The National Organization for Women, NOW, the oldest and largest women's rights organization in the United States, has formed a Native American Women's Task Force with the Women's Intercultural Network (WIN) and U.S. Women Connect. The task force has been selected by the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to present a panel at the next annual session of the CSW. The panel's title is "Indigenous Women's Issues in Rural America" and will consist exclusively of American Indian women speakers. The panelists will address five critical concerns in Indian Country: Violence against indigenous women, including domestic violence and sexual assault; physical and mental health issues; indigenous land use with a focus on management and ownership; environmental destruction of Indian lands; and finally, indigenous women's intellectual property rights.
The panel will take place on Thursday, March 8, 2012, at 2:30 p.m. EST at the UN Church Center across from the UN Secretariat building at headquarters in New York City. The CSW brings women's NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) from all over the world for this annual 10 day event.
It is crucial that the international community become aware of the many life-threatening issues confronting Native American women and girls and take concerted action on them through policy, advocacy, funding, programming, legislation and protection of their human rights. The majority of Indigenous women in the U.S. live on American Indian reservations, which have the highest concentrations of poverty in the U.S. In addition, American Indian women also suffer the highest rates of domestic violence and sexual assault of any demographic in the country. Moreover, environmental destruction by mining and other corporations on reservations has caused extraordinarily high levels of cancers and other diseases among the Indigenous population. This panel will address the most pressing issues faced by Indigenous women and girls in the United States and how the international community can provide support and assistance to empower these women.
Indigenous peoples in the United States face deeply entrenched marginalization – the result of a long history of systemic and pervasive abuse and persecution. Sexual violence against American Indian women today is informed and conditioned by this legacy of widespread and egregious human rights abuses. It has been compounded by the federal government’s steady erosion of tribal government authority and its chronic under-resourcing of those law enforcement agencies and service providers, which should protect Indigenous women from sexual violence. It is against this backdrop that American Indian and Alaska Native women continue to experience high levels of sexual violence, a systemic failure to punish those responsible, and official indifference to their rights to dignity, security and justice.
How the UN Panel Will Make A Difference
The UN panel will reach a global audience of government officials, policy-makers and activists to create awareness about indigenous issues and engender action and support. The Commission on the Status of Women presents an ideal opportunity to raise issues confronting Indigenous women at the world's premier institution dedicated to human rights and gender equality. The National Organization for Women, an NGO consultative to the UN, is deeply committed to working with Indigenous women to advance their rights and support their agenda. NOW conducted a workshop at its national conference on the Native American women's rights movement and has participated in the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The combination of NOW's national network of chapters in all 50 states and the presence of the international community at the UN provide a powerful foundation to initiate positive action to improve the lives and protect the human rights of Indigenous women and girls in the United States.
This panel will be followed-up with activism on the issues identified by American Indian women and addressed at the UN Commission on the Status of Women to ensure measurable outcomes are produced through the work of the task force and its allies in the United States and around the world. This will serve as a model for other Indigenous women outside the country to develop partnerships with non-Indigenous women's rights advocates in pursuit of equality and justice for Indigenous women and girls everywhere.
What Indigenous Women at UN Need & What You Get
The UN Commission on the Status of Women panel needs airfare for six American Indian women panelists to go to New York from March 7 through 10, 2012. Travel is estimated at $600 per ticket given the rural location of most of the participants. The airfare should total approximately $3,600. We also need hotel rooms for three nights in New York at approximately $250 each for six people for an estimated cost of $4,500. Finally, local transportation and food costs for the six panelists will total approximately $720 for six people for four days in New York. Our total costs are estimated at $8,820.
We are also pursuing funding from other sources such as the Urgent Action Fund for Women and other foundations focused on women's and Indigenous peoples' issues.
We offer a variety of perks including lunch with NOW President Terry O'Neill.
Other Ways You Can Help
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