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Securing Rights, Enhancing Indigenous Women's Capacities on Climate Change Print

Securing Rights and Enhancing Capacities of Indigenous Women on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation

“Climate change is real and we, indigenous women and indigenous peoples, are already facing the risks of changing climate – increased flood, sinking islands, changing production and increased disease in crops. Floods frequently visit our community now than before…Our food is the first that are being affected…”

19 November (MANILA, Philippines) - Half of the of the world’s estimated 360 million indigenous peoples are women. Some of these women are now participating the “Global Conference on Indigenous Women, Climate Change and REDD Plus,” being held in Metro Manila, Philippines from 18-19 November 2010. They are discussing the present global climate crisis and how indigenous women are disproportionately affected by this. They suffer from loss of their lands and livelihoods, food insecurity, loss of lives, increased health risks, loss of traditional knowledge and identity, increased productive and reproductive burdens, increased violence, conflict over resources, migration and displacement, and further marginalization. Unfortunately, discussions and agreements reached in the climate change negotiations hardly differentiate the adverse impacts and contributions of the most vulnerable sectors, such as indigenous peoples and women.

The differential impacts of climate change on indigenous women further undermine the gains achieved by them in securing their rights and promoting their welfare. In the Pacific, indigenous peoples in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville who live in the Carteret Island, which has already sunk, have been relocated in other parts of Bougainville. However, there are still many problems not resolved, such as whether these relocation sites are permanent. The indigenous women’s burdens to sustain their families have increased considerably. This Island has sunk because of sea level rise and saltwater has intruded into the little remaining land

Proposed climate mitigation measures such as REDD Plus (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) that seeks to lower greenhouse gas emissions through the protection of forests has both risks and opportunities. It can further undermine their rights to their forests and forest resources or promote opportunities for them to get governments to reform policies and programmes to respect indigenous peoples’ rights and integrate indigenous women’s knowledge on forest management. Indigenous women in Indonesia are working with the Indonesian government, which has received REDD money in the amount of $1 B, to get a national legislation on indigenous peoples’ rights drafted and passed by the Parliament.

Indigenous women in the Philippines are highly critical of the inability of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to implement properly free, prior and informed consent, which is part of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources had a project on REDD Plus which was recently approved by the UN-REDD Collaborative Programme. It has yet to design a mechanism to consult with indigenous peoples who are the ones who have protected many of the country’s remaining forests.

Indigenous women possess skills and knowledge to mitigate and adapt to climate change, but they remain vulnerable to its impact given the discrimination they face as women and as indigenous peoples. Indigenous women play significant roles in sustaining and managing forests because they are the traditional-knowledge holders which they transmit to future generations. They are also the main subsistence producers and ensure the food securities of their families and communities. They continue to adapt to climate change by practicing traditional knowledge and making necessary innovations.

However, indigenous women’s rights and their crucial roles in climate change adaptation and mitigation have not been recognized nor supported. They have been relatively left behind in the discussions and processes relevant to this despite their day-to-day experiences of the on the ground realities of climate change.

Seventy five indigenous women representing 28 countries from Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Pacific and North America have thus gathered here in Manila for a 2-day workshop to discuss the impacts of climate change and mitigation measures such as REDD Plus on their rights and roles as indigenous women. This also serves to identify strategies to engage in the different processes and levels of discussions on climate change.

To ensure that their rights are recognized and their roles in climate change mitigation and adaptation are recognized and supported, the indigenous women participants raise the following demands:

  • Recognize, protect and fulfill indigenous peoples’ rights and rights of indigenous women as stipulated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international human rights instruments such as the Convention and the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CEDAW);
  • Recognize and address the gender-differentiated impacts of climate change on indigenous women;
  • Ensure and support the full and effective participation of indigenous women in discussions, consultations and decision-making processes on policies, action plans and laws with regards to climate change at the national, regional and global levels.
  • Provide relevant information and education on climate change;
  • Provide direct access of indigenous women to sufficient funds and technical assistance to build and strengthen their capacities to cope with worsening climate change related disasters


The global activity is organized by the Asian Indigenous Women's Network and Tebtebba, with support from NORAD, EED of Germany, ClimateWorks and the Forest Peoples Programme.