The Struggles of Indigenous Women

First Nations women launched a social media campaign in Canada last year designed to highlight the violence they face.

#AmINext began after a young indigenous woman was murdered when she tried to collect rent from tenants. She was a graduate student who had been researching Canada’s missing and murdered First Nations women.

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Victoria’s 1st Annual Stolen Sisters Memorial March. Image via glassghost. (Flickr Creative Commons.)

Amnesty International of Canada has called the situation a “human rights crisis” — the organization noting “In a 2009 government survey of the ten provinces, Aboriginal women were nearly three times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to report being a victim of a violent crime.”

The missing and murdered First Nations women are forcing Canadians to grapple not only with violence against women, but also with racism. Newsweekly Macleans ran an article last week examining the issue of racism in Winnipeg — the story was framed by the murder of a First Nations teenage girl.

The International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs notes that indigenous women are often at risk because they are doubly marginalized by their gender and their race.

Amnesty International also points out that Native American and Alaska Native women are at high risk to experience violence. The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, headquartered in Montana, is focused on reducing violence against native women and educating native communities on the issue.

The Asian Indigenous Women’s Network is also working to reduce violence and to help empower native women.

A 2013 article notes that aboriginal women in Australia are 80 times more likely to be the victims of violent assaults than non-native women. A 2010 journal article published in Signs examined how aboriginal women work to carve spaces for themselves in Australia.

But the struggles of indigenous women are not only centered around issues of sexual and domestic violence — native women in South America have found themselves in fights with governments and corporations over land.

A Peruvian woman won a lawsuit against a mining company last month. The company wanted her family’s land for a gold mine and claimed they were, basically, squatting on the mining company’s property. A court in December ruled that the company could not push the woman and her family out of their home. Her fight with the mining corporation lead to her being “voted Woman of the Year by the Union of Latin American Women, an international women’s rights organization.”

The United Nations has acknowledged the struggles of indigenous women and the body’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is increasingly spending more time focused on indigenous women’s rights.

You can find more information about some of the UN’s work on indigenous women’s issues in a series of PDFs the agency has made available online.

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