Forest Peoples Programme Supporting forest peoples’ rights

FPP E-Newsletter Special Edition on Gender, June 2011

Click here to read the PDF version of this newsletter.

Dear Friends,

The work of the Forest Peoples Programme is to support indigenous peoples and other forest peoples to defend their human rights, in particular their collective human rights to self-determination, to their lands, territories and cultural heritage, to self-representation, and to exercise their customary law.  In adopting a rights-based approach we also accept that these collective human rights must be exercised in ways that are consistent with other human rights. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples makes the very same point. A basic principle of human rights law is non-discrimination and much of the purpose of the UN Declaration and other laws and jurisprudence related to indigenous peoples is to redress centuries of injustice based on ingrained prejudice, outright discrimination and ensuing violence against indigenous peoples.

A gendered approach immediately brings out the fact that indigenous men and women, lower status groups, the elderly and children, all experience these injustices differently. Indigenous women may be more easily deprived of lands than their menfolk, may be subject to sexual exploitation and further discriminated against when it comes to pay, education, health-care, access to justice and the other services of the State. Sometimes it is indigenous men who suffer, notably when hunting peoples lose access to their territories and game, and they are deprived of the honour and identity that comes from their valued role. In working with forest peoples to end discrimination, we face with them the further dilemma that not all discrimination and injustice comes from outside but may inhere in their own customary systems. 

The articles assembled in this special edition of our newsletter open up this aspect of our work with our partners. In Indonesia, Thailand and Guyana attention to women’s systems of land use shows how these complement male systems of land use. When indigenous women also mobilise to defend their rights, then the collective force of the society is strengthened, not divided This ENewsletter highlights discussions among indigenous women themselves, on how best to approach issues of gender discrimination in their own countries and communities.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has been particularly responsive to the push by indigenous women in Africa to gain redress.  At the same time our partners in Nepal, Colombia, the Philippines and Uganda affirm their wish to see their rights addressed within the framework of indigenous rights and not in opposition to it. What this means above all is that in building solutions to injustice this must be done by the peoples themselves through the mobilization and transformation of their own societies and not through imposed programmes of social reform. 

Self-determination without discrimination is the way to build better futures and in doing this each people will find their own path, starting as they do in different places and having their own ways of dealing with each other.   For us in FPP, we are happy to see our partners’ work on Gender and Land Rights beginning to bear fruit and look forward to continuing to support them on this new journey.

Marcus Colchester

Women's struggle for their lands and livelihoods in the Kampar Peninsular, Indonesia

3 June, 2011

By: Rini Ramadhanti 

In mid 2009, I started making regular visits to the village of Teluk Meranti to meet the women and talk about their current living conditions and the issues that affect them. Teluk Meranti is a village of about one thousand people next to the Kampar Peninsular, a peat swamp forest in Riau, on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. On my first visit we discussed women’s fears of losing their agricultural lands and forests, and their desire to further develop their gardens and small businesses. The women were concerned about a plan of the government and the pulp and paper company APRIL to create a pulpwood plantation covering 56,000 hectares and take over a forest that their community have managed for generations.

Gender dimensions in indigenous peoples’ customary use of biodiversity

3 June, 2011

Recent work carried out by various indigenous peoples, such as community mapping and documenting traditional resource use, has resulted in interesting insights into the different gender dimensions in their customary use of biodiversity. In many indigenous communities, there are clear divisions in men’s and women’s roles and tasks relating to biodiversity use. This article shares some examples from case studies carried out by the Wapichan people from South-west Guyana and by the Karen and Hmong people from Northern Thailand. 

Advocacy efforts lead to African Commission’s increased consideration of indigenous women’s rights

3 June, 2011

The recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights is a recent development on the African continent. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has, over the last decade, given heightened attention to indigenous peoples’ rights, notably through the creation of its Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities (WGIP) in 2000. This is mostly due to the efforts of civil society organisations which have documented the obstacles faced by indigenous peoples in the enjoyment of their individual and collective rights, and which have brought the many instances where these rights have been violated to the attention of the Commission.

Indigenous women shape women’s rights

3 June, 2011

The voices of indigenous women have repeatedly reminded national governments, human rights bodies and other national and international fora that their human rights as women need to be addressed as the rights of indigenous women. Accordingly, indigenous women have called on the United Nations bodies and processes related to women to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples “as a minimum standard in the fulfilment and enjoyment of rights by indigenous women”[1].

Toolkit on Indigenous women’s rights and the African Human Rights System

6 June, 2011

A new publication entitled “Indigenous women’s rights and the African human rights system: a toolkit on mechanisms” was launched at the end of April 2011 during the session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul, The Gambia. The launch was officiated by Commissioner Soyata Maïga, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, who also contributed to the toolkit. It was elaborated in consultation with local, regional, and international partners who work with indigenous women and indigenous peoples’ organisations. The toolkit consists of a series of informative notes that review human rights standards pertaining to indigenous women in Africa and the different mechanisms available to promote and ensure the protection of these rights. It aims at providing NGOs and indigenous women's organisations in Africa with a helpful resource to guide their effective use of the various African human rights mechanisms. The toolkit is available in English and French online here.

Upcoming FPP Publication: Toolkit on Indigenous women’s rights and the Inter-American Human Rights System

6 June, 2011

The Inter-American human rights system mechanisms will be looked at through the lens of indigenous women's rights in this upcoming publication. Partners held a meeting to develop the toolkit with Forest Peoples Programme in April 2011 and are planning to hold trial training sessions with indigenous women's organisations to test and further improve the training materials before their final publication later in the year.

Upcoming AIWN & FPP publication: Guide to CEDAW for indigenous women in Asia

6 June, 2011

Asian Indigenous Women’s Network and Forest Peoples Programme have developed a series of booklets addressing the human rights framework, the rights of indigenous peoples and the rights of women as enshrined in and protected by the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. The booklets have been designed specifically to address the situations of indigenous women in Asia and include a detailed compilation of existing CEDAW jurisprudence related to indigenous women.