16 Organisations and Resources for Indigenous Women Facing Gender-based Violence

In 2017, the World Health Organisation stated that 1 in 3 women and girls worldwide has been subject to or threatened with gender-based violence which includes everything from femicide to domestic violence to female genital mutilation. This finding is expanded upon by a UN report released in November 2018 that found that the equivalent of 6 women are killed every hour, or 137 killed every day, by someone they know.

Given the high prevalence of violence against women (VAW) across the board, it is even more appalling that globally, Indigenous women face far higher rates of VAW than non-Indigenous women. Here are just three examples:

As Indigenous Peoples across the world face severe marginalisation and discrimination, which leaves them treated as second-class citizens and at high risk of violence and abuse, a wall of silence surrounds Indigenous women and girls who face everything from rape and domestic violence to femicide and forced sterilisation because wider society has historically swept these issues under the carpet. There is also usually very little to no help from local or national law enforcement agencies. Even within the anti-VAW movement, the plight of Indigenous women and girls has been overshadowed as the public focuses their attention to high profile cases that make mainstream media headlines. It is only recently, with the advent and proliferation of social media providing a global platform for Indigenous activists to raise awareness, that the wider world is slowly starting to wake up to and acknowledge the atrocities experienced by Indigenous women and girls.

While assistance from governments and global NGOs like the United Nations are slow in arriving (or, when it arrives, it is usually inadequate), there are many nonprofit organisations and resources that tirelessly work on projects, initiatives, and legislation that give Indigenous women the opportunity to voice out their concerns about VAW and other issues, as well as to get help to tackle or escape the violence.

In this article, we present 16 organisations and resources for Indigenous women and girls across Australasia, North America, and South/Central America. This is by no means a comprehensive list but we hope that it will be a useful starting point for anyone who needs help in their location, who wants to learn more about murdered and missing Indigenous women, or who wants to join efforts to end VAW against Indigenous women that are already underway.

It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.

Introduction by Regina Yau with additional content by Denishia Rajendran. List compiled by Regina Yau and written by Denishia Rajendran. Additional research by Denishia Rajendran and Bernardo Rosa Rodriguez.

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AUSTRALASIA

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #1: Far West Indigenous Family Violence Service – Australia

The Far West Indigenous Family Violence Service (FWIFVS) provides health care and transportation services to the Indigenous communities in rural Australia. Part of their services include providing confidential assistance to Indigenous families affected by family violence and advancing the awareness and education of domestic violence within the Indigenous communities. The FWIFVS also aids families struggling with domestic violence by providing support in their homes, at court, and for crisis payments and accommodation. The FWIFVS is auspiced by Cunnamulla Aboriginal Corporation for Health (CACH), which hosts various yearly community promotions to raise awareness and to end family violence and violence against women. One of the community promotions is  White Ribbon Day which is a male-led campaign held in conjunction with the 16 days activism to stop violence against women.

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #2: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance – Australia

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance (NATSIWA) aims to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and encourages women to advocate for effective policy both domestically and internationally. Their vision is to protect the fundamental freedoms that are significant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women through cultural preservation, health education and coalition building. One of the key activities for their 12-month plan is to create a national plan to reduce violence against women. Essentially, NATSIWA seeks to encourage Indigenous women to raise their voices to protect their rights and eradicate the impacts of racism and stigma.

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #3: North Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service – Australia

North Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service (NQDVRS) is a resource that is aimed at preventing domestic violence as well as assisting women involved in domestic violence. They provide various services to promote the safety of those involved in domestic and family violence. The resource works closely with the police and courts as well as other organisations such as The Women’s Centre (North Queensland Combined Women’s Services), Flora House and Sera’s Women’s Shelter to assist women affected by domestic violence. Similar to other organisations and resources, NQDVRS provides direct support services, community education and training of service providers. Most importantly, however, the organisation also addresses the root of domestic violence by facilitating a men’s behavioral change programme that challenges men to address their use of violence in their relationships. The programmme, known as Men TER (Men Towards Equal Relationships), runs in a group format where participants will gain the necessary tools and skills to change their values, beliefs and behaviors that are the foundation for their use of violence.

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #4: Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service – Australia

Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service (QIFVLS) is an organisation that is committed to assisting Indigenous peoples who are victims of domestic violence, family violence and/or sexual assault by delivering culturally appropriate free legal support and community education services. They are located in Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton, Mount Isa and Brisbane where they provide legal advice, court representation in the areas of law of family and domestic violence, child protection, family law, victim compensation and victim assist, sexual assault and minor civil law matters.

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #5: Women’s Refuge – New Zealand

Women’s Refuge is an independent organisation designed especially to prevent and stop domestic violence that affects Māori women, Pasifika women, and migrant/refugee women. With 40 years of experience of working in the field of domestic violence, the organisation provides policy advice and advocacy on domestic violence and are regarded as experts on the subject of domestic violence. Women’s Refuge also works to raise awareness on the issue of domestic violence by staging public campaigns and providing expert comment to the media, and attending conferences and events such as the Parachute music festival offering information, workshops and seminars.

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #6: WRISC Family Violence Support – Australia

WRISC is a resource that works with women and children in Indigenous communities to prevent violence of any kind, including family violence. Their Aboriginal Family Violence Program  engages with the Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander communities to provide advocacy with services, court support and case management services. In fact, the resource works with youth perpetrators up to the age of 18 years.

NORTH AMERICA

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #7: Aboriginal Mother Centre Society – Canada

The Aboriginal Mother Centre Society (AMCS) is dedicated to moving mothers and children who are at risk of homelessness. The centre is fit with amenities suitable for mothers and children and further provides support and programmes for women and children, including transformational housing for Aboriginal mothers and children at risk, licensed daycare, family wellness, homelessness outreach and a community kitchen. The community kitchen and homelessness outreach programmes introduce job training opportunities for the local Aboriginal community members.

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #8: Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women – United States of America

The Coalition to End Violence Against Native Women (CSVANW), based in New Mexico, was founded by three Native women. As a regional nonprofit coalition with a goal to eliminate violence against Native women and children, CSVANW mainly focuses on providing training, technical assistance, support and policy advocacy to the native and tribal communities. The coalition also sits on various tribal and statewide communities, task forces and groups as part of their policy advocacy programme. CSVANW has a book club where members of the coalition convene to discuss solution-based approaches that empower individuals and build relationships for stronger community response.

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #9: Mending the Sacred Hoop – United States of America

An increased level of violence against women led to the existence of Mending the Sacred Hoop, an organisation that specialises in ending violence against Native women. They address various crimes against women such as issues of domestic and sexual violence, dating violence, sex trafficking and stalking in their communities. The organisation has formed a coalition known as Sacred Hoop Coalition serving all 11 tribal communities in Minnesota that is built towards providing training, technical assistance, and resources to tribal communities in Minnesota.

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #10: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Database – United States of America and Canada

The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Database (MMIW Database) is a resource that focuses on creating an updated database for missing or murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people in Canada and the United States. Information in the database is frequently used by the media in helping to create public awareness and for research purposes. It has also provided data to advocates and policy makers, is used to address patterns of violence against Native Women, and allows community members to use the data when organising events to raise awareness on violence against Native women.

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #11: Native Indigenous Women’s Resource Center – United States of America

Native Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) is a resource center with a mission to create and enhance the capacity of Native communities to end gender-based violence against Native women. To advance public awareness and policy development of gender-based violence against Native women across the nation, NIWRC hosts various projects such as Native Love, which educates Native youths on healthy relationships. They also host webinars on a wide range of topics to spread awareness on violence against Native women and work in partnership with the National Domestic Violence Hotline to establish and run the StrongHearts Native Helpline – a helpline that provides confidential service for Native American women involved in domestic and dating violence.

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #12: Native Women’s Association of Canada – Canada

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is an organisation that helps to promote social, economic, cultural and political well-being of Indigenous women across Canada. NWAC’s policy developments encompasses a wide area of issues including violence prevention where they have hosted projects such as project PEACE and Sisters in Spirit to raise awareness of violence against Indigenous communities in Canada. Through their resources, they spread the awareness of gender-based violence within the Native communities.

SOUTH & CENTRAL AMERICA

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #13:  AGIMS Asociación Grupo Integral de Mujeres Sanjuaneras – Guatemala

AGIMS is an association that works to improve the living situations of Indigenous women in the municipality of San Juan Sacatepéquez in Guatemala. AGIMS’ Board of Directors carries out political advocacy before the local government as part of the Municipal Development Council. AGIMS also participates in a Consortium of Indigenous Women for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, which aims to to train, promote and demand compliance of the sexual and reproductive rights of Indigenous women. AGIMS works together with the different ancestral authorities of the communities by creating workshops that analyse and criticise the macho attitudes present in everyday life to build thoughts, ideologies, philosophies, attitudes and practices imposed by a patriarchal system, as well as to sensitise men at a personal level to the social, political, cultural and spiritual impact of violence at the community and national levels.

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #14:  Casa de la Mujer Indígena de Tijuana, Baja California – Mexico

The Casa de la Mujer Indígena de Tijuana is an organisation that was formed by Indigenous migrant women in Mexico. They host a variety of workshops to educate and raise awareness on rights of Indigenous women and children in Tijuana, Mexico, and use their Facebook page as a tool to spread awareness by posting brochures and information on sexual and reproductive rights of Indigenous women, sexual violence against women and how to eradicate such violence, as well as advertising activities such as youth forums on teen pregnancy.

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #15: Núcleo de Proteção e Defesa dos Direitos da Mulher (NUDEM) da Defensoria Pública do Estado de Mato Grosso do Sul – Brazil

NUDEM is an official public network of support to women’s rights across the Mato Grosso do Sul state, which counts the second largest Indigenous population in Brazil. They provide legal guidance with an aim to promote and defend women’s rights in situations of gender violence with the integration of all Public Defenders. The centre has a psychosocial team that consists of a psychologist and a social worker who assist women in violent situations. The members of the centre make visits to villages to distribute booklets on the ““Maria da Penha” law, legislation that  was enforced to reduce domestic violence, to local Indigenous communities in Brazil. 

Indigenous Women’s Organisation/Resource #16: Women’s Justice Initiative – Guatemala

Women’s Justice Initiative (WJI) is a United Nations-sponsored programme to empower Guatemalan women to address inequality and gender-based violence with a focus on Indigenous populations. As the country has the 3rd highest rate of violent deaths among women in the world, this initiative adopts a community-based approach to raise awareness of gender-based violence within the Mayan community. WJI has also established a legal services programme to provide legal services to marginalised women on issues such as domestic violence. They also host other programs such as Women’s Rights Education Program, Adolescent Girls Program and Community Advocates Program, all of which aim to educate women and the Mayan community on gender-based violence.

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