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The voice of indigenous young women present at the FAO Conference

06/07/2017 - 

On the occasion of the 40th Session of the FAO Conference, the Organization held a special event focused on the important role that indigenous and rural women play for the achievement of food security for all and the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Entitled “Leaving no one behind: Achieving gender equality for food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture”, this event touched upon three critical items: the crucial role that rural women play in ending hunger and poverty; the need for policies and programmes to accelerate rural women’s economic empowerment; and the importance of promoting transformative approaches to tackle the underlying causes of gender inequality in rural areas. 

Jessica Vega Ortega, was the only indigenous young panellist. From the mixteca people, Jessica brought into the discussion the indigenous perspective,stressing the multiple discrimination indigenous young women face across the world. “Even though we count with traditional knowledge, territories and capacities, indigenous women continue to be victimized on the basis of our identity, our age and our gender”, asserted Ms Vega. “In addition, indigenous women’s opportunities to participate in agricultural or livestock activities are curtailed because they are confined to domestic work and family care”. 

In this sense, Ms Vega took the opportunity to thank FAO for their ongoing work with the Leadership Schools of Indigenous Women, in which she participated as a student. This programme, under implementation in partnership with the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI) is focused on empowering indigenous women through trainings on advocacy, food security and human rights. 

Through the experience of her mother, Ms Vega also showed how the lack of legal certainty regarding land tenure leaves women vulnerable to land dispossession: “Twenty years ago, the land my mother had inherited was taken away from her, this happened even with her being the only child in the family. And it happened because she was a woman and because she was young”, she said. This is a problem young indigenous women still face in their communities.

Furthermore, during a personal interview Ms. Vega explained how insecurity and harassment add up to weak land tenure schemes furthering the plight of young indigenous women. “When men migrate and women need to work the lands on their own they often face harassment from the men working nearby. Because of this problem, many women are forced to abandon their lands. Others choose to marry at an early age and work at home as a way to access security”.

Giving a voice to indigenous youth

The recent collaboration between FAO and the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus (GIYC) was praised as a very important step to allow the youngest generations of indigenous youth to participate in policy discussions and take part in the fight against hunger. Indeed, earlier this year the meeting between FAO and the GIYC gave the latter the opportunity to meet for the first time before the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in order to prepare their participation. One of the most important outcomes of this meeting is the Rome Declaration, which was read at the United Nations Plenary during the 2017 UNPFII. 

Watch the full event here

See all the photos of the event here.

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