Working in different countries I am still angered at the level of abuse that girls have to put up with -just to try to get a basic éducation. Girls may be abused at school and while travelling to school. Girls living in poverty in Shinyanga, Tanzania may be approached by ‘uncles’ on their way to school, first offering a lift so that they can get to school ‘safely’. Then they are offered such precious items as soap or shoes and then after such grooming, they are abused. Stories such as this one are all too common around the world and international women’s day might just remind us once more that we must inspire change – in women and particularly, men.
International Women’s Day 2014 Theme: INSPIRING CHANGE
Women’s equality has made positive gains but the world is still unequal. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action.
Each year International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911. Thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day.
Cultural Survival informs us of some of the inspiring stories from indigenous women:
Set amidst rolling prairies and the Badlands, Young Lakota shares with viewers the perspectives of three young Lakota as they find themselves in the middle of political controversy in the small town of Kyle on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation. The film centers on Sunny Clifford, who has recently returned to Pine Ridge after two years in college and aspires to improve the reservation she grew up on. “I never really experienced anyone talking about women’s rights and what they deserve… I always had this pity for myself because I was a woman, and on top of that I’m Native American. I’m at the bottom of the bottom.” Her twin sister Serena, a struggling single mother, and their ambitious friend Brandon Ferguson, a father of two, also want to make life better for themselves and their community.
When South Dakota seeks to pass a bill making abortion a felony, even in the case of rape and incest, Cecelia Fire Thunder, the first female tribal president of the Oglala Lakota, controversially challenges the move by attempting to establish a women’s clinic on the sovereign territory of the reservation and with it, the right to chose. Considering the high rape statistics and poor access to health care among communities on reservations, Lakota women are particularly vulnerable to potential bans on abortion. The reservation quickly becomes divided over the plan and Fire Thunder is impeached by pro-life Tribal Council members swayed by right-wing forces outside of the reservation and by a religion that was pushed upon them hundreds of years ago. Fire Thunder states that medicine for terminating pregnancies has been in Lakota society for hundreds and hundreds of years and sees this ban as another attack by white men on her culture. “I’m challenging white men right now and white men have already done a tremendous amount of damage to my people.” At one point she addresses a group of supporters of the anti-abortion ban and demands “Keep your white hands off my brown body!”
The political conflict during the next elections campaigns becomes more than a battle between candidates as the affects of the ensuing chaos sees the young Lakota members’ paths diverge. In their first introduction to politics, Sunny, Serena, and Brandon are caught up in the interplay between political, economical, and cultural circumstances. Sunny and Serena rally behind Fire Thunder while Brandon is offered a job he can’t pass up working for Fire Thunders opponent Alex White Plume. The film follows their struggles with choosing between prospects and principles, between individual opportunity and community, and their fight for personal dignity as well as the dignity of their Lakota heritage. Cecelia advises Sunny, “When you stand in the middle of that community of craziness, you have to be real clear about who you are and what you believe in because they’re going to come at you from all different directions and no matter what they do… you’re going to still stay standing because you believe in who you are and you believe in what you stand for.”
and a short animation from Asia Indigenous People’s Pact:
We live in a time when public opinion is demanding a fairer and more equitable planet. There is no more important element to address this than the equality of men and women. This 4-minute animation video outlines the recommendations from CEDAW (Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) and UNDRIP (UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) particularly on indigenous women that guide and help us to move in this direction.(From Cultural Survival).
From South Africa:
Indigenous women leaders gathered together for two weeks in New York to take part in a Global Leadership School for Indigenous Women and to participate in the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. They traveled from regions of Latin America, North America, Asia, Africa, the Arctic, and the Pacific to take part in this leadership school run by the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI) from May 13–25, 2013. Lectures and discussions on topics ranging from technologies of activism to advocacy and negotiation techniques created a collective environment for these Indigenous women to grow and establish networks with other leaders worldwide.
The general objective of the leadership school is to strengthen capacities of Indigenous women leaders, particularly in the use of international instruments on human rights,Indigenous Peoples’ rights, and Indigenous women’s rights, as well as advocacy strategies to promote and sustain social change. The training sessions were conducted in three phases, beginning on a virtual platform from January to April, followed by a two-week intensive class concurrent with the forum in May, and concluding with a monitoring process (again through a virtual platform) to support the implementation of advocacy plans at the local, national, and regional level.
Mphatheleni Makaulule, representing the Venda people of the Limpopo province of South Africa, was among the leaders present. Toward the end of the session she was awarded a Global Leadership Award for her collective work with women and local communities: in 1999, Makaulule built the Luvhola Cultural Village with the help of community members, and in 2007 she founded the Mupo Foundation. The foundation works to foster food security, protect sacred natural lands, and revive cultural diversity, all while focusing on the advocacy and transmission of traditional Indigenous knowledge systems to women and the younger generations.
Mariana Lopez from FIMI commented on the inspiring legacy that Makaulele and others are creating: “We are celebrating Indigenous women who have implemented creative ways to address pressing social issues, demonstrating courage, creativity and vision. Indigenous women desire to no longer be viewed as vulnerable victims. They must be recognized as having huge capacity as catalysts of socio-cultural change,” Lopez said.
Makaulele explains that the word Mupo “describes the origin of creation, the creation of the whole Universe. When we look at nature, we see Mupo. When we look at the sky, we see Mupo. Mupo means all that is not man-made. Mupo gives everybody a space: men have their own space, children have their own space, women have their own space. Our role as women is to accompany all—from family, clan, community —to go back to that order. That is where we come to the name Makhadzi. Makhadzi is the name for VhaVenda women elders, but it literally means ‘the space of a woman’s role.’”
Makaulele and the Mupo Foundation have campaigns operating on many diverse fronts; Indigenous language revitalization efforts, eco-cultural mapmaking, protection of sacred territories, local seed cultivation and knowledge, and water advocacy amidst threats from mining industries make up the holistic approach. Currently, the Mupo Foundation is igniting a campaign against the Australian mining company CoAL of Africa, which plans to open a mine in the region.
For Makaulele, “The future is in the past. This future is not about the human children; it’s about the future children of all communities, from the insects up to the big animals.” With issues such as climate change and food security on her mind, Makaulele endorses the necessity of Indigenous knowledge systems and hopes to see them as part of the dialogue in every agenda.
Reflecting on what she learned during her time at the FIMI leadership school, Makaulele emphasized the role of leadership at home. “In our Indigenous knowledge system, everyone is a leader. We are leaders for the future generation. We are the leaders of the ancestral knowledge. We are the leaders of our ancestors to transfer this knowledge. And we are all leaders to protect mother earth. We cannot live without leadership. The knowledge which I have learned from here is a courage, is a motivation. In our work we do our work on the base of a dialogue. I’m going to sit, not getting tired, to involve our leaders, who are the chiefs, to involve our elders to do dialogue. I’m going to share this knowledge in the form of a dialogue. It is from the dialogue that the younger
generation also become the leaders.”
“I am very proud to be Indigenous,” Makaulele says. “It’s a big motivation because for me, my life is my Indigenous way. We [the Venda people] are the children of the Indigenous lens. Our life is Indigenous knowledge practice. I would like to say to all the women who are here, to carry this message outside to the women outside. We are the last generation to learn from our elders to protect the Indigenous forests, and this is the main root of our hope for the future. There is no longer time: we are the last generation on the edge of the elders who are going. We are going to become elders, and we women need to transfer this knowledge to our girls.” Directly addressing the girls in her culture, Makaulele says, “[You] need to create and take opportunity from your mothers and your elders to learn this knowledge, to get [it] into your veins like ourselves.”
For more information on Makaulele and Mupo, visit: mupofoundation.org. For more information on FIMI, visit: fimi-iiwf.org.
And from UN Women:
From China to Costa Rica, from Mali to Malaysia acclaimed singers and musicians, women and men, have come together to spread a message of unity and solidarity: We are “One Woman”.
Launched on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2013, the song is a rallying cry that inspires listeners to join the drive for women’s rights and gender equality. “One Woman” was written for UN Women, the global champion for women and girls worldwide, to celebrate its mission and work to improve women’s lives around the world. “One Woman” reminds us that together, we can overcome violence and discrimination against women and look toward a brighter future: “We Shall Shine!” Join us to help spread the word and enjoy this musical celebration of women worldwide.
Be the change…