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Celia Umenza Velasco is a leader of the largest Indigenous group in Colombia, the Nasa People, from the northern Cauca region of Colombia, one of the zones most affected by the armed conflict. Umenza Velasco briefed the United Nations Security Council at the recent Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security.
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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, femicide is on the rise in Argentina, and Indigenous and rural women who experience violence face multiple barriers to accessing the services and support they need. But the country’s civil society and women’s organizations are determined to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls, even in the most challenging of circumstances.
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Today, on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we join the call for a new social contract that will let us rebuild our world in a way that is forward-looking, equitable and targeted to the most marginalized.
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After the November 2020 national elections, women make up 49 per cent of the Legislative Assembly of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, cementing its position as a forerunner on gender parity in politics. The participation of indigenous women and stopping violence against women in political and public life are among the top priorities for the country.
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The UN Women Safe Cities programme developed information about COVID-19 prevention and gender-based violence in the five indigenous languages of Hñähñu, Mixteco, Purépecha, Mazahua, and Mahua, and shared them over the radio. Along with community-based loud speaker interventions in neighbourhoods most affected by the pandemic, the information campaign reached 57,000 indigenous people in the state of Jalisco.
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As COVID-19 confinement measures started in Colombia, the country saw a rise in cases of violence against women, including those reported through hotline numbers. There was a 107 per cent increase in calls for help this year, between 25 March and 30 July, in comparison to the same period in 2019. Eighty-nine per cent of those calls were rerouted to hotlines dedicated to serve victims and survivors of violence against women.
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On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples we consider not only the enormous challenges faced by indigenous women, many of which are now further compounded by the pandemic, but also the valuable accomplishments, leadership and resilience that they bring to the recovery.
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Since March 2020, Guatemala has recorded more than 600 COVID-19 deaths and over 11,000 infections. Amidst this crisis, indigenous women have continued to use their voices, knowledge and capacities to assist their communities and adapt their livelihoods. To build back better, their needs and concerns, but also their leadership must be placed at the centre of COVID-19 recovery plans.
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The Ngorongoro district in Arusha region is a land of craters, sacred forests and mountains, wild animals and the unique Maasai people. It is striking how this noble community has learnt to co-exist with nature, sharing land, wild food, herbs and water with the wild animals that roam freely in this beautiful paradise. This remarkable way of life has endured for many years and attracted thousands of tourists from around the world to Tanzania’s tourism hub, creating business opportunities for the Maasai people.
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The United Nations Inter-Agency Support Group (IASG) on Indigenous Issues calls to include indigenous peoples needs and input in response efforts around the world.
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While parts of the Amazon are in flames across Brazil and eastern Bolivia—from fires largely caused by burning to clear arable land—communities in northern Bolivia are protecting their forests through a series of economic empowerment projects.
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UN Women joins all indigenous peoples everywhere, especially indigenous women and girls, in commemorating the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This year’s theme of “Indigenous Languages” challenges us to ensure that indigenous women and girls have a voice—quite literally—in the diverse political, civil, social, economic and cultural spaces that they occupy.
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Agnes Leina is an Indigenous woman from northern Kenya. She is the founder and Executive Director of the I’llaramatak Community Concerns (ICC), a resource centre offering livelihood options for women and working with pastoralist communities to recognize the equal value and potential of women and girls to contribute towards their families and communities. Ms. Leina was one of the participants of the 63rd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the UN’s largest annual gathering on women’s rights issues.
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Sonia Maribel Sontay Herrera is an indigenous woman and human rights defender from Guatemala. Her vision is for Guatemala to respect the rights of indigenous women and hear their voices.
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Elisa Zepeda Lagunas, 34, is an aquaculture engineer, Mazatec indigenous leader and women’s rights defender who has suffered intense violence due to her political activism.
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During the 36-year-long Guatemalan civil war, indigenous women were systematically raped and enslaved by the military in a small community near the Sepur Zarco outpost. What happened to them then was not unique, but what happened next, changed history. From 2011 – 2016, 15 women survivors fought for justice at the highest court of Guatemala. The groundbreaking case resulted in the conviction of two former military officers of crimes against humanity and granted 18 reparation measures to the women survivors and their community. The abuelas of Sepur Zarco, as the women are respectfully referred to, are now waiting to experience justice. Justice, for them, includes education for the children of their community, access to land, a health-care clinic and such measures that will end the abject poverty their community has endured across generations. Justice must be lived.
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In Samoa, the term ‘nofotane’ refers to indigenous women who, after marriage, live in their husband’s village with the husband’s family. Nofotane is an identity that defines their low social stature in the village. Traditionally, they were not allowed to dress as other women in the village and often denied any voice in decision-making within their homes and communities. The Fund for Gender Equality project implemented by Samoa Victims Support Group, improved nofotane women’s access to sustainable employment and increased their participation and leadership within village decision-making bodies.
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UN Women joins our sister UN agencies in today’s recognition of the vital importance of the world’s indigenous peoples. At a time when human mobility is on the increase, we recognize that together, they maintain 80 per cent of global biodiversity. All of humanity is indebted to their custodianship.
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Irlanda Pop is the Mayor of Lanquín, a municipality in the Alta Verapaz department of Guatemala. She is the only indigenous Mayor and one of ten women Mayors in the country. Elected in 2015 for a term of four years, Pop has survived serious political attacks and continues to fight discrimination on account of her gender and indigenous identity. UN Women supported Pop to participate in the IV Ibero-American Summit of Local Gender Agendas that took place in Cuenca, Ecuador, in May 2018. There, she led an exchange between women leaders of different indigenous communities of the region about political participation of indigenous women and how to address violence against women in politics. UN Women supports the leadership of women in politics and peacebuilding in Guatemala through several initiatives, including through Women’s Political Empowerment and Leadership flagship programme.
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Matcha Phorn-in is the Executive Director of Sangsan Anakot Yaowachon, a civil society organization working with young people from marginalized communities, many of whom are indigenous, in disaster-prone Thai villages at the border with Myanmar. Phorn-in is from an ethnic minority and defines herself as a lesbian feminist human-rights defender, and her organization, supports women to become leaders and raise their communities' awareness regarding human rights, gender equality, and issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics.