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African indigenous women become advocates of #ZeroHunger


FAO and FIMI join efforts to strengthen the capacities of more than 30 indigenous women leaders in Africa on human rights and food security

05/10/2018 - 

Indigenous Women in Africa are strengthening their knowledge on human rights and food security to become advocates for the #ZeroHunger challenge. In turn, they will train new generations of indigenous women who will foster change in their communities and societies.  

“Indigenous women are strong leaders and change makers. They are playing a key role in the protection of natural resources, which are fundamental for indigenous livelihoods and societies as a whole. However, too often their marginalization persists preventing them from enjoying their rights and failing to harness that potential to achieve equity and sustainable development,” asserted Yon Fernandez de Larrinoa, FAO Indigenous Peoples team leader. 

More than 30 indigenous women from different countries of Africa are participating this week in the Training of Trainers for Indigenous Women on Human Rights and Food Security implemented by FAO and FIMI in Nairobi. 

During these two weeks intensive program, indigenous women will exchange their experiences and knowledge about human rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, United Nations Mechanisms for Indigenous Peoples, responsible governance of land and natural resources, food security, hunger and malnutrition. 

Indigenous peoples

There are approximately 185 million indigenous women in the world, belonging to more than 5 000 different indigenous peoples. Despite the broad international consensus about the important role indigenous women play in eradicating hunger and malnutrition. There are still limitations in the recognition and exercise of their rights.

As FAO Director-General asserted on International Indigenous Peoples day 2018: “Indigenous peoples and particularly, indigenous women are the custodians of the world’s biodiversity. They are the defenders of lands and territories which they care for, for future generations.” And he added: “However, too often indigenous peoples have not seen respected their collective rights to their ancestral lands, territories and resources.”

Indigenous women raise livestock, farm, fish and hunt to gather food for their communities. They are also considered guardians of seeds and medicinal plants.

Despite their contributions, indigenous women are not part of policy and decision-making processes affecting their lives. Often, social protection policies fail to include their views and needs. And, despite their wealth of expertise, their work, knowledge and needs are not represented in statistics.

The empowerment of indigenous women is not only a central issue but also a necessary condition to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in the world. For this reason, it is fundamental to raise awareness on the contributions that indigenous women make towards the achievement of Zero Hunger and to engage all stakeholders in eliminating the barriers that prevent indigenous women from enjoying their rights fully.

A violet chair to give indigenous women a seat at the table

In January, FAO launched the Global Campaign for the empowerment of Indigenous Women for Zero Hunger with the International Indigenous Women’s Forum and the News Agency of Indigenous and Afro-descendent Women.

One highlight of the campaign has been the Violet Chair initiative - a call to authorities, policy makers, organizations, the international community, academia and civil society to guarantee the full and effective participation of indigenous women in policy discussions and decision-making processes that affect them and their communities.

The Violet Chair represents the place of indigenous women in negotiating tables, dialogue spaces and policy-making processes.

To make them visible, a violet chair is placed at a meeting to highlight that an indigenous woman is participating, or, all too often, when the chair is empty, that she is not.  

“Placing a violet chair at a meeting is a simple but effective reminder that indigenous women must have a seat at those negotiation tables where policies affecting indigenous communities are being discussed,” said Marcela Villarreal, Director of FAO’s Partnerships and South-South Cooperation Division.

This week, this campaign and the violet chair initiative have been presented in Africa to call on countries and regional authorities to stand up and guarantee a place at the table for indigenous women in policy-making processes.

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