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Indigenous women to combat discrimination by using UN convention

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hmong woman.jpgTwenty-seven indigenous or ethnic minority women gathered in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, for a follow-up training on promoting and protecting indigenous women's rights under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), from 15-16 February 2009.

"When I was 17, I was kidnapped by a Hmong man, raped and married to him. Five years later I had a son, but he said the boy is not his child. Because of cultural beliefs, we were told that good women serve their husbands so I did. I took care of his first wife's children", told Naengnoi Saengsen, a participant from Thailand (In the picture).
He even let her be accused of a crime he committed. After she came back from imprisonment of two and a half years, she said, "He took me not anymore as his wife but slave". Her experience highlighted the need to confront cultural practices that violate indigenous women's rights. Now separated, she is a leader of Hmong women's organisation to promote the convention.
Participants were from seven countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam. This training was a follow-up of the workshop held in May 2008. It was organised by FORUM-ASIA, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
The training was designed to strengthen and encourage the participants to continue their work in their own communities, also by using this legal tool: CEDAW. During the sessions it was noted that the indigenous women are discriminated by being indigenous and women, and the convention is a remarkable tool to combat such discrimination. The participants said that the programme in May last year helped them gain their knowledge about their rights and confront discrimination against them as indigenous women.
This follow-up training aimed to review the action points presented in the last programme. The participants shared new challenges they encountered, and developed new strategies to further improve their capacity to assert their rights, as individuals and a collective.
To carry their work further, they agreed that one way is to produce a guidebook on CEDAW. The participants prepared its outline during this training, and will participate in training meetings in March on documentation and advocacy, where they also will develop a training tool on how to use the guidebook.