CEDAW & Indigenous Women’s Activism

Panel Presentation and Call to Action:

CEDAW and Indigenous Women’s Activism:

Using Women’s Human Rights Mechanisms to Challenge Colonial States

in Canada, Guatemala and Beyond

In collaboration with:
the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC)
the Tzununija Indigenous Women’s Movement (Guatemala)
the Indigenous Women’s Alliance for CEDAW
the Centre for Women’s Studies in Education (CWSE)
and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA)

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Saturday, June 13th, 2015  |  4:00- 7:00 pm

at the Innis Town Hall, University of Toronto

This event focussed on the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) as a tool for activism through highlighting groundbreaking work being done by indigenous women’s organizations that is changing the international discourse of women’s human rights.

The panel covered:

  • CEDAW Inquiry Procedure on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada, the recently published report on the inquiry and where to take it from here
  • Guatemalan Indigenous women’s activism using CEDAW, in particular the Indigenous Women’s Alliance for CEDAW’s call for a new CEDAW General Recommendation recognizing the specific forms of intersectional discrimination experienced by Indigenous women around the world
  • International women’s human rights activism and how to move forward and build linkages across borders

This is an extremely important report for Canada,” says Dawn Harvard of NWAC. “Canada has been told, first by the International- American Commission on Human Rights, and now by the United Nations CEDAW Committee, that Canada’s failures to act violate the human rights of Aboriginal women.

– Dawn Harvard of NWAC, in reference to the CEDAW Report to the Canadian Government.

Speakers Included:

DawnHarvard2Dr. Dawn Lavell- Harvard (NWAC) Ph.D., now Interim President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), is a proud member of the Wikwemikong First Nation, the first Aboriginal Trudeau Scholar, and has worked to advance the rights of Aboriginal women as the President of the Ontario Native Women’s Association for 11 years. She was also the Vice-President of NWAC for almost 3 years.


image1Cherry Smiley (NWAC and FAFIA), from the Nlaka’pamux (Thompson) and Dine’ (Navajo) Nations, is an artist and Indigenous feminist activist, working for years as a front-line anti-violence worker in a transition house for battered women and their children and rape crisis centre. She is a founding member of Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry (IWASI). Cherry graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree, exhibiting her installation, Revolution Songs: stories of prostitution in 2014.


silviaSilvia Tecún León is a Maya Quiche lawyer and activist from Chichicastenango, Guatemala. Silvia works with Movimiento de Mujeres Indigenas Tz’ununija, a strong indigenous women’s rights organization in Guatemala on issues political mobilization, the rights of indigenous women, and the legal situation of women working to protect their territories against mining. Working in particular with women and girls that are victims-survivors of sexual violence, Silvia takes cases through the justice system as well as offering support for their material needs.

picturesforlondon 007Shelagh Day is an expert on human rights, with many years of experience working with governments and non-governmental organizations. She was the Director of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, the first President of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, and a founder of the Court Challenges Programme of Canada. Ms. Day is currently a Director of the Poverty and Human Rights Centre, and the Chair of the Human Rights Committee of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action.


Alda FacioAlda Facio is a feminist human rights activist, jurist and writer. Co-founder of the WHRI, she is an Expert Member of the UN Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice of the Human Rights Council; Director of the Women, Gender and Justice Program of the UN Latin American Institute for Crime Prevention (ILANUD), and was one of the founders of the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Alda has carried out hundreds of trainings for judges, police, and judicial officials throughout Latin America, as well as for women’s organizations and civil society throughout the world.

Co- sponsored by JASS Mesoamerica (Just Associates), the Indigenous Education Network (OISE/UT) & CUPE Ontario (Canadian Union of Public Employees)

Additional funding support from The Global Fund for Women and The Channel Foundation