This past March, some 300 Indigenous women from Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, USA and Venezuela took part in the 6th Continental Meeting of Indigenous Women of the Americas (ECMIA). To reflect on the meeting, the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID) spoke to two participants, Cecilia Velasque and Tania Pariona Tarqui, about the importance of meetings like this in their ability to strengthen women's leadership and increase communication amongst Indigenous women in grassroots organizations.
Indigenous women in the Americas face higher incidences of illiteracy, a lack of culturally appropriate health services, exclusion from decision-making spaces, inequity and lack of opportunities to participate in political and economic processes, as well as a lack of access and control over land. Despite the fact that Indigenous Peoples account for a large percentage of the population of the region, few laws serve to bolster or protect Indigenous rights, and they are largely ignored or excluded by the decision-making politicians. Furthermore, while across the region there has been an increase in laws in favor of women, these laws fail to address issues specific to Indigenous women, like those mentioned above.
However, Indigenous women are organizing to strengthen their rights. As Velasque stressed, "In recent years efforts have been made by women themselves to present proposals. Street actions, sit-ins and demonstrations have been organized to achieve, among others, quota laws, the Free Maternity and Childhood Care Law (Ecuador) and culturally appropriate birth care." Tania Pariona Tarqui also reflected on the use of international efforts, like the Beijing Platform for Action, in bolstering Indigenous women's rights in the region.
To read AWID's full coverage of the ECIMA meeting, click here. To learn about MADRE's work with Indigenous women in the Americas, read about our partnerships with Muixil in Guatemala, Wangki Tangni and CADPI in Nicaragua, K'inal Antzetik in Mexico, CHIRAPAQ in Peru, and the International Indigenous Women's Forum.