Feminist International

Radio Endeavour

July 2007

By FIRE – Feminist International Radio Endeavour
Radio Internacional Feminista

Press Release
July 8, 2007 

Vth Meeting of the Continental Network of
Indigenous Women of the Americas:  Restoring Balance

Kahnawabe, Quebec, Canada -- More than 200 indigenous women from the Americas will meet between July 9-12, 2007 in the indigenous Mohawk Reservation near Montreal in Quebec, Canada, focusing on the theme, “Restoring Balance.”  Using rituals, song, dance, presentations and plenaries, the women will analyze the situation of indigenous peoples throughout the continent and to design a plan of action to develop alliances to work together to improve the conditions of the women and their peoples

The women from North, Central and South America are the builders of the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas (CNIWA or ENLACE in Spanish) that since its creation in 1993 has become an autonomous space where indigenous women of North, Central and South America exchange and share experiences and look for joint solutions to their economic, cultural and social problems.  The Network also works to give visibility and voice to indigenous women in local, regional and international organizations, and to affirm indigenous women’s rights as well as acknowledge their historic contributions to the development of the continent.

Hosted this year by the Quebec Native Women, Inc., the 5th Meeting of CNIWA has the objectives of promoting and strengthening healthy leadership and organizing capacities, sharing spiritual wisdom and teachings to address issues related to cultural identity and language, discussing and sharing strategies to build strategic alliances among indigenous women and to address the unique human rights challenges that indigenous women face. 

They also aim to design strategies to further empower indigenous women at the local, national and international levels in the struggles that they share with their peoples and the social and political movements in the region.  The participants will also look at traditional and holistic approaches to addressing these challenges with a special emphasis on physical, mental, spiritual and emotional healing. 

Themes to be addressed at the meeting include indigenous women’s health and human rights issues including mental health and violence against women, economic development and entrepreneurship among indigenous women, indigenous women’s research and policy analysis, leadership, and intellectual property issues and traditional medicine.

Violence against women occurs in all cultures, classes, races and nations, violence against indigenous women is exacerbated by a history of colonization and brutal domination, as well as poverty, discrimination, displacement, cultural disintegration, and other crises that have hit indigenous communities particularly hard.  City on a Hill Press report that 500 indigenous women iin Canada have been killed or disappeared in the last 20 years, and in Guatemala, 2600 have been murdered or disappeared since 2001. 

Violence against indigenous women was the focus of a 2006 report entitled, “Mairin Iwanka Raya:  Indigenous Women Stand Against Violence” written by the FIMI (International Indigenous Women’s Forum) that served as a companion report to the UN Secretary General’s study on violence against women.   Monica Alemán, coordinator of FIMI, told FIRE in an interview that “Mairin Iwanka Raya” means “indigenous women standing against violence” in her Misquito indigenous language in Nicaragua.  She told FIRE that for the FIMI report, researchers “collected stories of indigenous women around the world and systematized them based on the seven generation principle, meaning what is the impact on seven generations to come.”  She noted that the report represents an effort to “change the paradigm of analyzing violence against women” by taking a broader approach to the issue. 

Alemán, who also works with MADRE, a women’s human rights organization, said that the study focuses on the impact of neoliberal economic policies as a form of economic and environmental violence by contributing to poverty of indigenous women, and to environmental destruction and piracy of medicinal plants through patents.  The report also identifies state violence in the form of violations of indigenous women’s human rights and community violence including intertribal conflicts, and domestic violence.

The focus on human rights of indigenous women at the Vth Continental Meeting stems from the ongoing debate in the United Nations about the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Populations.  The Declaration, which has been under discussion for 20 years, was strengthened during the Decade of Indigenous Peoples from 1995-2004, but faces obstacles because of the opposition of some governments that resist recognizing the autonomous rights of indigenous peoples to their land. 

Intellectual property rights is another issue to be addressed at the Vth Continental Meeting.  Sonia Henriquez of Panama, and Tarcila Rivera of Peru share the concerns of many indigenous peoples and social movements around the world that with the excuse of protecting authors’ intellectual property rights there will be further patenting of indigenous knowledge, plants and genetic material that are actually the collective property of indigenous peoples.

For more information, contact María Suárez of FIRE at: maria@radiofeminista.net

For more information about the Vth Continental Meeting go to: http://www.faq-qnw.org/5conti/news.html

To follow FIRE’s coverage of the Vth Meeting of go to
www.radiofeminista.org/ (Spanish) or www.radiofeminista.org/indexeng.htm (English).  

You may use FIRE information, audio files, and photos and give credit to FIRE (www.radiofeminista.net)


Other sources & links: 

 “Violence Against Women is Rampant Around the Globe,” City on the Hill Press(http://www.cityonahillpress.com/article.php?id=739)

 FIMI Report, “Mairin Iwanka Raya:  Indigenous Women Stand Against Violence” (http://www.indigenouswomensforum.org/intadvocacy/vaiwreport.html)

Quebec Native Women Inc.:  http://www.faq-qnw.org/

FIMI – International Indigenous Women’s Forum (http://www.indigenouswomensforum.org/index.html)