On the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples
Maat: Indigenous women leaders are on the frontline to defend the rights of their people
Okeil: The challenges facing indigenous women are invincible
The International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples is observed on 9 August each year. Therefore, Maat takes this opportunity to highlight the challenges and obstacles facing indigenous women, in light of the United Nations’ interest in reviving the crucial role played by indigenous women in the preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge.
In recent years, indigenous women have made remarkable strides in advancing their rights as women and as indigenous peoples, through the critical role they play in preserving and transmitting ancestral knowledge, as well as defending the forests, rivers and lands on which their communities live, which are indispensable to the preservation of traditional values for indigenous communities. Compelling evidence obtained by Maat confirms that indigenous women bear multiple burdens of providing for their families and preserving the cultural practices of their peoples, as they are on the front lines to defend the rights of indigenous peoples.
In the midst of this, Ayman Okeil, the human rights expert and President of Maat, affirmed that despite the invaluable contributions of indigenous women to the preservation of life, culture and environment, they are subjected to various forms of grave human rights violations, topped by the blatant discrimination in various aspects of life, the high levels of poverty, as well as the low educational indicators. Okeil added that women are also at risk of gender-based violence, physical and sexual assaults, domestic violence, early and forced marriage, as well as honor killings, and these phenomena are all deeply rooted in the patriarchal power structures in indigenous societies. In Canada, for example, Indigenous women are killed at nearly seven times the rate of non-Indigenous women.
In this context, Okeil explained that indigenous women and girls are largely affected by the crises of climate change and environmental degradation, pointing out that indigenous women environmental human rights defenders are subjected to killing, violence and defamation campaigns to force them to stop their human rights activities. On a related note, Okeil strongly condemned the militarization of lands of indigenous peoples given its negative impact on the rights of women in many regions across the world, including India, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and East Timor, the various military activities lead to a rise in sexual violence against women and girls from mass rape, sexual slavery, and the killing of women.
Okeil stated that the level of impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of crimes against women from indigenous communities increases the risk to which they are subjected in light of the recurrence of this type of crime repeatedly, stressing that the challenges facing indigenous women remain invincible, and called on civil society organizations to immediately find effective solutions to these problems.