Indigenous Peoples

Empowering indigenous women to achieve Zero Hunger

Indigenous women and girls are amongst the most vulnerable within indigenous communities, being victims of a triple discrimination based on gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Indeed, the Committee of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has underscored the high levels of poverty; low levels of education and illiteracy; limitations in the access to health, basic sanitation, credit and employment; limited participation in political life; and the prevalence of domestic and sexual violence as some of the main issues confronting indigenous women. 

Still, indigenous women are the backbone of indigenous communities and play a crucial role in the preservation of food security. They also have a fundamental collective and community role as guardians of indigenous ancestral knowledge, having been traditionally carers of natural resources and managers of seeds and medicinal plants. In addition, they are often taking the lead in the defence of indigenous lands and territories and advocating for indigenous peoples’ collective rights worldwide.

By calling for the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment as a key to eradicating hunger and poverty, the FAO Policy on Gender Equality provides the framework for promoting the rights of indigenous women within the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Likewise, gender equality stands out as a core principle for FAO’s Policy on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and it is a guiding principle mainstreamed in all the activities of the Organization. 

FAO's latest advocacy initiatives

High-Level Forum “Empowerment of Indigenous Women for the eradication of hunger and malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean”

On January 12 and 13 of 2018, FAO with the support of the Government of Mexico organized the High-Level Forum Empowering indigenous women to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean. The forum was held to develop public policy recommendations to promote gender equality and the rights of indigenous women, strengthen their decision making and seek ways to reduce the poverty and discrimination gap they face. 

Representatives from indigenous peoples regional organizations, authorities from the executive and legislative sectors from 12 countries (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panamá, Paraguay and Peru), together with representatives from Mexican institutions and international organizations were present. 

The advocacy campaign “Make them visible, empower them” was launched during the forum by the International Indigenous Women Forum (IIWF/FIMI), the News Agency of Indigenous and Afro-descendant women (NOTIMIA) and FAO. This campaign will run from January until the end of 2018. 

Photo exhibit: “I am a leader: indigenous, woman and producer”

The photographic exhibition “I am a leader: indigenous, woman and producer” was displayed in FAO Headquarters to mark the celebration of International Women's Day on the 8th of March. It showcases the testimonies and experiences that indigenous women from Panama face to preserve their culture and food systems. The photos and testimonies were collected under the framework of the Leadership School of Indigenous Women in Human Rights and Food and Nutrition Security, which has be implemented in 6 other countries in Latin America and Asia in partnership with the International Forum of Indigenous Women (FIMI). See the full exhibition here

UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII16)

Side event: Indigenous women empowerment: challenges and achievements

FAO in partnership with the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (IIWF-FIMI) organized the side event entitled: “Indigenous women empowerment: challenges and achievements” during the 16th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the most important body where indigenous peoples’ issues are discussed at the United Nations.

With this event, FAO highlighted the importance of the empowerment of indigenous women worldwide in order to achieve gender equality and overcome gender and ethnic-based discrimination. It also provided a space to discuss the challenges that still remain and share successful experiences. The event was chaired by the newly appointed chair of the UNPFII, Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine. Read more about FAO's participation in the UNPFII here.

Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61)

Side event: Empowering rural and indigenous women to achieve food security and nutrition

Rural and indigenous women are crucial to reducing poverty, hunger and malnutrition and to promoting social and economic development. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the General Recommendation No. 34 (GR34) recognize the significant contributions that women make, and provide practical guidance to mainstream rural and indigenous women’s empowerment issues in policies and programmes, with a view to achieving sustainable rural development and food security and nutrition.

Jointly organized by FAO, IFAD, WFP, UN Women and OHCHR, this event discussed how CEDAW and General Recommendation No. 34 on the rights of rural women can promote gender equality in agriculture and rural development and serve as a basis to guide efforts towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The event also provided a platform for representatives from the Government of Guatemala, indigenous women’s groups and the UN to share their experiences in implementing CEDAW. In particular, it counted with the participation of Angelina Ortiz, an indigenous activist from Philippines who participated in the Leadership Schools of Indigenous Women.

Read more about FAO's participation in the CSW here

International symposium on sustainable food systems for healthy diets and improved nutrition

Maria Luisa Duarte is an indigenous Guaraní leader from Paraguay and a former participant in the FAO-FIMI Leadership School for Indigenous Women. FAO fostered her participation in the International symposium on sustainable food systems for healthy diets and improved nutrition, which took place in FAO in December 2016 at FAO headquarters in Rome. In her intervention, she stressed the role Guaraní women play as custodians of biodiversity and indigenous food systems, whose maintenance is closely interlinked with indigenous peoples’s spirituality and ancestral culture. Watch her intervention in this link (it starts at minute 00:36:42)