of violence against Indigenous Women and girls, which are among the worst and most pervasive forms of human rights violations perpetrated against Indigenous Peoples.
Finally, we affirm that Indigenous women have knowledge, wisdom, and practical experience, which has sustained human societies over generations. We, as mothers, life givers, culture bearers, and economic providers, nurture the linkages across generations and are the active sources of continuity and positive change.
In regard to forthcoming global events,
We call upon the WCIP to include the proposals in the Alta Outcome Document for the establishment of effective mechanisms to hold States accountable to their human rights and other obligations.
We call upon the WCIP to prioritise the issues and concerns of Indigenous Women in all the themes, organizational arrangements, outcome documents, and to ensure the full and effective participation of indigenous women, including elders and youth.
We call upon States, the UN system, and all relevant actors to ensure the effective implementation of the Plan of Action and Recommendations arising from the World Conference of Indigenous Women, including through the provision of sufficient finantial resources and other support within the frameworks and processes of Beijing+20, Cairo+20 and the Post 2015 Development Agenda.
We thank our hosts, the Indigenous Peoples and the Government of Perú, in particular CHIRAPAQ, Centro de Culturas Indígenas de Perú, and the International Indigenous Women’s Forum, Enlace Continental de Mujeres Indígenas, Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact, Indigenous Women Africa, Alianza de Mujeres Indígenas de Centroamerica y México, Asian Indigenous Women’s Network, Pacific Indigenous Women’s Network, and Indigenous Information Network. Together, we will continue our movement forward.
They demand that the States recognize the authority and competency of their communities in the handling of their lands, territories, and resources.
They pledge to be part of the solution to the food crisis that will consequently result in climate change.
Unanimously, the indigenous women of the world declared that if States did not restore the control that the women had over their land, territories, and resources, it would not only put the communities’ lives in danger, but all of humanity as well.
Through the “Lima Declaration,” endorsed by almost 200 female leaders from Africa, the Pacific, Europe, Asia, Latin America, North America, and Russia, they declared that their role in the preservation of biodiversity and ancestral wisdom of nature is a key piece in order to challenge the impacts of climate change.
“In this moment of serious crisis and impending, irreversible loss of biological diversity, indigenous women emphasize the obligation of the States to protect the territories of indigenous communities,” they demanded.
The declaration, released today, was prepared in the framework of the World Conference of Indigenous Women that met in Lima, Peru, attended by indigenous women from around the globe.
Resources like water, energy, and biodiversity, that contain fundamental economic and strategic value for countries, are located primarily in indigenous territories. This represents a risk for the lives of the communities, especially indigenous women.
A recent study produced by CEPAL shows that in Latin American the growth of mining, forestry, and other industries has resulted in the displacement of millions of indigenous women from their ancestral territories to urban areas.
Nevertheless, this does not mean a change in their life conditions. On the contrary, they already make up part of the most vulnerable populations, having been exposed to various forms of violence such as racism, exploitation of labor, and sexual trafficking.
“Indigenous women experience, in relation to our land, the same pain and effects caused by physical abuse and excessive exploitation,” they asserted in this declaration. Moreover, they warned that they are prepared to defend their communities’ lands, water, and resources with their lives.
The leaders demanded that the states recognize the authority and competency that indigenous communities hold over their lands, territories, and resources. They demanded that all development projects that affect their lives should be made with free, prior, and informed consent of their communities.
Moreover, they indicated that any policy or social program about health, education, or any that focuses on the well being of indigenous women should be carried out with their direct, full, and effective participation. “Nothing about us, without us. Everything about us, with us,” is the protest they adopt in this declaration.
This document, coupled with a plan of action, will be presented in different moments and mechanisms of the United Nations systems focused on the right of women and indigenous communities. The World Conference of Indigenous Communities will be held in 2014 in New York City.
At said conference, they will ask to guarantee the full and effective participation of indigenous women, above all the wise elderly and the young, and that the results of the findings prioritize the concerns of indigenous women.
Indigenous women around the world suffer from various forms of violence, from child marriage and domestic violence to loss of the land that sustains them and their families, according to participants at the World Conference of Indigenous Women held October 28 to 30 in Lima, Peru.
“We speak with the same voice. We have the same problems across the world,” said Agnes Leina, executive director of Il'laramatak Community Concerns, which works to empower girls and women in traditional herder communities in Kenya.
As corporations move in to build roads, open mines and obtain rights to water sources, especially in northern Kenya, “We are being pushed from our land, and the people most affected are the women and children,” she told reporters on the last day of the conference.
Indigenous women also have less access to health care and education, she said. Women often must walk miles to the nearest health center. Those who are seriously ill may die along the way, and pregnant women sometimes give birth before they reach a health-care facility, she said.
Women in those communities “are largely illiterate, so the cycle of poverty goes round and round,” she said.
In Latin America, which is home to more than 23 million indigenous women of more than 670 peoples, maternal mortality and teenage pregnancy rates are higher among indigenous than non-indigenous women, according to a new study published by the U.N. Economic Council for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
The region has made some progress in education, with more indigenous girls completing primary school, but far fewer girls than boys continue to high school or beyond, said Fabiana del Popolo of ECLAC.
“We indigenous women want to stop being invisible and become visible,” said Tarcila Rivera Zea, a Quechua woman from Peru who heads Chirapaq, an indigenous advocacy organization that helped organize the Lima event. Using data from national censuses, as the Latin America study did, women can propose policy changes to benefit themselves and their families, she said.
Some women seek change within their own communities. Elsa Cárdenas, a Quechua woman from the southern Peruvian highlands, called for a change in her community’s rules that would give women voice and vote in assemblies, which are currently open only to men, single women and widows.
In other cases, problems must be tackled on a global scale.
Canada’s northernmost reaches are suffering “extreme impacts” from global climate change, said Ruth Massie, grand chief of the Council of First Yukon Nations.
“We see the effects in our animals, birds and plants,” she said. “Migration routes of our animals have changed, our birds are fewer, our plants are affected by pollutants in the water, which we never had before.”
Those changes add to the toll on health, as people’s diets shift more toward processed foods, she said.
Despite the shared problems, there are hopeful signs in some countries. Myrna Cunningham, of the Center for Autonomy and Development of Indigenous Peoples (CADPI) in Nicaragua, said that 30 percent of her country’s land is now recognized as indigenous territory, although some communities still struggle to gain control over their territory.
That, she said, is a sign that “things can change, and women have a key role to play in that change.”
At the event, which was designed as a lead-up to the 2014 U.N. World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, director of Tebtebba, an indigenous policy and education organization in the Philippines, urged a greater decision-making role for indigenous women.
“We are the ones who carry the burdens of making our families survive and sustaining the ecosystem,” she said. “Our message to the United Nations, governments and corporations is that they should work with us and not against us, because we have solutions to many of the environmental, social, economic and cultural crises that (the world faces) today.”
Over two hundred women from Africa, the Arctic, Asia, Latin America, North America, the Pacific, and Russia are gathering in Lima, Peru from October 28th to 30th during the World Conference of Indigenous Women. They are demand the greater prominence of Indigenous women at every level of decision-making and calling upon governments to dedicate funding to attend to the specific needs of Indigenous women.
As with most of the Molo indigenous people, from when she was a little girl Aleta Baun was taught that plants have their own souls and spirits so they should be protected.
“The Molo people have a spiritual connection to the land and believe that everything is connected,” Mama Aleta, as she is known, said.
She added that they symbolized land as flesh, water as blood, rocks as bones and forests as veins and hair.
“If we are separated from any one of these natural elements, or if any of the elements are destroyed, they start to die and lose their identity. So we find it very important to protect the land,” the woman who grew up in a farming family said.
Mama Aleta is one of the winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize. She received the 2013 Recipient for Islands and Island Nations. The prize supports individuals struggling to win environmental victories against the odds and inspires ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the environment.
The Goldman Environmental Prize was created in 1989 by civic leaders and philanthropist Richard N. Goldman and his wife, Rhoda H. Goldman.
She received the prize for her efforts in organizing hundreds of local villagers to peacefully occupy marble mining sites in “weaving protests”. Using the strategy, Mama Aleta stopped the destruction of sacred forestland in Molo.
Not many people know Molo. The area is located in the southern part of Mutis Mountain Sanctuary, Timor Tengah Selatan, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT). It is a resource-rich area with marble, manganese, gold, oil, gas and many other commodities.
Molo is also different from other parts of NTT that have arid land as the area is highly fertile and thick with heavy primary forest. It also has a prominent role as a water-catchment area with at least three watersheds and 13 rivers flowing from the mountains to irrigate many areas in Timor Tengah Selatan.
The rich resources of Molo have tempted outsiders to come to exploit and this has brought problems to the indigenous people who have protected the area for many generations.
In the 1980s, the district government issued permits to mining companies to cut marble stone from the mountains in Molo territory. Local government officials did so illegally without consulting local villagers, whom they regarded as obstacles to development programs. As deforestation and mining took hold, landslides became commonplace, polluting the waters and bringing great hardship to the villagers living downstream.
Mama Aleta said that in the beginning of 1996, she observed the mining companies clearing trees and rock in their mountains.
“Three years after that, three women and I decided to do something to stop the mining. We felt the only way to get support was to go from house to house and village to village and reach as many people as possible with our message,” she recalled.
It was not easy because the homes and villages were remote and those women walked sometimes six hours between villages. However Mama Aleta persisted in her efforts for the sake of Molo’s forests.
“We convinced people to join us by reminding them of our cultural belief that we cannot survive without all the elements of nature,” Mama Aleta, whose mother died while she was still little, said.
“We also emphasized to women that the forest provides the dyes for our weaving, which is a very important part of our lives. That inspired us to showcase our weaving in the form of a peaceful protest starting in 2006,” she added.
Of course her efforts created more problems. Mama Aleta became a target for the mining interests and local authorities as they put a price on her head. After surviving a particularly close assassination attempt, Mama Aleta went into hiding in the forest with her baby. Several other villagers were repeatedly arrested and badly beaten.
Despite the violent intimidation, Mama Aleta grew the movement to include hundreds of villagers. It culminated in a weaving occupation where 150 women spent a year sitting on the marble rocks at the quarry, quietly weaving their traditional fabrics in protest.
In the Molo culture, women are expected to be homemakers and tend to their families.
“But when we began our protest, women realized that they could do more — take a stand and be heard. Women are also the recognized landowners in the Molo culture, and this reawakened in those women who hadn’t been actively speaking out a desire to protect their land,” Mama Aleta said.
The Molo people also believed it was important to have the women on the frontlines of the protests and to act as the negotiators because they are the ones who use the forest, for food, medicine and dyes, to survive, and therefore were the most passionate about the cause.
“The men were fully supportive of us, but did not position themselves at the forefront of the campaign because they would have likely had clashes or conflicts with the mining companies and been the target of
attacks,” she added.
While the women protested at the quarry, the men provided domestic support at home, cooking, cleaning and caring for the children.
In the face of the villagers’ peaceful and sustained presence, marble quarrying became an increasingly untenable endeavor for the companies involved. Public awareness of the weaving occupation grew, and Indonesian government officials took notice. By 2010, the mining companies, reacting to the pressure, halted work at all four sites within the Molo territories and abandoned their operations.
Mama Aleta is now working with the Molo people and other indigenous communities in the area to map their territory. The goal is to claim their land and ensure it is protected by law, and to conserve and reforest the area that was destroyed by the mining operations.
“We especially want to conserve the upstream region of our territory because it is a watershed for the entire island. We are considering a joint title for our three communities and placing the land under collective ownership of the communities,” she said.
Teaching young girls and their communities about their individual and collective human rights was the key to ending traditional harmful practices and gender-based violence in marginalized indigenous areas worldwide, representatives of groups supporting those communities said today at a Headquarters news conference.
Despite a plethora of international bodies and protocols to protect women, throughout rural Africa young teenage girls from poor indigenous families were still routinely forced to quit secondary school, undergo female genital mutilation and marry men chosen against their will — a trend those groups hoped to change.
“That’s still going on despite the fact that we’re talking about it at all these high levels,” said Agnes Leina, Founder and Executive Director of the Kenya-based Il’laramak Community Concerns. For her, emancipation from violence began with home-grown, community-based approaches that taught families that keeping girls in school benefitted their communities and the nation as a whole.
“We use the approach of education, because when a girl is educated then she knows how to say no,” she said. “We have to give her a voice to say no to any form of violence against her body, against her soul, against her mind.”
But too many poor indigenous Kenyan girls could not afford the uniforms, books and supplies needed to stay in school, Ms. Leina lamented. She called on Kenya’s new President to honour his pledge to truly make secondary education free — a promise his predecessors had made, but not upheld.
Women and girls of the Batwa tribe in Rwanda faced similar challenges, according to Marthe Muhawenimana, Coordinator of the Rwanda-based Communauté des Potiers du Rwanda. Rwanda’s Government had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and set up a Gender Ministry, a trust fund and a national commission for women’s rights. But, gender–based violence continued. Girls from vulnerable, marginalized, indigenous communities continued to be raped by non-Batwa men who believed sex with a Batwa girl would cure backache.
To address that, she said her organization taught courses on matrimonial, land tenure and inheritance rights; held community discussions about gender-based violence; and taught women how to report violations to the authorities. It was also lobbying the federal Government to ensure women held 30 per cent of the country’s decision-making positions.
Shimreichon Luithui-Erni, Programme Coordinator of the India-based Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, said the root cause of gender-based violence in her region could be traced to land grabbing and the exploitation of indigenous communities’ resources by large development firms. The indigenous communities became poorer, social cohesion unravelled and frustrated men resorted to alcoholism and assaulting women.
Her group aimed to tackle those ills through local training and awareness-raising projects that groomed indigenous women to be social mobilizers and human rights defenders, she said. The project, which was backed financially by the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, taught women to lobby for their rights, report violations to the police, seek recourse through the justice system, and form their own support networks.
Asked about the prevalence of female genital mutilation in Kenya, Ms. Leina said it was very high among nomadic, pastoralist communities, particularly the Turkana, in north-western Kenya, where virtually all girls underwent the procedure. As recently as five years ago discussion that questioned the practice was taboo, but today she and others could and did openly challenge its merits.
As for sex education of boys in schools to help end gender-based violence, Ms. Muhawenimana said the problem was Batwa children were often too poor to attend secondary school. The Rwandan Government’s 2006-2008 programme to help Batwa children attend State schools was meritorious, but much more aid was needed.
Ms. Leina said her organization’s sex education programmes for boys had led to a marked change in some boys’ attitudes, and it had empowered sexually active teenagers with the information they needed to practice safe, responsible sex.