The United Nations’ International Day of the World’s Indigenous People is observed each year on August 9 to promote and protect the rights of the world’s Indigenous population. This event recognizes the achievements and contributions made by Indigenous Peoples. The commemoration takes place on in recognition of the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations held in Geneva in 1982. On this day, people around the world are encouraged to spread the UN’s message on the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples.

The 2022 theme  is : “The Role of Indigenous Women in the Preservation and Transmission of Traditional Knowledge.”

This year, the world is fighting against the spread of the pandemic and it is more important than ever to safeguard indigenous peoples. According to the United Nations  the indigenous peoples’ territories are home to 80% of the world’s biodiversity. They can teach us much about how to rebalance our relationship with nature and reduce the risk of future pandemics.

Indigenous women are the backbone of indigenous peoples’ communities and play a crucial role in the preservation and transmission of traditional ancestral knowledge. They have an integral collective and community role as carers of natural resources and keepers of scientific knowledge. Many indigenous women are also taking the lead in the defence of lands and territories and advocating for indigenous peoples’ collective rights worldwide.

The significance of indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge is widely acknowledged: “Long before the development of modern science, which is quite young, indigenous peoples have developed their ways of knowing how to survive and also of ideas about meanings, purposes and values.” As noted by the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, the term “scientific knowledge” is also used to underscore that traditional knowledge is contemporary and dynamic, and of equal value to other kinds of knowledge.

International consultations jointly facilitated by UNESCO and the Internal Council of Science (ICSU) states that “Traditional knowledge is a cumulative body of knowledge, know-how, practices and representations maintained and developed by peoples with extended histories of interaction with the natural environment. These sophisticated sets of understandings, interpretations and meanings are part and parcel of a cultural complex that encompasses language, naming and classification systems, resource use practices, ritual, spirituality, and worldviews.”

However, despite the crucial role that indigenous women play in their communities as breadwinners, caretakers, knowledge keepers, leaders and human rights defenders, they often suffer from intersecting levels of discrimination on the basis of gender, class, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Their right to self-determination, self-governance and control of resources and ancestral lands have been violated over centuries.

The 2030 Agenda commitment to ‘Leave no one behind’ brings new impetus to ensure that indigenous peoples’ priorities are heard.


08/09/2022  by Alize Utteryn