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Government partly responsible for addressing concerns of Indigenous women, children – UN Rep

UN Resident Coordinator Mikiko Tanaka UN Resident Coordinator Mikiko Tanaka

Resident Coordinator of the United Nations and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Makiko Tanaka, said that the recent study on Indigenous Women and Children in Guyana shows that Government is partly responsible for enabling economic sustainability of the indigenous communities. The study was done by the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, in collaboration with UNICEF, and Tanaka notes that it is a landmark study in the sense that it is the first of its kind to have been done in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“This study has revealed to us on the outside the many challenges and obstacles that women and children face in getting well educated, obtaining decent jobs and income-generating activities, caring for their health and well-being, being safe from violence and abuse, and taking part in decision-making that affects their lives. These are all part of the Sustainable Development Goals and fundamental human rights,” she said.
“We believe that part of the solution lies certainly with the Government — in improving access to public services, also enabling markets, particularly in the remote hinterland communities; and we also believe that part of the solution does lie within the communities. A community approach in protecting women and children from abuse, neglect and violence, and enabling and empowering children and women to be part of a good life,” Tanaka added.
Ten years ago, in September, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Part of the declaration affirms that all people contribute to the diversity and richness of civilization and cultures which constitute to a common heritage of human kind, and that indigenous peoples in the exercise of their rights should be free from discrimination of any kind.

However, the recent study found that the indigenous communities are the ones that experience the most poverty, due to the lack of infrastructure and economic activities. It also found that, despite being a multicultural country, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child points to the existence of discrimination against indigenous children and adults in Guyana.

“In interviews, focus groups, adolescents and women living in the villages mentioned they feel discriminated when they go to the cities and the coastal area of the country,” part of the report read.
As it relates to the governance and public policies for indigenous populations, the report identified that management at the local level does not correspond to the technical necessities that are necessary to generate sustainable change at the local level.

“The vast majority of toshaos and village councillors did not receive any type of training after being elected to their positions, and they are the ones responsible for developing budgets, public policies and programmes at local level, and implementing policies for development.”

The study was conducted by UNICEF in Region One, Region Seven, Region Eight, Region Nine; and Indigenous communities in coastal communities in Region Two – Akawini (Pomeroon-Supenaam); Region Three – Santa Mission (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara); Region Four – St Cuthbert’s Mission/Pakuri (Demerara-Mahaica); Region Five – Moraikobai (Mahaica-Berbice); Region Six – Orealla and Siparuta (East Berbice-Corentyne); and Region 10 – River View (Upper Demerara-Berbice).

The aim of the study was to contribute to a greater understanding of Indigenous women and children regarding cultural/traditional practices relative to medicines; sexual and reproductive health issues; build or strengthen the resilience of children, families, communities and systems to natural disasters, conflicts, chronic systemic crises and social conflicts.

Additionally, it sought to examine decision-making processes on health and protection issues; strengthen the provision of equitable prevention and response to different forms of child violence, including gender-based violence; inform the development of a robust, sustained, early childhood development and equitable and inclusive education programmes for Amerindian children.

It also sought to explore women’s leadership skills and their capacity-building needs at the community level; explore livelihood and empowerment opportunities; provide evidence for national and sub-national planning and developmental processes, to contribute to an enabling environment for Indigenous women and children, and determine the knowledge, perceptions and roles that were played by Indigenous peoples in the preservation of the environment, and climate change and what are their current roles.

Source: Guyana Times

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