Photo collage with indigenous people
A centuries-old marginalization and a set of different vulnerabilities expose indigenous peoples to the serious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo:UN Composition with photographs by PAHO (left), Martine Perret (center) and UNICEF Ecuador-Arcos (right)

The role of indigenous women in the preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge

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 defense of indigenous peoples’ lands and territories and advocating for indigenous peoples’ collective rights worldwide.

However, despite the crucial role 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.

Indigenous women particularly suffer high levels of poverty; low levels of education and illiteracy; limitations in the access to health, basic sanitation, credit and employment; limited participation in political life; and domestic and sexual violence. Besides, their right to self-determination, self-governance and control of resources and ancestral lands have been violated over centuries.

Small but significant progress has been made by indigenous women in decision-making processes in some communities, achieving leadership in communal and national roles, and stood on the protest frontlines to defend their lands and the planet’s decreasing biodiversity. The reality, however, remains that indigenous women are widely under-represented, disproportionately negatively affected by decisions made on their behalf, and are too frequently the victims of multiple expressions of discrimination and violence.

This International Day of Indigenous Peoples, let’s reclaim the role of these heroines.

Spread the message with the social media material prepared by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs!

Portrait of an indigenous person

2022 Virtual Commemoration

9 August 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. EDT

Join a virtual dialogue in which indigenous peoples, member states and UN agencies will share their knowledge and experience on the transmission of traditional ancestral knowledge in fields such as climate change and the protection of natural resources.

Did you know?

  • Globally, 47% of all indigenous peoples in employment have no education, compared to 17% of their non-indigenous counterparts. This gap is even wider for women.
  • More than 86% of indigenous peoples globally work in the informal economy, compared to 66% for their non-indigenous counterparts
  • Indigenous peoples are nearly three times as likely to be living in extreme poverty compared to their non-indigenous counterparts.

Source: ILO

Respect, not dehumanization

portraits of two indigenous persons


The "Fight Racism" campaign offers a section dedicated to indigenous communities with a comprehensive compilation of UN resources. Among them, an account of the problem of discrimination against this indigenous peoples, a photo exhibition and a free course.

indigenous people and herds of llamas

An ILO and Indigenous Navigator’s report demonstrates that indigenous peoples face significant obstacles in performing their traditional occupations and accessing decent work opportunities, education, and social protection, a situation that is being aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Get to know more about this through data.

Close-up of a woman wearing a traditional headdress

At least 40% of the 7,000 languages used worldwide are at some level of endangerment. Indigenous languages are particularly vulnerable because many of them are not taught at school or used in the public sphere. This year, we start another important milestone to advocate for indigenous cultures: the Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022 – 2032).

illustration of people with clock, calendar, to-do list and decorations

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.