Declaration of Indigenous Women
UN Fourth World Conference on Women Huairou, Beijing, peoples Republic of China
1. The Earth is our mother. From her we get our life, and our ability
to live. It is our responsibility to care for our mother and in caring for our
mother, we care for ourselves. Women, all females are a manifestation of Mother
Earth in human form.
2. We, the daughters of Mother Earth, the Indigenous women present at
the NGO Forum of the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, have come
together to collectively decide what we can do to bring about a world which we
would like our children and our children's children to live in. We acknowledge
and build upon earlier declarations which evolved from earlier meetings and
conferences, like the 1990 Declaration of the Second International Indigenous
Women's Conference, the Kari-Oca Declaration of 1992, and those of various
regional conferences of Indigenous women, and the consultations and conferences
done in preparation for this Beijing Conference.
3. This declaration is drafted in recognition of the existence of the
UN Declaration of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous peoples,
the Draft Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous peoples, the Convention
on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Nairobi
Forward Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, Agenda 21 and the Rio
Declaration on Environment and Development, the Cairo Declaration, and the
Copenhagen Social Summit Declaration. While we agree with most of the
provisions of ILO convention 169, we cannot endorse a Convention which allows
national states to remove Indigenous peoples from their lands with military
4. We stand in unity behind this "1995 Beijing Declaration of
Indigenous Women" which is the fruit of our collective efforts to
understand the world and our situation as Indigenous women, critique the Draft
Platform for Action, and articulate our demands to the international community,
the governments, and the NGO's.
5. We, the women of the original peoples of the world have struggled
actively to defend our rights to self-determination and to our territories
which have been invaded and colonized by powerful nations and interests. We
have been and are continuing to suffer from multiple oppressions; as Indigenous
peoples, as citizens of colonized and neo-colonial countries, as women, and as
members of the poorer classes of society. In spite of this, we have been and
continue to protect, transmit, and develop our Indigenous cosmovision, our
science and technologies, our arts and culture, and our Indigenous
socio-political economic systems, which are in harmony with the natural laws of
mother earth. We still retain the ethical and esthetic values, the knowledge
and philosophy, the spirituality, which conserves and nurtures Mother Earth. We
are persisting in our struggles for self-determination and for our rights to
our territories. This has been shown in our tenacity and capacity to withstand
and survive the colonization happening in our lands in the last 500 years.
6. The "New World Order" which is engineered by those who
have abused and raped Mother Earth, colonized, marginalized, and discriminated
against us, is being imposed on us viciously. This is recolonization coming
under the name of globalization and trade liberalization. The forces behind
this are the rich industrialized nation-states, their transnational
corporations, financial institutions which they control like the World Bank,
the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). They
will cooperate and compete among themselves to the last frontiers of the
world's natural resources located on our lands and waters.
7. The Final Agreement of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement
on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the establishment of the WTO has created new
instruments for the appropriation and privatization of our community
intellectual rights through the introduction of the trade-related intellectual
property rights (TRIPS). This facilitates and legitimizes the piracy of our
biological, cultural and intellectual resources, and heritage by transnational
corporations. Our Indigenous values and practice of sharing knowledge among
ourselves, and mutual exchange will become things of the past because we are
being forced to play by the rules of the market.
8. Bioprospecting, which is nothing but the alienation of our
invaluable intellectual and cultural heritage through scientific collection
missions and ethnobotanical research, is another feature of recolonization.
After colonizing our lands and appropriating our natural resources, they are
now appropriating our human genetic resources, through the Human Genome
Diversity Project. Their bid for the patenting of life forms is the ultimate
colonization and commodification of everything we hold sacred. It won't matter
anymore that we will disappear because we will be "immortalized" as
"isolates of historic interest" by the Human Genome Diversity
9. It is an imperative for us, as Indigenous peoples, to stand in
their way, because it means more ethnocide and genocide for us. It will lead to
the disappearance of the diverse biological and cultural resources in this
world which we have sustained. It will cause the further erosion and
destruction of our Indigenous knowledge, spirituality, and culture. It will
exacerbate the conflicts occurring on our lands and communities and our
displacement form our ancestral territories.
Critique of the Beijing Draft Platform for Action
10. The Beijing Draft Platform for Action, unfortunately, is not
critical at all of the New World Order." It does present a comprehensive
list of issues confronting women and an even longer list of actions which
governments, the UN and its agencies, multilateral financing institutions, and
NGO's should do. It identifies "the persistent and increasing burden of
poverty" as the number one critical concern. It acknowledges that
"most of the goals of the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies...have not
been achieved." It also acknowledged that "in the past decade the
number of women living in poverty has increased disproportionately to the
number of men."
11. However, it does not acknowledge that this poverty is caused by
the same powerful nations and interests who have colonized us and are
continuing to recolonize, homogenize, and impose their economic growth
development model and monocultures on us. It does not present a coherent
analysis of why is it that the goals of "equality, development, and
peace," becomes more elusive to women each day in spite of three UN
conferences on women since 1975. While it refers to structural adjustment
programs (SAP), it only talks about mitigating its negative impacts, not
questioning the basic framework undergirding SAPs. It even underscores the
importance of trade liberalization and access to open and dynamic markets,
which to us, pose the biggest threat to our rights to our territories,
resources, intellectual and cultural heritage.
12. The clear bias of the New World Order for big industries, big
agri-business corporations, etc., has meant the decimation of traditional
livelihood and economic activities of Indigenous peoples like hunting, food
gathering and harvesting, reindeer herding, subsistence agriculture, fishing,
small handicraft businesses, etc. The non-economic activities of Indigenous
women have been ignored and rendered invisible, although these sustain the
existence of Indigenous peoples. Our dispossession from our territorial land
and water base, upon which our existence and identity depends, must be
addressed as a key problem. The Platform is very vague on this.
13. The critical areas of concern it has identified are also critical
for Indigenous women. While it correctly identifies unequal access to education
and health as areas of concern, it does not question the basic Western
orientation of the prevailing education and health systems. It does not reflect
the fact that these systems have perpetuated the discrimination against
Indigenous peoples. It also does not acknowledge the role of Western media,
education, and religion, in eroding the cultural diversity which exists among
Indigenous peoples. These Western systems hasten ethnocide. It does not give
proper recognition and importance to Indigenous health care systems and the
role of its practitioners.
14. The violence and sexual trafficking of Indigenous women and the
increasing numbers of Indigenous women becoming labor exports, has been
aggravated by the perpetuation of an economic growth development model which is
export-oriented, import-dependent, and mired in foreign debt. Military
operations conducted on Indigenous peoples lands use rape, sexual-slavery, and
sexual trafficking of Indigenous women, to further subjugate Indigenous
peoples. The development of tourism to attract foreign capital has also led to
the commodification of Indigenous women and the dramatic increase in the
incidence of HIV/AIDS. This reality is not addressed by the Platform. Domestic
violence and the increasing suicide rates among Indigenous women, especially
those who are in highly industrialized countries are caused by psychological
alienation and assimilationist policies characteristic of these countries.
15. While it talks about the effects of persecution and armed
conflict, it does not acknowledge that many of these armed conflicts are
occurring on Indigenous peoples lands. These armed conflicts are the result of
the aggressive actions of transnational corporations and governments to
appropriate the remaining resources on Indigenous peoples territories despite
the assertion of Indigenous peoples to their right to control these resources.
It does not recognize that the resolution of armed conflict, especially those
happening on Indigenous peoples lands, lies in the recognition of our rights to
self-determination and to our lands and waters. The phrase "internally
displaced" in the text is bracketed, when in fact, this is the reality for
many Indigenous peoples all over the world.
16. Its recommended 'strategic objectives' and actions focus on
ensuring women's equal access and full participation in decision-making, equal
status, equal pay, and integrating and mainstreaming gender perspectives and
analysis. These objectives are hollow and meaningless if the inequality between
nations, races, classes, and genders, are not challenged at the same time.
Equal pay and equal status in the so-called First World is made possible
because of the perpetuation of a development model which is not only
non-sustainable but causes the increasing violation of the human rights of
women, Indigenous peoples, and nations elsewhere. The Platform's overemphasis
of gender discrimination and gender equality depoliticizes the issues
confronting Indigenous women.
Indigenous Women's Proposals and Demands
17. Within the context of our understanding of our situation and our
critique of the "New World Order" and of the Beijing Draft Platform
for Action, we present the following demands.
18. That all governments and international non-governmental and
governmental organizations recognize the right of Indigenous peoples to
self-determination, and enshrine the historical, political, social, cultural,
economic, and religious rights of the Indigenous peoples in their constitutions
and legal systems.
Recognize And Respect Our Rights To Self Determination
19. That the governments amend the ILO Convention 169 to remove the
section which allows nations states to remove Indigenous peoples from their
lands through military force, and thereafter ratify and implement it.
20. That the 1994 Final Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
peoples be adopted and ratified by governments without any revisions and
reservations. That the full participation of Indigenous peoples in the
open-ended working group of the Commission of Human Rights to further elaborate
on the draft will be ensured.
21. That the "s" in term Indigenous 'peoples' be put in all
United Nations documents, declarations, and conventions. That, hereafter, we
will not be referred to as ethnic minorities or cultural communities but as
Recognize And Respect Our Right To Our Territories, And Right To
Development, Education, and Health
22. We demand that the international community and governments
recognize and respect our rights to our territories. This includes our right to
decide what to do with our lands and territories and to develop in an
integrated, sustainable way, according to our own cosmovision.
23. We urge the governments who are opening up our territories to
foreign investors especially to mining corporations, to respect these rights.
Full disclosure of development projects and investments to be put into our
territories should be done. We should be fully involved in making decisions on
these matters. Indigenous Peoples' lands which have been ravaged by mining
corporations, or which have become dumping sites of toxic, radioactive and
hazardous wastes, should be rehabilitated by the corporations or the
governments which allowed this devastation.
24. That the governments, international organizations and NGO's
assume their responsibility to alter their policies and allocate resources for
the inter-cultural and bilingual educational system and the development of
Indigenous health care systems according to our cultural principles and
cosmovision. That books, audio and video materials, etc. be screened and purged
of discriminatory, racist, and sexist content.
25. That the governments implement realistic policies which will
solve the problem of illiteracy among Indigenous and peasant women, providing
them access to inter-cultural and bilingual education which respects Indigenous
cosmologies, promotes non-sexist formative education which puts women and men
in touch with the land.
26. That the governments and international community implement health
policies which guarantee accessible, appropriate, affordable, and quality
services for Indigenous peoples and which respect and promote the reproductive
health of Indigenous women. That budget allocations to health and other social
services be increased to at least twenty percent of the national budget and
that a significant amount of this goes to Indigenous peoples communities.
27. That the Indigenous health care systems and practices of
Indigenous peoples be accorded the proper recognition and respect and the roles
of Indigenous health practitioners and healers be further enhanced.
28. That the dumping of hazardous drugs, chemicals, and
contraceptives on Indigenous peoples communities be stopped. We demand that
coercive family planning services, like mass sterilization of Indigenous women
and coercive abortion programs be stopped. That population policies like
transmigration be condemned and halted.
29. We demand that uranium mining taking place in our lands and
nuclear testing in our territories and waters be stopped. If no uranium mining
is done then there will be no nuclear weapons, nuclear reactors, and nuclear
Stop Human Rights Violations And Violence Against Indigenous Women
30. That the United Nations create the necessary mechanisms to
monitor the Indigenous peoples situation especially those facing the threat of
extinction and human rights violations and to stop these ethnocidal and
31. Call on all the Media and Communication Systems to realize that
Indigenous women refuse to continue to be treated and considered as exotic,
decorative, sexual objects, or study-objects, but instead to be recognized as
human beings with their own thinking and feeling capabilities and abilities for
personal development; spiritually, intellectually, and materially.
32. Demand for an investigation of the reported cases of sexual
slavery and the rape of Indigenous women by the military men happening in areas
of armed conflict, such as those within Karen territories in Burma, Chittagong
Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, etc. The perpetrators should be persecuted and the
survivors be provided justice and rehabilitation and services.
33. Demand for an investigation of the forcible mass sterilization
and anti-fertility programs done among Indigenous women. Identify which
international and national agencies are responsible for these and make them
34. That all acts of discrimination against Indigenous Women be
considered and punished as a crime.
35. That the governments create juridical and social instruments
adequate to protect women from domestic and state violence.
36. That Indigenous customary laws and justice systems which are
supportive of women victims of violence be recognized and reinforced. That
Indigenous laws, customs, and traditions which are discriminatory to women be
37. That all internally displaced Indigenous peoples be allowed to
return to their own communities and the necessary rehabilitation and support
services be provided to them.
Recognize And Respect Our Rights To Our Intellectual And Cultural
Heritage; Our Rights To Control The Biological Diversity In Our Territories
38. We demand that our inalienable rights to our intellectual and
cultural heritage be recognized and respected. We will resist all processes
seeking to destroy this heritage and alienate our resources and knowledge from
39. We demand that the western concept and practice of intellectual
property rights as defined by the TRIPS in GATT, not be applied to Indigenous
peoples communities and territories. We demand that the World Trade
Organization recognize our intellectual and cultural rights and not allow the
domain of private intellectual rights and corporate monopolies to violate
40. We call for a stop to the patenting of all life forms. This to
us, is the ultimate commodification of life which we hold sacred.
41. We demand that the Human Genome Diversity Project be condemned
and stopped. Those responsible for this project should be asked to make an
accounting of all the genetic collections they have taken from Indigenous
peoples and have these returned to the owners of these genes. The applications
for patents to these genetic materials should be stopped and no applications,
thereafter, should be accepted and processed. Indigenous peoples should be
invited to participate in the ongoing discussions in UNESCO on the bioethics of
the Human Genome.
42. We demand that governments at the local, regional, and national
levels, recognize our intellectual community rights and support us in our
defense of these rights, an obligation which they have undertaken as Parties to
the Biodiversity Convention.
43. We will continue to freely use our biodiversity for meeting our
local needs, while ensuring that the biodiversity base of our local economies
will not be eroded. We will revitalize and rejuvenate our biological and
cultural heritage and continue to be the guardians and custodians of our
knowledge and biodiversity.
Ensure Political Participation Of Indigenous Women And Enhance Their
Capabilities And Access To Resources
44. We demand equal political participation in the Indigenous and
modern structures of socio-political structures and systems at all levels.
45. We will dialogue with non-Indigenous women's organizations and
formations to implement a realistic plan of solidarity with us.
46. We ask that NGO's that work with Indigenous women be guided by
principles of mutual respect and promote the full participation of Indigenous
women in action and in articulating issues regarding Indigenous women and
47. Call on the funding agencies and donor agencies that support and
promote women's organizations and programs, to share space and financial
resources in order to promote the development of Indigenous women.
48. We will work towards reinforcing our own organizations, enhancing
communications between us, and gain the space that is rightfully ours, as
members of specific identities (nations and cultures) within the Decade of
Indigenous peoples and other institutions that represent governmental and
49. We will work towards the holding of an International Conference
of Indigenous Women which will be held as part of the celebration of the
International Decade of the World's Indigenous peoples.
50. We give our sincere thanks to the Chinese Organizing Committee
and the Chinese people for their efforts in hosting and providing hospitality
Approved And Signed On 7 September 1995 At The Indigenous Women's
Tent, Huairou, Beijing, China.
For more information contact:
Asia Indigenous Women's Network
16 Loro Street
Phone: (011) 63-74-442-5347
Facsimile: (011) 63-74-442-5205
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