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Enhancing Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Self-Determination: Amplifying Indigenous Youth Voices

Read our statement at the UNPFII 2024: Enhancing Indigenous Peoples’ Self-Determination: Amplifying Indigenous Youth Voices.

Every voice matters, but are we listening enough? Over 50% of the Indigenous population is under the age of 29, each carrying a legacy and a vision for their communities’ future. Today, we spotlight the pivotal voices of these Indigenous youth, who are not just the leaders of tomorrow, but active change-makers today.

The FSC Indigenous Foundation is privileged to address the Twenty-Third Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, focusing on the pivotal theme: “Enhancing Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination in the context of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: emphasizing the voices of Indigenous youth.”

Empowering Indigenous Youth: A Path to Self-Determination

We acknowledge the vital role of Indigenous youth in driving sustainable development and advancing self-determination. Despite their critical importance, they often face barriers to participate in decision-making processes. To address this, the FSC Indigenous Foundation commits to:

  1. Enabling Participation: We facilitate the active involvement of Indigenous youth in governance, ensuring their voices lead efforts toward self-determination. 
  2. Knowledge Exchange and Development: We provide scholarships and training to equip Indigenous youth with business and leadership skills for a global stage.
  3. Integration of Indigenous Knowledge: Recognizing and integrating traditional knowledge of Indigenous youth in global discussions on climate change, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable development.
  • Our Indigenous Fellowship Program allows Indigenous youth from around the world to exchange, dialogue, and strengthen their leadership and networks to implementation of a project in their communities in the areas of climate change, land rights, and Indigenous economies.

Urging Commitment to Self-Determination

We call upon all stakeholders to deepen their commitment to integrating the rights of Indigenous Peoples into policies, programs, and practices. The right to self-determination, enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, is foundational for empowering Indigenous communities to manage their development according to their traditions, values, and aspirations. It is imperative to create frameworks supporting this right and prioritizing the voices of Indigenous youth in all decisions affecting their future.

Climate Change and Environmental Stewardship

Indigenous Peoples are crucial in addressing climate change, biodiversity loss, desertification, drought, and food insecurity due to their profound understanding of ecosystems and sustainable practices. Their stewardship exemplifies living in harmony with nature, offering invaluable lessons for global sustainability.

  • We are working with the Emberá and Wounaan Peoples of Panama to design and pilot a certification label as a mechanism to connect Indigenous Peoples with business opportunities that align with their cosmovision and nature conservation efforts.

Indigenous Rights: A Foundation for Equity and Conservation

Acknowledging Indigenous rights is fundamental for addressing historical injustices and ensuring their participation in society on equal footing. This recognition is crucial for global efforts in biodiversity conservation and combating climate change.

Role of Indigenous Women: Leadership in Sustainability

Indigenous women play a pivotal role in environmental sustainability and social justice. Their leadership and knowledge are essential for preserving cultural traditions and ecological wisdom.

  • Our Indigenous Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador supports positive actions to empower Indigenous women, youth, and girls to preserve, revitalize, and promote their culture and identity. We work with Indigenous women’s organizations and other partners generate enabling environments for Indigenous women’s active participation and advocacy and strengthen productive initiatives led by Indigenous women.

Land Rights: Upholding Collective Rights

Indigenous territories are vital for global solutions to climate change and sustainable livelihoods. The FSC Indigenous Foundation urges stakeholders to promote and uphold Indigenous Peoples’ collective right to land in policies and programs.

In conclusion, the FSC Indigenous Foundation remains steadfast in supporting Indigenous youth and advancing the right to self-determination. We invite all stakeholders to join us in this essential endeavor to shape a sustainable, just, and equitable future for all.

Engagement and Calls to Action

Act now! Join us in this critical movement to amplify the voices of Indigenous youth. Your support can open doors to conservation, business opportunities, restoration of landscapes, education, leadership, and advocacy.  

News

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim appointed Chair of UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

We congratulate our FSC-IF Council Chair for this prestigious position

On April 15, 2024, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) unanimously elected Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim as Chair to preside over the twenty-third period of sessions of the Permanent Forum.

The announcement was made at the opening of the 23rd session of the UNPFII at the United National headquarters in New York City, USA.

The FSC Indigenous Foundation (FSC-IF) congratulates Hindou for receiving this well-deserved honor, and we know that she will preside over this Forum with great success.

Hindou Oumarou is a member of the Mbororo People of Chad, chair of the FSC-IF Council, and an environmental and Indigenous Peoples activist. She is the Coordinator of the Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chad (AFPAT) and served as the co-director of the pavilion of the World Indigenous Peoples’ Initiative and Pavilion at COP21, COP22 and COP23. Hindou is also the gender representative, and Congo Basin Region and Focal Point on Climate Change in the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC). She was recognized by BBC as a top 100 women leader and by TIME’s Women Leaders in Climate Change and is a National Geographic Explorer.

News

Launch of Ogiek women’s empowerment project

The FSC Indigenous Foundation and Ogiek Peoples Development Program support a journey to Indigenous women’s socio-economic transformation.

Nakuru, Kenya – On April 8, 2024, the FSC Indigenous Foundation and Ogiek Peoples Development Program launch a joint project, “Promoting Socio-Economic Empowerment among Ogiek Women of Mau, Kenya.” This project is part of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD), a five-year program implemented by the FSC-IF and funded by USAID, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and private sector partners. 

This event, that took place at the Ole Ken Hotel, Nakuru, marked the beginning of a transformative journey towards empowering Ogiek women, addressing their unique challenges, and fostering sustainable socio-economic development in the Mau regions of Kenya.

Participants included representatives from local government, Women Enterprise Fund, Microfinance Institutions, FSC-IF, County Executive Committee (CEC), media, and Ogiek community members.

After opening words by the Executive Director of the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP) Daniel Kobei, participants listened to keynote addresses from FSC-IF Africa Regional Director Salina Sanou and representatives from the Gender Departments of Narok and Nakuru Counties.

Daniel Kobei emphasized the need to work with county and national governments in Kenya and that the women’s agenda is not only an agenda of NGOs but for everybody.  

The project is also a way of championing for the rights of Ogiek People because one cannot champion for rights without food and being economically empowered.”

Daniel Kobei

FSC-IF is committed to Indigenous women because they are pillars of our communities. Women are custodians of knowledge and culture.”

Salina Sanou

A panel discussion followed on challenges faced by Ogiek women and opportunities for collaboration with the participation of representatives of the Nakuru County Gender Department, Narok County Gender Department, Women Enterprise Fund, and a microfinance institution. 

The project launch was officially opened by Josephine Achieng, County Executive Committee Member of Youth, Gender, Culture, Sports and Social Services, Nakuru County. “OPDP is taking the right trajectory of empowering women,” she said.

“We need to have women represented in all spheres of life politically, economically, and socially,” said Eunice Chepkemoi, Gender and Youth Officer at OPDP. 

Participants broke into groups to explore specific areas of engagement and opportunities during project implementation. The Gender Department of Narok County noted that OPDP is now a member of the Gender Sector Working Group of Narok County. 

Women from the Ogiek community emphasized that the project is bringing them hope.

When a woman is empowered, the whole community is empowered.”  

Ogiek woman representative

Ogiek women of Kenya

The Ogiek People face persistent challenges. Decades of forceful evictions from their ancestral lands have led to discrimination, marginalization, and oppression, resulting in low participation in development issues. Ogiek women, in particular, grapple with poverty, illiteracy, and limited access to economic opportunities. The lack of representation in the political arena further exacerbates their plight, hindering their ability to address these issues effectively.  

Despite these challenges, many Ogiek women have formed women’s groups and engage in economic activities, for example, savings cooperatives, tree nurseries, livestock raising, and beekeeping. These groups could benefit from additional support and opportunities to catalyze sustainable development for their communities.

Transformation to economic empowerment

By providing Ogiek women with the necessary training and support, the FSC-IF and OPDP aim to support them to become self-reliant and economically independent. 

Our joint project, “Promoting Socio-Economic Empowerment among Ogiek Women of Mau, Kenya” is a training initiative and open call for proposals from women’s groups to receive financial support. 

The training initiative will equip Ogiek women with the essential skills and knowledge to engage in sustainable income-generating activities. It will also foster leadership skills among the participants, particularly the chair ladies, secretaries, and treasurers, to understand their roles and responsibilities, enabling them to guide and mentor their members within the groups. 

Through the initiative, we will catalyze sustainable socio-economic development among the trainees, leading to improved livelihoods and enhanced community resilience. This will contribute to their well-being and promote inclusivity, gender equality, and community prosperity.

In parallel, Ogiek women groups across six counties of Kenya will submit proposals to apply for limited funds to support them in establishing small-scale income-generating activities. The project will support twelve sustainable projects that benefit community resilience. 

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The FSC Indigenous Foundation (FSC-IF) is a global Indigenous organization with a mission, values, and actions driven by, for, and with Indigenous Peoples. It was established in 2019 by the FSC and the FSC Permanent Indigenous Peoples Committee (PIPC). We serve as a global strategic, technical, operational, and financial entity led by Indigenous Peoples, supporting their self-development, self-governance, and self-reliance through Indigenous-based solutions, multi-sectoral partnerships, and funding. Our mission is to elevate Indigenous Peoples in their contribution to the protection of Mother Earth and recognize them as providers of solutions and partners to fight against global challenges. We envision a future where Indigenous-led solutions and actions, generated within one-quarter of the planet, safeguard the future of everyone and Mother Earth.

The Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP) is a Kenya-based organization founded in 1999 and registered by the Kenyan Government as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in 2001. It was formed by Ogiek elders, opinion leaders, farmers, and professionals after long land historical injustices that deprived Ogiek community of their rights as Kenyan citizens. OPDP’s work is centered on promoting the recognition and identity of Indigenous Peoples’ culture, the participation and inclusion of the communities in all sectors of development, championing for land rights, ensuring environmental protection, and overall sustainable development. OPDP has its headquarters in Nakuru town, Nakuru County, and operates nationally. 

News

FSC-IF celebrates the launch of the Ogiek Peoples’ Cultural Center 

Center represents resilience, recognition, and preservation of Indigenous cultural heritage.

Partners and community members pose for a photo in front of the Ogiek Cultural Center. Photo credit: OPDP 

The official launch of the Ogiek Cultural Center on March 19, 2024, marked a significant milestone in the preservation and celebration of the Ogiek people’s rich culture and heritage. Organized by the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP) in partnership with Land Body Ecologies, Wellcome Trust, and other partners, this event was held at Nkareta ward, Narok County, Kenya, drawing attention to the deep-rooted culture, history, and traditions of the Ogiek community. The FSC Indigenous Foundation was invited as a partner.  

The Center, which also houses the Ogiek Museum, is now positioned to serve as a pivotal educational resource and a beacon for biodiversity conservation. 

The inauguration week kicked off with an enriching learning exchange among partner learning hubs from across the globe, including Uganda, Thailand, India, the Arctic, and London, all of which are part of the Land Body Ecology (LBE) Project. This interaction paved the way for an immersive tour of the Ogiek Cultural Center, featuring the Ogiek Museum, the Ogiek herbarium — a repository of traditional herbs — and the Ogiek village, which offers a window into the community’s traditional lifestyle within an authentic Ogiek forest setting. The highlight of the day was a guided tour through the Mau Forest, allowing visitors to connect firsthand with the ancestral lands of the Ogiek people. 

The event was graced by community members from various regions, government officials, partners, donors, and other stakeholders. The chairperson of OPDP’s Board warmly welcomed attendees, emphasizing the center’s role in fostering an understanding of the intrinsic relationship between land, body, and health, as well as preserving the Ogiek’s traditional knowledge and practices. He also underscored the community’s commitment to sustainable development.  

Notable speakers, including Dr. Liz, strong Ally and Lawyer of the Ogiek community, voiced their determination to reclaim historical ownership of their lands and stressed the importance of community titles in protecting the forest. The day was charged with a spirit of resilience, with speakers from the Ogiek and other Indigenous communities such as the Sengwer and Endorois, sharing their experiences and the challenges they face, notably the loss of their territories and the need for more trees. The solidarity among Indigenous Peoples was noticeable and appreciated, with the Ogiek being applauded for their role in leading the way for Indigenous rights from national, regional, and international levels. 

The Chief Guest Prof. Mary Gikungu Director General, National Museums of Kenya emphasizing the importance of documenting natural and cultural heritage, celebrated the centre as a testament to the Ogiek community’s resilience and dedication to preserving their culture. The message was clear: “culture is not only a link to the past but a bridge to the future, connecting us to our roots through unique songs, stories, and traditions that capture the essence of the Ogiek people.” 

The center was ushered in as a crucial facility for understanding and promoting the Ogiek culture, language, and traditional practices. The commitment to continue protecting their forests and the ongoing training in the Ogiek language during holidays were highlighted as key components of their continued legacy. 

Promoting Socio-Economic Empowerment among Ogiek Women  

This event also underscores the strengthening partnership between the FSC Indigenous Foundation and the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP). Our collaboration on the “Promoting Socio-Economic Empowerment among Ogiek Women of Mau, Kenya” project, implemented through the Indigenous Peoples Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD) Program, represents a shared commitment to empowering Indigenous communities while fostering sustainable economic models. IPARD is funded by the USAID, the Forest Stewardship Council, and private sector partners.  

FSC-IF’s presence at the launch amplifies our joint commitment to cultural preservation and the empowerment of Indigenous Peoples on an international stage. Secondly, the center serves as a physical space where the objectives of our partnership — such as socio-economic empowerment, particularly of women, and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods — can be visualized and realized. Lastly, it strengthens the bond between FSC-IF and OPDP, enhancing our collaborative efforts towards achieving greater recognition and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in decision-making processes in Kenya and beyond.  

Watch a video for more information on the launch: https://youtu.be/0BafEJHviGk  

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