FAO chief urges end to discrimination against indigenous women

Rome, Jan 13 (IANS/AKI) Progress in the fight against hunger and extreme poverty hinges on eliminating the “triple discrimination” faced by indigenous women, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva has said.

“Indigenous women face a triple discrimination comprising poverty, gender and ethnicity both within and outside their communities, making them highly vulnerable.

“Their social and economic empowerment is not only an excellent way to support them, but a necessary condition to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in their communities,” da Silva said told participants from a dozen countries at the Forum on Indigenous Women in Mexico City on Friday.

Indigenous women suffer far higher rates of poverty, chronic malnutrition and illiteracy as well as low access to health care and participation in political life, he said.

Some 370 million people — about five per cent of the global population and 15 per cent of the world’s poorest — self-identify as indigenous.

In Latin America and the Caribbean region, indigenous people, at about 45 million, account for 8.3 per cent of the population but 15 per cent of them face food insecurity and extreme poverty.

Indigenous women in the region face higher poverty and malnutrition rates than any other social group, and typically earn four times less than men, according to FAO’s new regional atlas or rural women.

Globally, the situation is even worse for women members of the more than 5,000 indigenous groups around the world, who speak more than half the world’s languages and spread across more than 90 countries, according to the UN agency.

The United Nations decision to create a Family Farming Decade starting in 2019 offers a strong platform to focus on rural livelihoods such as most indigenous peoples have, he added.

The three-day forum organised by FAO aims to develop public policy recommendations to empower indigenous women, strengthen their decision-making, and recognising their rights at community level to enhance leadership and development opportunities.

FAO has set up leadership schools geared to the participation and needs of indigenous women in India, Bolivia, Peru, the Philippines, Panama, El Salvador and Paraguay, and this innovative institution will be scaled up this year, Graziano da Silva said.

“With political will, we can put an end to discrimination against indigenous women,” he said.

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