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African Commission: Bringing indigenous women's rights forward

November 2 2016
Last week during the 59th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in Gambia, the African Year of Human Rights was commemorated with a panel conference focused on women’s rights. As part of this activity, IWGIA’s partner Samburu Women Trust (SWT) presented the challenges that Samburu women face in Kenya.

Looking back 15 years ago, the African region had no existing platform where indigenous peoples could bring forward human rights violations. Since 2001, IWGIA has been supporting the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities (WGIP). This platform serves as an advisory mechanism to the ACHPR by allowing indigenous representatives themselves account for their local experiences.
With the financial and technical support of IWGIA, the WGIP has conducted seminars, trainings, country missions, published several reports, handbooks and manuals and issued numerous urgent appeals to African governments. This way, the WGIP and its members are actively monitoring the situation of indigenous peoples across the African continent and formulating recommendations on appropriate measures to prevent and remedy human rights violations.
The case of Samburu girls and women in Kenya

This year’s session commemorated the African Year of Human Rights with a panel focusing on women’s rights. Present at the event were the Commissioner Soyata Maiga, Dr. Mariam Aboubakrine, member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Dubravka Simonovic, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Dr. Melakou Tegegn, expert member of the WGIP, Jane Meriwas and Ann Reisano, indigenous representatives from Samburu Women Trust (SWT)in Kenya, and Lisenga Bafalikiki, coordinator of the Coalition of Women Leaders for the Environment and Sustainable Development in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  

All the panelists covered important and relevant issues related to the actual experiences indigenous women and girls go through in Africa. Among the issues raised were the lack of access to basic services, violence, their role in preserving traditional knowledge, limited participation in decision-making processes and lack of property and land rights.
With the support of IWGIA, human rights defenders Jane Meriwas and Ann Reisano, from Samburu Women Trust (SWT) highlighted the problematic linked to land resources and women rights.

Meriwas and Reisano explained that within the Samburu community women have been denied the right to own control and access to land as a result of the practice of Child Beading (here you can watch a documentary explaining the issue). Specially, they referred to the negative impacts this practice has on indigenous girls’ rights to childhood, education and health.

We invite you to hear from Jane Meriwas why the African Commission is a crucial space to air indigenous people’s views :