Indigenous women from around the Americas gather at Kahnawake

KAHNAWAKE – Aug 23, 2005 – Violence against women and other human rights issues affecting indigenous peoples around North, Central and South America will be at the centre of a groundbreaking international meeting of native women leaders taking place at Kahnawake this week.

Hosted by Quebec Native Women with the support of Rights & Democracy and the Canadian International Development Agency, the meeting brings together members of the Continental Network of Indigenous Women from Panama, Peru, Mexico, Nicaragua, Argentina, Colombia and Canada.

“Indigenous women are the most marginalized of any group in the world. I believe that it is only through unity that the voices of Indigenous women will be heard,” said Ellen Gabriel, President of Quebec Native Women.

This week’s meeting will be a chance for those attending to discuss experiences in their countries and develop strategies for addressing common concerns, such as intellectual property rights, the promotion of non-violence, and the international recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights.

Violence against women is a grim fact of life for indigenous peoples across Canada and throughout the Americas. Statistics show that Canada’s native women are five times more likely to die as a result of violence than non-native Canadian women.

In his 2004 report on Colombia, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, reported allegations of abuse and violations of the rights of indigenous women, often in the form physical violence and sexual assault, perpetrated by the armed groups involved in Colombia’s internal conflict.

“Women are the activists that are building the indigenous movement,” said Colombia’s Victoria Neuta, Coordinator of the Continental Network’s commission on non-violence. “Women must be taken into account in state and continental policies, and in the international agenda.”

“This collective effort of indigenous women from across the Americas is key to addressing and reversing the intolerable realities they too often face,” said Jean-Louis Roy, President of Rights & Democracy. “Rights & Democracy is proud to support this important meeting and the ongoing efforts of these women to assert their human rights.”

The Continental Network of Indigenous Women, an initiative of Canadian native women, was founded in 1993 in order to unite indigenous women from North, Central and South America in the common search for seeking ways to address the many concerns affecting them and their peoples. These efforts are highlighted in the 2004 Continental Network of Indigenous Women, Quebec Native Women Association and Rights & Democracy joint publication, Indigenous Women of the Americas.

For an interview with Ellen Gabriel, Quebec Native Women’s President, Caroline Nepton Hotte, Communication officer, Quebec Native Women Inc., 450-632-0088