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Statement from The International Indigenous Women's Forum on International Human Rights Day

Posted on: Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Keywords: UN, Human Rights Advocacy, Indigenous Rights

Myrna Cunningham, Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and longtime MADRE supporter, put out the following statement on International Human Rights Day.






10 December 2011


Today, December 10 - International Human Rights Day, we want to acknowledge the hard work of millions of indigenous women who in adverse conditions, hit with multiple forms of violence contribute with their resilience capabilities to the lives of their people's. To them we dedicate this day, to the defenders of the rights of indigenous women who run enormous risks to do their job.

Indigenous peoples have fought for centuries against genocide, displacement, colonization, and forced assimilation, preserving their cultures and identities as distinct peoples. The ongoing attack has left Indigenous communities among the poorest and most marginalized in the world, alienated from State politics and disenfranchised by national governments.

Human rights and the very survival of indigenous peoples around the world are threatened by policies predicated on racism, exclusion, and worldviews that are inimical to indigenous life. In many parts of the world, a centuries-long attack on indigenous peoples has escalated in recent years, as States and corporations scramble for control of the Earth's dwindling supply of natural resources-many of which are located on Indigenous territories.

In order change this reality; on September 13, 2007 the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the General Assembly. It set a standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples around world and functioned as a significant tool towards eliminating human rights violations.

At the moment, indigenous women face human rights violation of near-universal scope, which are mediated in each case by aspects of identity beyond gender, including race, class, caste, religion, sexual orientation, geography, and ethnicity. For indigenous women, gender-based violence is shaped not only by gender discrimination within Indigenous and non-Indigenous arenas, but by a context of ongoing colonization and militarism; racism, social exclusion and poverty-inducing economic and "development" policies.

For indigenous peoples and indigenous women exercising our rights depend on securing legal recognition of our collective ancestral territories. Our territories are the basis of our identities, our cultures, our economies, and our traditions. Indigenous rights include the right to full recognition as peoples with our own worldview and traditions, with our own territories, our own modes of organization within nation-states; the right to self-determination through our own systems of autonomy or self-government based on a communal property framework; and the right to control, develop, and utilize our own natural resources.

Indigenous peoples have found in the human rights paradigm a cohesive global language, a moral framework, and a legal structure through which to pursue our claims.

Today, December 10, 2011 we celebrate the International Human Rights Day. A day where millions of people claim their inalienable fundamental rights; rights that belong to each of us equally and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values.


International Indigenos Wumen Forum/Foro Internacional de Mujeres Indígenas   


We women of the indigenous peoples have struggled actively to defend our rights to self-determination and our territories have been invaded and colonized by powerful nations and interests ...We maintain ethical and aesthetic values, knowledge and philosophy, spirituality that preserve and nurture Mother Earth ... "Declaration of Indigenous Women of the World in Beijing.''

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