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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Call to empower indigenous women to end discrimination

Source: The Daily Star

Some eminent personalities yesterday stressed the need for initiatives of both government and non-government organisations to empower indigenous women for betterment of their life standard and end discrimination against them.

Indigenous women fall victim to different sorts discriminations and deprivations severely. The government and non-government organisations should work together for their capacity building to end discriminations and improve their life standard, they said.

The remarks were made at a seminar styled “Indigenous women: Issues and challenges” organised by the Indigenous People Development Services (IPDS) at the at the Catholic Bishop's Conference of Bangladesh in the city.

Speaking as the chief guest, HE Dr Stefan Frowein, ambassador and head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Bangladesh, said indigenous women are victims of double discrimination, first for being women and then for coming from ethnic minorities.

The government, civil society, development partners and indigenous and non-indigenous communities should work together to forge effective policies and programmes to eliminate discrimination against women and empower them, he said.

He laid emphasis on necessary financial and political support and dialogue at the policy-making level to address the problems of indigenous communities.

Frowein said the European Union has been the major contributor in addressing the vulnerability of indigenous communities in the country by providing € 16 million funding for the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Development Fund and € 6.6 million for education programmes in CHT.

Criticising the country's political leaders, National Human Rights Commission Chairman Dr Mizanur Rahman said, “No one raises voice when hundreds of indigenous people are evicted from their land and hundreds of tress from the country's forests are cut down.

“But several hartals are called for political purpose when any political leader vacates their residence.”

While featuring different forms of discrimination against indigenous people, he said they never get proper justice despite repeated violation of their basic human rights as they are poor and come from minority communities as discriminatory system is prevailing in the country.

Mizanur added that his commission would place recommendations to authorities concerned to include provision in the constitution recognising indigenous communities.

Presenting the keynote paper, Information Commissioner Dr Sadeka Halim placed some recommendations for empowering indigenous women.

These include reservation of seats for the indigenous women in parliament, introduction of reserved seats in local government bodies and ensuring participation of indigenous women in local and national development.

IPDS President Sanjeeb Drong said according to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, indigenous women are victims of a 5-layer discrimination, firstly for being a woman, secondly for being indigenous, thirdly for being indigenous women, fourthly for being poor and marginalised and finally for being migrated women.

There are around 15 lakh indigenous women in the country, he informed.

Hill Women Federation former president Choitali Tripura, Joyenshahi Adivasi Parisad Chairman Ajoy A Mree and A'chik Michik Association President Sulekha Mrong, among others, were present at the function.

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