Vision Statement

NWAC envisions education as a holistic, life-long process that empowers all Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people to achieve their aspirations and contribute to their communities, nations and societies. Education is the practice of freedom. Everyone has the right to discover the knowledge, skills and tools they need to pursue a just and sustainable future.  

Education is my healing journey. I do things that give back to [the] community. I go through the journey of research. I navigate and utilize the classroom to give me space to give back to my community.”

 National Engagement Session Participant 2018. A national engagement session and an online survey were distributed to help raise awareness of the PSE barriers affecting Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people.

Traditional Drum

Summary

Indigenous education is built on the values and practices informed by Indigenous cultures, languages and histories. It is a dynamic lifelong process that encompasses formal and informal learning. It includes experiential and land-based learning, early childhood education, elementary and secondary school, post-secondary education and professional training. Indigenous education includes the emotional, physical, spiritual and intellectual dimensions of learning. The primary role of Indigenous education is to transmit Indigenous ways of being while providing support and resources that allow students to reach their full potential as healthy, creative members of their communities.

In the 2011 census, Statistics Canada reported over 700,000 Indigenous women in Canada. Indigenous women and youth made up 44% of the Indigenous female population.1 Indigenous girls are more likely to attend underfunded schools that lack basic infrastructure, culturally appropriate resources and family services. They are more likely required to leave their families and communities to attend school. Indigenous women and girls have the most to lose by being denied their basic right to education. They face greater risks of poverty, poor health and unemployment compared to any other demographic with similar levels of education.

According to UNICEF report The State of the World’s Children 2004, education has a wide range of benefits for society.2

White Wave Design

In particular,

  1. When girls are educated, then as mothers they are more likely to send their children to school.3
  2. Educated women are less likely to die during childbirth. As well, they also have a positive influence on a child’s life including children are better nourished and get sick less often.4
  3. Children of educated mothers are also less likely to be victims of exploitative labour and trafficking. 5
  4. There is also a significant improvement in overall education of children and economic development when girls are educated which benefits all of society. 6

The benefits of educating Indigenous women and girls are felt by everyone. Closing Canada’s education gap would result in the cumulative benefits of $400.5 billion in additional national output and $115 billion in avoided government expenditures over the 2001-2026 period.7

In 2017 and 2018, the Native Women’s Association of Canada completed two reports that focused on Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people who attended or utilized early childhood learning and post secondary education. In both reports, most of the participants found cost and structural constraints to be the most substantial barriers to accessing education. The need to address inadequate funding, delivery and facilities at all levels of education is increased by the intergenerational effects of systemic and structural discrimination.

From these findings, NWAC has come forward with recommendations for improving the educational opportunities and outcomes of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people. These recommendations ensure that Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people have control over the availability and content of the education provided to Indigenous communities.

Recommendations

1. Invest in better facilities, services and training for the education of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people.  

2. Empower Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people by giving them control over the content, goals and processes of their education. 

3. Develop an Indigenous education act that explicitly recognizes the authority of Indigenous people in determining their education. This act should enable the establishment of a distinctions-based strategy to ensure all Indigenous students have the tools they need to succeed.

  1. Statistics Canada “Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report”<https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-503-x/2015001/article/14313-eng.htm>.
  2. UNICEF “The State of the World’s Children 2004”< https://www.unicef.org/sowc04/sowc04_girls_positive_force.html>.
  3. UNICEF “The State of the World’s Children 2004”< https://www.unicef.org/sowc04/sowc04_girls_positive_force.html>.
  4. UNICEF “The State of the World’s Children 2004″< https://www.unicef.org/sowc04/sowc04_girls_positive_force.html>.
  5. UNICEF “The State of the World’s Children 2004″< https://www.unicef.org/sowc04/sowc04_girls_positive_force.html>.
  6. UNICEF “The State of the World’s Children 2004”< https://www.unicef.org/sowc04/sowc04_girls_positive_force.html>.
  7. Sharpe & Arsenault, 2010 Investing in Aboriginal Education in Canada; An Economic Perspective CSCS Research Reports 2010-03, Centre for the Status of Living Standards.