Recognition of Indigenous Women’s Knowledge on International Day of Indigenous Peoples

By: Teguh Iman Affandi

The United Nations (UN) highlights the role of women in preserving and transmitting traditional knowledge by adopting it as the theme for the International day of Indigenous Peoples. However, the term “traditional knowledge” contains problems.

“Not traditional knowledge… Indigenous women’s knowledge,” said Olvi Octavianita Tumbelaka, Campaigner for Kaoem Telapak.

Olvy Octavianita Tumbelaka, Campaigner for Kaoem Telapak

Olvy, who is also part of the indigenous peoples of Benuaq, said the word “traditional” was politically inappropriate. “In the context of the Indonesian language, the meaning of the word “traditional” is random,” She said.

Olvy believes the indigenous women’s knowledge is more poweful. “This is a political statement, how the knowledge of indigenous women is often marginalized, as a result, women’s experience in managing their ancestral land rights, so that it can be sustainable, is not recognized,” She said.

Furthermore, Olvy explained that the impact of this denial of women’s experiences had quite serious effects. “In decision-making on ancestral areas, women are not invited, even though the women who manage the ancestral lands to be sustainable,” She said.

Through the 1974 Marriage Law, the position of indigenous women is increasingly squeezed. In the regulation, the state narrates that the head of the family is a man. The impact of this regulation will be felt when the customary area is converted into a plantation company area. “When a husband, father, or son becomes the head of the family … if there are deals with the company, the voices from women are not heard,” said Olvy.

Currently, for Olvy, indigenous women must speak up and ensure the recognition of indigenous women’s rights in the Indigenous Peoples community, from the village to the international level. “In terms of indigenous peoples communities, land management is our right, admit it,” said Olvy.

Two Indigenous of Gisim Village, Sorong Regency, Papua Barat Province

On December 23th, 1994, the United Nations General Assembly issued Resolution 49/214, which set the international day of commemoration for indigenous peoples on August 9th. The date was set based on the first day of the meeting of the indigenous peoples working group on the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in 1982.


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