Media contacts:  
Joe Shaffner, Director of Communications, The Population Council, 
Kassel Garibay, Media Consultant, Indigenous Justice Circle,

New York, NY (April 15, 2024) — Today, the Population Council and the Indigenous Justice Circle (IJC) held an event, entitled “Indigenous Girls’ Movements: Strengthening Indigenous Systems and Self-Determination” on the sidelines of the 23rd Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). 

The event focused on raising awareness on the benefits of strengthening Indigenous systems that have historically offered support and social protection to Indigenous adolescent girls and Indigenous youth. Across the Americas, Indigenous girls and 2SLGBTQ+* youth experience discrimination and exclusion from mainstream systems that create unique barriers to Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. 

“While rich in culture, Indigenous girls and 2SLGBTQ+ face inordinate disparities in health, safety, economic opportunities, and domestic care responsibilities, said Dr. Kelly Hallman (enrolled, Cherokee Nation), Indigenous Justice Circle founder and CEO. “Through deep engagement with Indigenous communities across Native America, we are reaching the rising generation of girls, young women, and two-spirit people. These investments are foundational to democracy, inclusion, and renewal of Native American communities. We are equipping a new generation of Indigenous girls and young women to influence health, economic, education, and political systems for the benefit of Native American communities.” 

Often, Indigenous youth, and particularly girls, are a side conversation for initiatives focused on Indigenous communities. The Population Council and Indigenous Justice Circle are committed to partnering with the rising generation of Indigenous leaders to design intersectional approaches and programs that improve their right to self-determination, health, and well-being.  

As a Cherokee queer girl growing up in rural California,” said Olivia Girling Lease, Cherokee Nation descendant and educator, “Indigenous Justice Circle, through their Indigenous Young Leaders Cohort, has helped me navigate the Native American community in New York, as well as feel connected to Native girls and non-binary people all over the country. Working with IJC has helped me realize how best I can help my community, including developing a workshop for IJC’s on-the-ground intergenerational girls’ groups across Indian Country to help them reflect on issues they care about and provide skills for them to get involved in politics and community organizing.” 

Through Abriendo Oportunidades (AO), the Population Council’s Girl Innovation, Research, and Learning (GIRL) Center supports local governments in Mesoamerica with evidence-based programming. The Population Council launched AO in 2004 and for 20 years has provided tools and training to Indigenous youth in rural communities, ensuring that policies are responsive to the needs of Indigenous adolescent girls. The AO program offers peer-mentorship, professional development, and leadership skill-building opportunities across Guatemala and Mexico. Evaluation of the program showed that 100 percent of AO participants show higher aspirations to continue with their education and 94 percent of AO leaders wish to delay childbearing until after the age of 20.  

“Our experience working with multiple generations of Indigenous girls in Mesoamerica shows that investments in removing gender barriers to education are far from meeting the global commitments to empower the rising generation of girls and youth,” said Angel Del Valle, country representative of the Population Council’s Guatemala office and senior research officer. “We echo this year’s call to enhance the rights to self-determination by raising attention to the emerging movements of Indigenous girls that are under sourced and often disconnected from global and regional agendas.” 

The Indigenous Justice Circle and Population Council are looking forward to engaging current and new partners in the months ahead to expand this work across North, Central, and South America—ensuring that Indigenous communities are front and center to guarantee the greatest impact. 

* 2SLGBTQ+: Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and all other identities not encompassed. 


About Population Council 

The Population Council is a leading research organization dedicated to building an equitable and sustainable world that enhances the health and wellbeing of current and future generations. We generate ideas, produce evidence, and design solutions to improve the lives of people around the world. Learn more: Learn more about Abriendo Oportunidades (“Opening Opportunities”). 

About Indigenous Justice Circle  

Indigenous Justice Circle, a female, Native American-controlled nonprofit, convenes, connects, and strengthens Indigenous-led organizations to more systematically reach the rising generation of Indigenous girls and 2SLGBTQ+ with the aim of redirecting and transforming systems for the benefit of Native American and Indigenous communities. Learn more: Learn more about IJC’s Indigenous Adolescent Girls’ Empowerment Network and Indigenous Young Leaders programs.