The adverse conditions of colonization and the current paternalistic top down government approaches have created an environment where Indigenous women are politically disenfranchised and economically marginalized. This means Indigenous women are excluded from decision-making positions and forced into financially vulnerable positions, which poses further challenges to economic and social development.
Decades of research around the world has proven an important connection between access to culture and poverty reduction. Poverty, especially for Indigenous women, means being vulnerable to: violence, the lack of autonomy and access to services. Poverty is social disconnection, which is why cultural identity and social inclusion are absolutely necessary to poverty reduction.
According to the 2006 Census, more than 37% of Indigenous women, compared with 17% of non-Indigenous women, were living in poverty.1 Many Indigenous women live in invisible poverty. This includes food insecurity, lack of reliable health care, presence of fear in accessing services, low wages and social exclusion.
Women living in poverty are especially vulnerable to domestic violence because their financial instability makes it difficult for them to escape violence at home. This can lead to Indigenous women and girls being sexually exploited or going missing or murdered. We know from the National Inquiry’s Final Report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that this is an immense and devastating trend in Canada.