One of the most salient evolutions from the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a commitment to leaving no one behind, human rights and equality. In contrast to the MDGs, the SDGs explicitly include Indigenous Peoples in two of the targets on agriculture and education for Indigenous children. Indigenous Peoples welcomed the strong commitment in the 2030 Agenda to empower and engage Indigenous Peoples in implementing and reviewing progress in achieving the goals. While applauding these improvements, Indigenous Peoples still have concerns. The Indigenous Peoples Rights and the 2030 Agenda Briefing Note pointed out that “the concept of self-determination, as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and essential to indigenous peoples’ right to define their economic, political, social and cultural development, is not strongly reflected [in the 2030 Agenda]”. Additionally, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be challenging unless the goals fully address the ongoing outright violation of Indigenous Peoples’ collective rights – particularly to land, territories, culture and ways of living, resources, the increased criminalization of Indigenous Peoples’ human rights leaders, and ensuring that Indigenous women’s issues and priorities are fully taken into consideration.
Yet Indigenous women see an opportunity to improve and leverage the 17 goals to assert their rights. This includes but not limited to the goals focused on protecting their territories, gender equality, poverty reduction, and education. Seizing this opportunity, Indigenous organizations are championing women to lead in the implementation of the SDGs and to influence high-level strategic decisions. Hence, International Funders for Indigenous Peoples’ (IFIP) new Indigenous Women Funders Working Group, hosted a webinar for funders focused on the intersection of women’s and Indigenous’ rights and how the SDGs can help bolster these commitments. IFIP invited the International Forum of Indigenous Women (FIMI) to share vital lessons from their work with Indigenous women and the SDGs.
FIMI recognizes the SDGs as an important opportunity to elevate Indigenous women’s rights from the grassroots to the national and international stages. Teresa Zapeta, Executive Director of FIMI, explains, “We want to link philanthropy with advocacy because local organizations promote different human rights, and we can link these actions to the SDGs and other mechanisms for women and Indigenous rights.” FIMI is officially part of the UN Major Group for Indigenous Peoples. This allows the organization to participate at the UN High-Level Political Forum, providing an opportunity to influence the development, monitoring, and implementation of the SDGs. For example, FIMI’s delegation to the UN High-Level Political Forum advocates for more holistic approaches that take into account the balance between economic, social and environmental decisions. Aminatu Gambo, a staff member of FIMI, also highlights the importance of representation. Indigenous women’s participation fosters a “[recognition] of Indigenous women as a distinct and powerful group, and not only as vulnerable,” Aminatu emphasized.
Photo credit: FIMI
FIMI is also deliberate in how they engage Indigenous women in international and national SDG platforms. This stems from a commitment to grassroots participation and diversity, and it starts at the local level. Through FIMI’s giving arm, the AYNI fund, the organization provides funding support to grassroots organizations. This approach nurtures Indigenous women by developing their ability to lead locally. Once they become community advocates, FIMI further champions the same women at national, regional and international forums. Through the Indigenous Women’s Global Leadership School, FIMI provides the tools to lead with confidence at the UN High-Level Meetings, tying the local to the global.
Indigenous women are engaging with global political processes like the 2030 Agenda to ensure representation of their priorities. IFIP’s Indigenous Women Funders Working Group provides a platform to donors’ to facilitate funders’ education and collaboration, and connect with organizations like FIMI who are working to assert Indigenous women’s rights.