ISOPIX / Nathan Denette  / AP
ISOPIX / Nathan Denette / AP

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

published 5 August 2022 updated 18 June 2024

On the 9th of August, Education International (EI) joins the celebration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and reaffirms the human rights of Indigenous Peoples. This year’s theme is The Role of Indigenous Women in the Preservation and Transmission of Traditional Knowledge.

Education unions are working to ensure that Indigenous Peoples have access to equitable, relevant, quality Indigenous education; to decent work opportunities, and social protection. As educators we also know that education systems have been – and in some contexts continue to be – developed in ways that stigmatise, exclude, and erase Indigenous knowledge systems. Far too often, education systems have maligned Indigenous cultures, languages, and beliefs on one hand, and imposed Western knowledge and science as normative and universal on the other.

Indigenous women play key roles as leaders and holders of knowledge critical to preserving Indigenous identity, language, culture, and generational histories; to creating solutions to conflict; to addressing climate change and the protection of biodiversity; to improving health and education outcomes; to defending land and human rights and to building resilience in the face of pandemics and other crises.

Despite the crucial roles Indigenous women play, they are disproportionally affected by the climate crisis, extractive industries and projects, land occupation, are under-represented in leadership roles, and too often experience intersecting levels of discrimination based on gender, class, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

In June 2022, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, released a special report on Violence against Indigenous Women and Girls to the Human Rights Council, outlining key causes, manifestations, and consequences of gender-based violence against Indigenous women and girls, as well as good practices regarding truth and reconciliation, access to justice, support services, prevention, and protection.

In this impactful report, the Special Rapporteur emphasises the scale and seriousness of continuous, systemic acts of violence that Indigenous women and girls face, rooted in colonisation, patriarchal power structures, racism, exclusion and marginalisation. However, these violations, perpetrated by State and non-State actors, occur with relative impunity and are inadequately reflected in data collection, legislation, or public policies. Although the right of Indigenous women and girls to be free from violence is enshrined in international law, this has not materialised into sufficient prevention and protection measures by States.

EI joins the Special Rapporteur’s calls for States:

  • to fulfil their obligation to ensure Indigenous women and children are protected from all forms and violence and discrimination;
  • to engage with Indigenous communities to implement public policies which improve access to and retention in culturally relevant and high-quality education which centres Indigenous knowledge systems;
  • to develop curricula which eradicates discriminatory gender stereotypes and social attitudes, which are often root causes of gender-based violence against Indigenous women and girls

This day provides EI an opportunity to acknowledge and reflect on the different ways education systems impact the rights of Indigenous Peoples. To explore the ways Indigenous education experts, activists, researchers, and teachers, are working to ensure quality education that centres Indigenous knowledge systems, EI will start a weekly blog series that brings together the voices of Indigenous Peoples and their allies from across the world this month.

It will take visionary political will and concrete action by leaders –including those in educational settings and within our unions -backed by properly targeted resources, and in consultation with Indigenous Peoples and their representatives, for the full realization of the human rights of Indigenous Peoples, particular for women and girls. We are up to the task.

If you would like to contribute a blog to this series, please contact [email protected].