Beijing Declaration of Indigenous Women

From: Maryjane Tallon


Date: Sun, 10 Sep 1995 03:53:21 -0600 (MDT)
From: Maryjane Tallon 
To: Men/Fathers HOTLINE 
Subject: Beijing Declaration of Indigenous Women (fwd)

30 August - 8 September 1995
Huairou, Beijing, Peoples Republic of China

1. The Earth is our mother. From her we get our life, and our ability to
live. It is our responsibility to care  for our mother and in caring for
our mother, we care for ourselves.  Women, all females are manifestation
of Mother Earth in human form.

2. We, the daughters of Mother Earth, the indigenous women  present at the
NGO Forum of the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing,  have
come together to collectively decide what we can do to bring about a world
which we would like our children and our children's children to live in.
We acknowledge and build upon earlier declarations which evolved from
earlier meetings and conferences, like the 1990 Declaration of the Second
International Indigenous Women's Conference, the Kari-Oca Declaration of
l992, and those of various regional conferences of indigenous women, and
the consultations and conferences done in preparation for this Beijing

3. This declaration is drafted in recognition of the existence of  the UN
Declaration of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples,
the Draft Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against
Women, the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies for the Advancement of
Women,  Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development,
the Cairo Declaration, and the Copenhagen Social Summit Declaration. While
we agree with most of the provisions of ILO Convention 169, we cannot
endorse a Convention which allows nation-states to remove indigenous
peoples from their lands with military force.

4. We stand in unity behind this "1995 Beijing Declaration of Indigenous
Women" which is the fruit of our collective efforts to understand the
world and our situation as indigenous women, critique the Draft Platform
for Action, and articulate our demands to the international community, the
governments, and the NGOs.

5. We, the women of the original peoples of the world have struggled
actively to defend our rights to self-determination and to our territories
which have been invaded and colonized by powerful nations and interests.
We have been and are continuing to suffer from multiple oppression; as
indigenous peoples, as citizens of colonized and neo-colonial countries,
as women, and as members of the poorer classes of society. In spite of
this, we have been and continue to protect, transmit, and develop  our
indigenous cosmovision, our science and technologies, our arts and
culture, and our indigenous socio-political and economicsystems, which are
in harmony with the natural laws of mother earth. We still retain the
ethical and esthetic values, the knowledge and philosophy, the
spirituality, which conserves and nurtures Mother Earth. We are persisting
in our struggles for self-determination and for our rights to our
territories. This has been shown in our tenacity and capacity to withstand
and survive the colonization happening in our lands in the last 500 years.

6. The "New World Order" which is engineered by those who have abused and
raped Mother Earth, colonized, marginalized, and discriminated against us,
is being imposed on us viciously. This is recolonization coming under the
name of globalization and trade liberalization. The forces behind this are
the rich industrialized nation-states, their transnational corporations,
financial institutions which they control like the World Bank, the
International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). They
will cooperate and compete among themselves  to the last frontiers of the
world's natural resources located our lands and waters.

7. The Final Agreement of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the establishment of the WTO has created new
instruments for the appropriation and privatization of our community
intellectual rights through the introduction of the trade-related
intellectual property rights (TRIPS). This facilitates and legitimizes the
piracy of our biological, cultural, and intellectual resources and
heritage by transnational corporations. Our indigenous values and practice
of sharing knowledge among ourselves, and mutual exchange will become
things of the past because we are being forced to play by the rules of the

8. Bioprospecting, which is nothing but the alienation of our invaluable
intellectual and cultural heritage through scientific collection missions
and ethnobotanical research, is another feature of recolonization. After
colonizing our lands and appropriating our natural resources, they are now
appropriating our human genetic resources, through the Human Genetic
Diversity Project. Their bid for the patenting of life forms is the
ultimate colonization and commodification of everything we hold sacred.
It won't matter anymore that we will disappear because we will be
"immortalized" as "isolates of historic interest" by the Human Genetic
Diversity Project.

9. It is an imperative for us, as Indigenous Peoples, to stand in their
way, because it means more ethnocide and genocide for us. It will lead to
the disappearance of the diverse biological and cultural resources in this
world which we have sustained. It will cause the further erosion and
destruction of our indigenous knowledge, spirituality, and culture. It
will exacerbate the conflicts occuring on our lands and communities and
our displacement from our ancestral territories.


10. The Beijing Draft Platform for Action, unfortunately, is not critical
at all of the "New World Order". It does present a comprehensive list of
issues confronting women and an even longer list of actions which
governments, the UN and its agencies, multilateral financing institutions,
and NGOs should do. It identifies "the persistent and increasing burden of
poverty" as the number one critical concern. It acknowledges that "most of
the goals of the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies .. have not been
achieved." It also acknowledged that "in the past decade the number of
women living in poverty has increased disproportionately to the number of

11. However, it does not acknowledge that this poverty is caused by the
same powerful nations and interests who have colonized us and are
continuing to recolonize, homogenize, and impose their economic growth
development model and monocultures on us. It does not present a coherent
analysis of why is it that the goals of "equality, development, and
peace", becomes more elusive to women each day in spite of three UN
conferences on women since l975. While it refers to structural adjustment
programmes (SAP), it only talks about mitigating its negative impacts, not
questioning the basic framework undergirding SAPs. It even underscores the
importance of trade liberalization and access to open, and dynamic
markets, which to us, pose the biggest threat to our rights to our
territories, resources, intellectual and cultural heritage.

12. The clear bias of the New World Order for big industries, big
agri-business corporations, etc., has meant the decimation of traditional
livelihood and economic activities of indigenous peoples like hunting,
food gathering and harvesting, reindeer herding, subsistence agriculture,
fishing, small handicraft businesses, etc. The non-economic activities of
indigenous women have been ignored and rendered invisible, although these
sustain the existence of indigenous peoples. Our dispossession from our
territorial land and water base, upon which our existence and identity
depends, must be addressed as a key problem. The Platform is very vague on

13. The critical areas of concern it has identified are also critical for
indigenous women. While it correctly identifies unequal access to
education and health as areas of concern, it does not question the basic
Western orientation of the prevailing education and health systems. It
does not reflect the fact that these systems have perpetuated the
discrimination against indigenous peoples. It also does not acknowledge
the role of Western media, education, and religion, in eroding the
cultural diversity which exists among indigenous peoples. These Western
systems hasten ethnocide. It does not give proper recognition and
importance to indigenous health care systems and the role of

14. The violence and sexual trafficking of indigenous women
and the increasing numbers of indigenous women becoming labour exports,
has been aggravated by the perpetuation of an economic growth development
model which is export-oriented, import-dependent, and mired in foreign
debt. Military operations conducted on indigenous peoples lands use rape,
sexual-slavery, and sexual trafficking of indigenous women, to further
subjugate indigenous peoples. The development of tourism to attract
foreign capital has also led to the commodification of indigenous women
and the dramatic increase in the incidence of HIV/AIDS. This reality is
not addressed by the Platform. Domestic violence and the increasing
suicide rates among indigenous women, especially those who are in highly
industrialized countries are caused by psychological alienation and
assimilationist policies characteristic of these countries.

15. While it talks about the effects of persecution and armed conflict, it
does not acknowledge that many of these armed conflicts are occurring on
indigenous peoples lands. These armed conflicts are the result of the
aggressive actions of transnational corporations and governments to
appropriate the remaining resources on indigenous peoples territories
despite the assertion of indigenous peoples to their right to control
these resources. It does not recognize that the resolution of armed
conflict especially those happening on indigenous peoples lands, lies in
the recognition of our rights to self-determination and to our lands and
waters. The phrase "internally displaced" in the text is bracketed, when
in fact, this is the reality for many indigenous peoples all over the

16. Its recommended 'strategic objectives' and actions focus on ensuring
women's equal access and full participation in decision-making, equal
status, equal pay, and in integrating and mainstreaming gender
perspectives and analysis. These objectives are hollow and meaningless if
the inequality between nations, races, classes, and genders, are not
challenged at the same time. Equal pay and equal status in the so-called
First World is made possible because of the perpetuation of a development
model which is not only unsustainable but causes the increasing violation
of the human rights of women, indigenous peoples, and nations elswhere.
The Platform's overemphasis on gender discrimination and gender equality
depoliticizes the issues confronting indigenous women.


17. Within the context of our understanding of our situation and our
critique of the "New World Order" and of the Beijing Draft Platform for
Action, we present the following demands;RECOGNIZE AND RESPECT OUR RIGHT

18. That all governments and international non governmental and
governmental organizations recognize the right of indigenous peoples to
self-determination, and enshrine the historical, political, social,
cultural, economic, and religious rights of the indigenous peoples in
their constitutions and legal systems.

19. That the governments amend the ILO Convention 169 to remove the
section which allows nation states to remove indigenous peoples from their
lands through military force, and thereafter ratify and implement it.

20. That the 1994 Final Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples be adopted and ratified by governments without any revisions and
reservations. That the full participation of indigenous peoples in the
open-ended working group of the Commission on Human Rights to further
elaborate on the draft will be ensured.

21. That the "s" in term indigenous peoples be put in all United Nations
documents, declarations, and conventions. That, hereafter, we will not
referred to as ethnic minorities or cultural communities but as indigenous


22. We demand that the international community and governments recognize
and respect our rights to our territories. This  includes our right to
decide what to do with our lands and territories and to develop in an
integrated, sustainable way, according to our own cosmovision.

23. We urge the governments who are opening up our territories to foreign
investors especially to mining corporations, to respect these rights. Full
disclosure of development projects and investments to be put into our
territories should be done. We should be fully involved in making
decisions on these matters. Indigenous peoples' lands which have been
ravaged by mining corporations, or which have become dumping sites of
toxic, radioactive and hazardous wastes, should be rehabilitated by the
corporations or the governments which allowed this devastation.

24. That the governments, international organizations and NGOs assume
their responsibility to alter their policies and allocate resources for
the intercultural and bilingual educational system and the development of
indigenous health care systems according to our cultural principles and
cosmovision. That books, audio and video materials, etc. be screened and
purged of discriminatory, racist, and sexist, content.

25. That the governments implement realistic policies which will solve the
problem of illiteracy among indigenous and peasantwomen, providing them
access to intercultural and bilingual education which respects indigenous
cosmologies, promotes non-sexist formative education which puts women and
men in touch with the land.

26. That the governments and international community implement health
policies which guarantee accessible, appropriate, affordable and quality
services for indigenous peoples and which respect and promote the
reproductive health of indigenous women. That budget allocations to health
and other social services be increased to at least 20% of the national
budget and that a significant amount of this goes to indigenous peoples

27. That the indigenous health care systems and practices of indigenous
peoples be accorded the proper recognition and respect and the roles of
indigenous health practitioners and healers be further enhanced.

28. That the dumping of hazardous drugs, chemicals and contraceptives on
indigenous peoples communities be stopped. We demand that coercive family
planning services, like mass sterilization of indigenous women, coercive
abortion programs, be stopped. That population policies like
transmigration be condemned and halted.

29. We demand that uranium mining taking place in our lands and nuclear
testing in our territories and waters be stopped. If no uranium mining is
done then there will be no nuclear weapons, nuclear reactors, and nuclear


30. That the United Nations create the necessary mechanisms to monitor the
indigenous peoples situation especially those facing the threat of
extinction and human rights violations and to stop these ethnocidal and
genocidal practices.

31. Call on all the Media and Communication Systems to realize that
Indigenous Women refuse to continue to be treated and considered as
exotic, decorative, sexual objects, or study-objects, but instead to be
recognized as human beings with their own thinking and feeling
capabilities and abilities for personal development, spiritually,
intellectually and materially.

32. Demand for an investigation of the reported cases of sexual slavery
and the rape of indigenous women by the military men happening in areas of
armed conflict, such as those within Karen territories in Burma,
Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh,etc. The perpetrators should be
persecuted and the survivors be provided justice and rehabilitation
33. Demand for an investigation of the forcible mass sterilization and
anti-fertility programs done among indigenous women. Identify which
international and national agencies are responsible for these and make
them accountable.

34. That all acts of discrimination against Indigenous Women be considered
and punished as a crime.

35. That the governments create juridical and social instruments adequate
to protect women from domestic and state violence.

36. That indigenous customary laws and justice systems which are
supportive of women victims of violence be recognized and reinforced. That
indigenous laws, customs, and traditions which are discriminatory to women
be eradicated.

37. That all internally displaced indigenous peoples be allowed to return
to their own communities and the necessary rehabilitation and support
services be provided to them.


38. We demand that our inalienable rights to our intellectual and cultural
heritage be recognized and respected. We will resist all processes seeking
to destroy this heritage and alienate our resources and knowledge from us.

39. We demand that the western concept and practice of intellectual
property rights as defined by the TRIPS in GATT, not be applied to
indigenous peoples communities and territories. We demand that the World
Trade Organization recognise our intellectual and cultural rights and not
allow the domain of private intellectual rights and corporate monopolies
to violate these.

40. We call for a stop to the patenting of all life forms. This to us, is
the ultimate commodification of life which we hold sacred.

41. We demand that the Human Genetic Diversity Project be condemned and
stopped. Those responsible for this project should be asked to make an
accounting of all the genetic collections they have taken from indigenous
peoples and have these returned to the owners of these genes. The
applications for patents to these genetic materials should be stopped and
no applications, thereafter, should be accepted and processed. Indigenous
peoples should invited to participate in the ongoing discussions in UNESCO
on the bioethics of the Human Genome.

42. We demand that governments at the local, regional, and national
levels, recognize our intellectual community rights and support us in our
defense of these rights, an obligation whichthey have undertaken as
Parties to the Biodiversity Convention.

43. We will continue to freely use our biodiversity for meeting our local
needs, while ensuring that the biodiversity base of our local economies
will not be eroded. We will revitalize and rejuvenate our biological and
cultural heritage and continue to be the guardians and custodians of our
knowledge and biodiversity.


44. We demand equal political participation in the indigenous and modern
structures of socio-political structures and systems at all levels.

45. We will dialogue with non-indigenous women's organizations and
formations to implement a realistic plan of solidarity with the us.

46. We ask that NGOs that work with Indigenous Women be guided by
principles of mutual respect and promote the full participation of
Indigenous Women in action and in articulating issues regarding Indigenous
Women and Indigenous Peoples.

47. Call on the funding agencies and donor agencies that support and
promote women's organizations and programs, to share space and financial
resources in order to promote the development of Indigenous Women.

48. We will work towards reinforcing our own organizations, enhancing
communications between us, and gain the space that is rightfully ours, as
members of specific identities (nations and cultures) within the  Decade
of Indigenous Peoples and other institutions that represent governmental
and non-governmental organizations.

50. We will work towards the holding of an International Conference of
Indigenous Women which will be held as part of the celebration of the
International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples.

51. We our sincere thanks to Chinese Organizing Committee and the Chinese
people for their efforts in hosting and providing hospitality to us.


For more information contact:
Asia Indigenous Women's Network
16 Loro St., Dizon Subdivision, Baguio City, Philippines
Tel. 63-74-4425347  Fax - 63-74-4425205
E-mail: [email protected]