This is a guest blog entry by Mónica Alemán, who was MADRE's Program Director for many years. She is now the Executive Director of the MADRE sister organization, the International Indigenous Women's Forum, and a member of the MADRE Network of Experts. As the Eighth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues draws to a close, Mónica took some time to reflect on the role of Indigenous women and we asked her to share her thoughts with us.
On May 18th 2009, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples (UNPFII) convened for its 8th Session. The UNPFII is a space for dialogue with United Nations Members States, United Nations Specialized Agencies and, most importantly, with and between Indigenous women and men who year after year travel to New York for an opportunity to transform the way the United Nations system engages with Indigenous peoples.
Annually, at least 1500 representatives from over 120 countries across the globe participate.
The 8th Session in 2009 was a critical year for Indigenous women. In a context where the key focus of discussion operated around “implementation” of the existing international framework for the protection of Indigenous peoples’ rights, Indigenous women presented their country situations and how these situations have not yet been addressed.
Expert members of the UNPFII sought to revise the level of application of previous UNPFII recommendations issued, from 2002 - 2008 with a particular emphasis on those related to women and development.
In the halls of the United Nations, the fervent participation of Indigenous women is palpable. Women are constantly mobilizing amongst each other as well as reaching out to Indigenous men – by raising their voices Indigenous women express their gratitude for the advancements but also their strong disappointment in the work done so far or, better said, the work that has not yet been done.
The International Indigenous Women’s Forum (IIWF/FIMI) is a global initiative of Indigenous women’s organizations and networks from the Americas, Africa, and Asia. In 2009, IIWF/FIMI presented a Shadow Report on the Level of Implementation of the UNPF Recommendations 2002 – 2008. The report gathered responses from over 30 Indigenous peoples organizations and 32 United Nations agencies. The key concerns reflected in the report includes areas such as education, health, the environment, peace and development.
Through an extensive analysis of the areas put forward the IIWF/FIMI proceeded to make specific recommendations to the UNPFII in its final report.
The experience of working both in the context of mobilizing Indigenous women’s organizations at the continental or global level can best be equated with riding a high speed boat that has no stops on a river bank. Indigenous women are usually on the reaction side when it comes to the international agenda. Due to their geographical location and language barriers, Indigenous women face constant difficulties in positioning their priorities on agendas that are set at the global level. Therefore having the space at the UNPFII becomes even more relevant for such marginalized communities and voices.