29 indigenous women from 10 different countries across the Asia Pacific region met in Manila, Philippines, in November 2010, to discuss the challenges indigenous women and their communities face in relation to their land rights. The workshop was collaboratively held by the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN) and Forest Peoples Programme (FPP). Land rights across the region, indeed the world, are of central importance in ensuring that indigenous peoples are able to survive as culturally distinct peoples. Asia and the Pacific contain a huge array of circumstances for indigenous peoples, from indigenous majority countries like Fiji in the Pacific to countries in mainland Asia where indigenous peoples are not even recognized by their governments.
The women at this workshop met to share experiences and knowledge from their own countries and to learn from the strategies and work of others in the region. They identified areas of interest for research and work that will improve understanding of how gender issues pose challenges for the effective protection of indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands and resources. Women at the workshop highlighted in particular the need for indigenous peoples to conduct urgent research and record their traditional knowledge and resource management systems, to ensure that this knowledge is not lost in the face of outside pressures. Cultural practices that can, in some areas and for some peoples, result in negative outcomes for women were also discussed, and the need to ensure that cultures remain vibrant and strong enough to continue evolving and adapting to changing circumstances were discussed at length.
A detailed strategy document identifying challenges, opportunities for change, and the resources needed to achieve set objectives was prepared by the participants. They also decided to form an ad hoc network to provide support and advice to each other and identified a research project or area of documentation for each country that they plan to engage in over the next year.