Indigenous peoples are the ethnic groups or native people who are the original or earliest known people who inhabit a particular region, other than the settlers or colonists who came later. Indigenous communities have always faced severe discrimination among the other inhabitants of a particular region and have always been subject to massive genocides all around the world. Indigenous women and girls are amongst the most vulnerable within indigenous communities, being victims of triple discrimination based on gender, ethnicity and class.
The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly which aimed at eliminating gender discrimination against all women and upholding gender equality, yet it failed to address the several issues which confront a common indigenous woman such as high levels of poverty, illiteracy, limitation in the access to health, basic sanitation, employment, limited participation in political life and the prevalence of sexual and domestic abuse as some of the main issues. Despite several inclusive efforts by the UN and other international organizations, they have been the much-suppressed faction of our society.
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Understanding the matter more
Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) was primarily adopted for the inclusion of women in peace and security-related matters including conflict resolution, as a global commitment to the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. Indigenous women are the backbone of indigenous communities and play a crucial role in the preservation of food security, their ancestral knowledge and culture; defence of their land and territory; and advocating environmental protection through legal processes.
The main reason to relate indigenous women with the WPS agenda is to highlight their significance for their community and international peace and security because they have been mostly neglected among their kind. Here is the question that arises, why? Is it because, we should say, they are most backward in education or they do not have sufficient knowledge about platforms, were to speak out for their rights or they do not have enough representatives and are left out on purpose to serve the interests of the privileged. The Women, Peace and Security Act of 2017 passed by the United States Government is to provide a legal framework for this kind of inclusion of populations usually left out of the decision-making process, particularly the indigenous women. The WPS framework can and must operate to benefit the concerns of indigenous women and their social and political uplift.
Murder and missing of indigenous women or minorities have always been frequent in the Americas. Tina Fontaine was a fifteen-year-old native girl who went missing and murdered in 2014 and her death renewed calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada. Similarly, fifty years ago, Helen Betty Osborne, a Cree woman and an aspiring teacher was kidnapped and brutally murdered near a Canadian town deeply divided along racial lines. The Government of Canada under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau established the National Enquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in September 2016, because there was severe pressure from several indigenous groups’ activists and NGOs.
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The discrimination and prejudice continues
Persecution of the Yazidis by the hands of ISIS in Iraq is another example that aroused international outrage. Nobel laureate and social activist Ms Nadia Murad is an Iraqi Yazidi who has been tortured and raped by the Islamic State militants.
Indigenous women of Nepal and Bangladesh also face heavy criticism and discrimination due to their unique culture and history and are ridiculed by wider populations when they wear their colorful traditional dresses and are forced to conform to the local dress code. They are robbed of their culture, history, land and rights. The indigenous women of Africa also live in very poor conditions. The 2030 Agenda for Development contains six specific references to indigenous peoples. Without the input and integration of the indigenous women in the greater WPS movement, we cannot move forward in the right direction, therefore their grievances and active participation must be considered and researched upon till the successful implementation of UNSCR 1325.
Unfortunately, the persecution of indigenous communities has been an international predicament. A few indigenous women-led groups are courageously fighting to protect their community rights all across the Africa and Americas. Pakistan is a diverse country rich in its cultural heritage and people. However, the Government of Pakistan does not recognize the indigenous peoples and refers to them as tribal to preserve their independence, meanwhile, striving to ensure equal opportunities for all. Yet in Pakistan, like, the rest of the world, a lot needs to be done for the empowerment of the most marginalized. The recent pandemic and climatic disasters are a reminder to the global community and leaders to listen to the real guardians of Mother Nature.
The writer holds a distinction in Masters of Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.