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Engaging indigenous women: local government capacity-building through new technologies in Latin America


The indigenous peoples in Latin America are among the poorest in a region that is characterized by considerable levels of inequality, exclusion and insecurity. Indigenous communities are usually the most marginalized in terms of their ability to have access to and benefit from public services and participate in the political process. Frequently they have only limited access to education, training, information and networking — all of which may have a significant effect on their opportunities for development. Within indigenous communities, women are often the poorest, most marginalized and most unaware of their human and political rights.

The project is aimed at helping indigenous women to become further involved in the local decision-making processes through the use of ICT to increase their networking (communication of many with many), outreach and information-sharing capacity. ICT can facilitate several stages of political consultation and participation, e.g., through setting up shared virtual spaces and making available and sorting out relevant traditional and new information.

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues urged Member States to take concrete steps to increase the participation of indigenous women in governance and decision-making structures at all levels. The General Assembly, in its resolution 59/174 proclaiming the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, called for, inter alia, the implementation of action-oriented programmes and specific projects, increased technical assistance and relevant standard-setting activities for indigenous people.

The project will be implemented by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in collaboration with ECLAC and the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women.


To strengthen the capacity of institutions at the national and community levels in selected Latin American countries to better engage indigenous women in decision-making processes by utilizing new information and communication technologies.

Expected accomplishments:

  • Upgraded institutional and community capacity in local governance by engaging indigenous women and communities
  • Change in the content of information available to and directed at indigenous women, including more gender-sensitive media images and practical information related to indigenous women’s empowerment and development
  • Increased knowledge and use of existing and new information technologies by local governments and indigenous women and communities

Implementation status:

In implementing the project, DESA worked in close cooperation with three indigenous organizations (one each in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru), which in turn worked in close cooperation with other national indigenous organizations as well as local and national governments. Most of the activities involved the capacity building of indigenous women in the fields of ICT and participation in decision making processes as well as the production of informational material for and by indigenous women. The primary impacts are thus twofold. There is a greater capacity of indigenous women in the production of information and there is a greater wealth of informational material available to indigenous women. In concrete terms, the project contributed to the training of hundreds of indigenous women in the fields of radio programming, television programming, print media and electronic media. The participating organizations also produced a wealth of information aimed specifically at indigenous women which was circulated in the three participating countries and continues to be circulated.

A significant impact of the project came from the implementation of the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) which has been promoted by the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) and is also an important element of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. FPIC helped provide a sense of ownership of the project, not only for the indigenous organizations, but also for the participating local government institutions as well as other community and NGO representatives. The experience of the project also created a sense of empowerment (for both the individual participants as well as the organizations) and confidence in their own strengthened capacities to express themselves and to participate in local and national decision making activities.

Project Resources: http://www.redada.org/; http://chirapaq.org.pe/es/red-de-comunicadores