International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Updated on 28 October 2022

Indigenous Woman EcuadorThe Role of Indigenous Women in the Preservation and Transmission of Traditional Knowledge

It is estimated that about 6% of the people of the world are indigenous. That’s around 400 million people. A major study, published last year, showed that ‘91% of lands managed by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) are considered to be in good or fair ecological condition and at least 36% of the global land area covered by currently identified Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) lie within Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities’ lands.’ This figure shows that any global goals for conservation of habitats, ecosystems and species cannot be achieved without the inclusion and commitment of Indigenous Peoples. Traditional knowledge is at the core of this successful relationship between Indigenous Peoples and nature, and Indigenous women have an essential role in ensuring the passing down of the traditional ancestral wisdom supportive of biodiversity and wildlife conservation to future generations.

A large majority of wild animals and plants are present in indigenous lands. More and more, those leading conservation initiatives are recognizing that the empowerment of Indigenous women will lead to successful outcomes for our Earth’s wildlife. The voices of these women must be heard and amplified as there is so much to learn from them. CITES is certainly a platform where this can happen. In the context of her new upcoming role as Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management, the CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero, said, “I hope to use the influence of the CPW’s partners organizations to push for greater inclusion of Indigenous Peoples, in particular Indigenous women, in the promotion of the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife, given its importance for food security, livelihoods and human well-being. The survival of our wildlife for future generations requires their involvement and knowledge as Peoples who for so long have looked after so much of the world’s wildlife resources.”

In November this year, the World Wildlife Conference will meet in Panama. It is the nineteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP19) and the decisions that are taken there will shape the global approach to conservation and sustainable use of wildlife over the next years. One of the issues that has been both recognized and promoted is the involvement of Indigenous People and Local Communities in the conservation of our endangered wildlife.

Holding CoP19 in Latin America is also of special significance as there is a greater possibility for Indigenous women from the region to participate in the discussions. They will have the opportunity to showcase how with traditional knowledge they are able to manage the wildlife and habitats on their lands despite challenges such as overexploitation of wild plants and animals, unsustainable logging and illegal trade. Hopefully more initiatives involving Indigenous women and traditional knowledge for wildlife conservation will emerge from these discussions in Panama.

With great hope for progress for Indigenous women all over the world to be recognized for their role in preserving and transmitting traditional knowledge, especially in the area of wildlife and biodiversity conservation, the CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero, sends warm wishes for a Happy International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.