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Banner picture by:
Janice Collins
and
True Blue Aboriginal Arts


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Discrimination and Gender

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I am very proud that I am a bushman.

They treated us so badly, that our people were scattered. We fled in all directions.

Because they didn’t want any bushmen in the country.

Grandmother /Una Rooi, Bushman, South Africa

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”…all human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity…”

Declaration of Philadelphia, 1944 – ILO Constitution

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They sound like words from a dream and maybe they are. The quote is taken from the ILO Constitution (formulated more than 50 years ago), and underlines that equal treatment and equal opportunities are a major concern of the ILO. But even after more than half a century, discrimination is still a reality in many countries.

Indigenous peoples are often among those being discriminated against. Whether they are pastoralists, hunter-gatherers, forest dwellers, peasants, workers in the informal economy or formally employed, most indigenous peoples face high levels of discrimination and poverty.

The Convention on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation
The main instrument of the ILO to fight discrimination is the Convention on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation, 1958 (No. 111). Of 187 ILO Conventions, Convention No. 111, along with seven others, is a fundamental Convention which all ILO members must respect, promote and realize. Moreover, Convention No. 111 has been ratified by 168 countries, which is close to being every country in the world.

Convention No. 111 defines discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion or preference made on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin, which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity and treatment in employment or occupation.”

A tool for indigenous peoples
In the text of Convention No. 111, indigenous and tribal peoples are not specifically mentioned. That might be the reason why indigenous organisations and communities have only seldom used it when claiming their rights. However, indigenous peoples can use Convention No. 111 as its provisions are highly relevant to them, when they face discrimination based on their race, religion or national and social origin.

Double discrimination against indigenous women
In addition, indigenous women often face further discrimination – as belonging to indigenous peoples, and simply because they are women. Often, they receive less pay for equal work than both indigenous men and non-indigenous women. They have less access to education and training and are more affected by un- and under- employment. On top of this comes the fact that indigenous women may also be discriminated against within indigenous communities.

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A guide to ILO Convention
No. 169

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