On the 2018 International Women’s Day

On the Frontline: Indigenous Women Rise to Struggle for Self-Determination

This International Women’s Day, the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) salutes the women of the world who stand for the rights of Indigenous Peoples (IP)! We celebrate the invaluable contributions that Indigenous women have made and continue to make for the advancement of the global struggle for self-determination and liberation! They have marched, protested, and fought for us and with us all the while tending to our families, working multiple jobs, and dealing with the institutionalized discrimination and gender biases.

It comes as no surprise that Indigenous women are found in the frontlines of movements defending Indigenous lands and cultures as historically, they have always enjoyed prominent roles in human affairs be it as community leaders, healers, artists, or warriors. However, during the onslaught of colonization and when private interests took over, the women’s role in our economic, political, and socio-cultural survival was purposely belittled if not totally invisible.

This manifests until today in the cases of Maxima Acuña, an indigenous farmer living in the highlands of Peru (i) and Patricia Gualinga, a Kichwa leader from Ecuador (ii) who both have stood for the IP’s right to free, prior, and informed consent and spoke against destructive mining industry in Latin America and are being harassed and threatened for it. As in Cordillera, women human rights defenders currently face trumped-up charges for belonging in people’s organizations that work for the promotion and respect of Indigenous peoples’ rights (iii) similar to Ahmed Tamimi of Palestine who was arrested for standing up against abusive Israeli soldiers occupying their homeland (iv). Meanwhile, the story of the Kuy women of Preah Vihear who vigorously lead the campaign against a Chinese sugar company’s land grabbing remains unknown in most parts of the world (v).

Although employing different forms of struggle, these women act so that the generations to come could inherit a sustainable and livable planet and yet they are constantly attacked through extrajudicial killings, trumped-up charges, forced evacuation, harassment, intimidation, and illegal arrests by the very state that is mandated to protect them. The Aboriginals in Canada’s plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women is similar to the situation of West Papuan women who are constantly subjected to shootings, torture, and sexual violence under Indonesian occupation just as criminalization of human rights and environmental defenders to discredit the Indigenous resistance in Latin America is also a tactic used widely by governments in Southeast Asia.

That is why on this day, we also remember the women who have offered their lives in the pursuit of a world free from all forms of oppression. From Honduras’ Berta Caceres to the Kurdish Female Freedom Fighters of Rojava – these women have truly exemplified gender emancipation by choosing not to remain in subordinate positions as dictated by the exploitative system. More will rise from their ranks as long as injustice abounds.
In these times when there are systematic attempts to disempower Indigenous women, IPMSDL invites all Indigenous peoples and advocates to stand in solidarity with them in upholding our fundamental human rights. Join us in demanding accountability from states, corporate actors, and international financial institutions that sabotage our sovereignty and liberties, and put an end to all forms of violence against women! We call on all Indigenous women to take part in the struggle for our right to self-determination!

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Reference: Beverly Longid, IPMSDL Global Coordinator, ipmsdl@gmail.com

i https://www.facebook.com/telesurenglish/videos/1302858836524182/
ii https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/patricia-gualinga-attacked-received-death-threats
iii http://www.karapatan.org/URGENT+ALERT%3A+Stop+the+Attacks+on+Women+Human+Rights+Defenders+in+the+Cordillera%2C+Philippines
iv https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Israel-Denies-Bail-to-Palestinian-Teenager-Ahed-Tamimi-20180117-0024.html
v https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cambodia-landrights-farming/women-lead-sugar-fight-as-cambodia-sours-on-land-deals-idUSKBN1D9216