Globalization is a concept that has been gaining a lot of attention in the past decade. It is not a term which is easily defined, but instead it is an interconnection of economic, political and cultural movements which links nations (Balasuriya, 1: 2000).  Tissa Balasuriya (2000) argues that globalization perpetuates colonial ideals in a post colonial world.

“Globalization is taking place within a socio-economic and historical background that is grossly unfavourable for the poor countries. This includes:

  • centennial unfavourable and unfair of trade towards presently poor countries, former colonies
  • already accumulated inequalities imputed foreign debt and debt servicing by poor countries
  • “other debt” of past colonizers, (not acknowledged by them)
  • land grab by colonizers, perpetuated under UN world order
  • technological advances benefiting the developed countries very significant changes in size of population of countries,
  • the prevailing understanding of human rights, that neglects socio-economic rights of peoples. (Balasuriya, 2: 2000).

Indigenous women face great challenges in communities all around the world, and they face double discrimination. In certain regions, the status of indigenous women was greatly reduced at the time of colonization, with the imposition of new political, economic, social and cultural systems. As stated at the Forum on Indigenous Women of Ecuador, which was held 7-11 September 1994, “Colonialism comes down to the loss of our lands, to the introduction of a language with no sense of poetry, of an irrational political and administrative structure irrespective of the laws of nature, and of the forceful imposition of a Judeo-Christian religion in which woman is synonymous with sin” (

However, what is rarely discussed is the vast impact that has been created by Indigenous women’s groups that  have served as a voice for social justice and solidarity in their communities.  During the Fourth World Conference of Women, Indigenous women were given an opportunity to raise public awareness of their experiences. As a result, they successfully lobbied their concerns in the Beijing Declaration in the following areas:

  • human rights: by promoting the human rights of indigenous women and translating human rights instruments into indigenous languages;
  • health: by reducing the negative effects of environmental degradation on the health and life of indigenous women;
  • education: by promoting a multicultural approach to education, taking into consideration the needs, aspirations and cultures of indigenous women.
  • economic development: by supporting the economic activities of indigenous women, taking into account their traditional knowledge, and encouraging their access to capital (

It may take decades to achieve these goals, but there is a great emphasis on the involvement of Indigenous women in political, economic and social decisions that affect their communities. There has been several mobilization efforts led by Indigenous women that have been critical in achieving social justice. The United Nations highlights some of these movements:

  • In Colombia, Eulalia Yagari, at the age of 14 and against her father’s will, was the first woman in her community to participate in a public awareness meeting on land recovery, a process successfully used by some Indigenous groups to regain possession of their ancestral lands. In Eulalia’s village, 900 people were living on 60 hectares of land. Because of her work, her community was eventually granted more land as a result of the land recovery campaign.
  • In 1986, in the Northeast of Brazil, Eliane Potiguara created GRUMIN (Grupo Mulher – Educaçao), an organization which mobilizes indigenous women, holds conferences and seminars and organizes vocational training to raise indigenous women’s awareness and to help them take control of their own lives. Ms. Potiguara who experienced problems as an indigenous woman herself, lived for a time in Rio de Janeiro and saw the way indigenous people were discriminated against in the cities. This gave her the impetus to return to her village to help her people, the Potiguara, who were suffering from social disintegration. GRUMIN has started a variety of projects, including opening a pharmacy of herbal medicines and creating community gardens, where families that have lost their land can grow food. Today, GRUMIN has grown into a nationwide organization, with an extensive network of offices. (

Diane Reed, President of the Cree Society for communications states “Now the women are rising up. And when the women rise up from a nation, they are the strongest voice that can be heard and it’s a voice that cannot be silenced” (