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Indigenous Women Share Hopes for Sustainable Development

Next year — 2015 — is the deadline for the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals were created to guide government policies on some of the most pressing threats of our time — poverty, hunger and more.

Recently, Indigenous women met to share the challenges they have faced in implementing the MDGs in their communities. They put forward their demand that the post-2015 global development agenda reflect their priorities as women and as Indigenous Peoples.

Otilia Lux de Coti, Rose Cunningham Kain and Tarcila Rivera Zea
[L to R] Otilia Lux de Coti, Rose Cunningham Kain and Tarcila Rivera Zea.

They met at an event co-sponsored by MADRE and RLS-NYC, called “Indigenous Women and the MDGs – Challenges and Lessons Learned.” This event featured as panelists these Indigenous women leaders:

MADRE is a partner to all three Indigenous organizations: Wangki Tangni, CHIRAPAQ and FIMI. All the panelists spoke about their advocacy and programs for Indigenous women and Peoples.

Otilia Lux de Coti
Otilia Lux de Coti, Executive Director of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (IIWF-FIMI)

These grassroots activists discussed the failure of governments to achieve the MDGs for Indigenous Peoples. But the panelists also highlighted the efforts of Indigenous organizations and networks, and their work to fill the gaps left by national and international development projects.

Indigenous Peoples are often not considered in government policies and programs. If they are, the help they receive is often superficial. These assistance programs do not take a holistic approach to the issues they wish to solve. They disregard all advances or practices already implemented by Indigenous Peoples.

For example, programs on HIV/AIDS, malaria, child mortality and maternal health are often run in urban areas. These programs do not reach Indigenous Peoples who live in rural areas. Distance and cost makes these essential services inaccessible to Indigenous Peoples.  In addition, Indigenous healers, midwives and traditional medical practices are neither respected nor supported by government initiatives.

Tarcila Rivera Zea
Tarcila Rivera Zea, President of the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas (ECMIA) and of CHIRAPAQ, a MADRE sister organization

These government assistance programs tend to treat Indigenous Peoples in a degrading manner. Tarcila pointed out that Indigenous Peoples deserve respect not pity.

“We are not objects of charity,” she said. “We want recognition as women and as people with rights!”

The Indigenous movement has been fighting for decades for recognition. They have struggled for decades to be seen and heard as human beings who deserve to enjoy the fullest range of their individual and collective rights.

As Otilia explained, “All the mechanisms created as resources for Indigenous Peoples are the results of the efforts of Indigenous women, youth, and people. They did not come from the governments or the United Nations.”

Indigenous Peoples will not let obstacles deter them from their goals. Indigenous women and youth continue to work together to build human rights from their Indigenous perspective.

Most importantly, they will build a common strategy to demand that Indigenous Peoples be consulted and prioritized as we establish global sustainable development policies in the years to come.

Young activists attending the panel discussion
Young activists attending the panel discussion.