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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Ontario Native Women's Association Mother Earth Strategy

Ontario Native Women's Association (
Non-governmental organization (NGO)

    ONWA’s membership resolved that ONWA be leaders in the protection of ME and continue to pursue and advocate for the rights of ME pursuant to the Declaration of the Rights of ME so that we may fulfill our obligation to maintain harmony and balance for Seven Generations to come. Through our 2021-31 Strategic Picture, ONWA is committed to developing an internal and external ME Strategy that reflects Indigenous women’s responsibilities, traditional ecological knowledge, and practices with measurable impacts, acknowledging our ancestors, future generations, and all our relations. The development of our Strategy aligns with our membership’s resolutions and our ongoing support of local grassroots level activities. Our Water Commission Toolkit created in 2014 to support local water protectors in their advocacy is an example of this work.

    ONWA is developing the ME Strategy with feedback from our membership and Indigenous women and girls across Ontario and through engagement with national and international water and land protectors. We understand that to be a national and international leader, and to make real systemic change for Indigenous women, we will always begin with land, water, and ceremony. In doing so, we will demonstrate the strength of our culture and continue the healing and wellness that ceremony and land and water-based practices have brought to Indigenous women for thousands of years.

    The ME Strategy will honour our traditional and sacred teachings from Mother Earth and guide us in the protection of the natural environment through ceremony, knowledge mobilization, and traditional practices. Water and land-based healing and generational knowledge transfer have been the traditional and inherent roles and responsibilities of Indigenous women since time immemorial. The ME Strategy intends to support Indigenous women and girls through capacity building, systemic change, advocacy, and through the creation of safe spaces for land-based, trauma informed, and culturally safe healing practices. ONWA will strive to become a Centre of Excellence in the work to protect the environment and address climate change. We will model the change we want to see and build capacity for others (membership, youth, partners) to do the same. Our work will continue to acknowledge the leadership of all Indigenous women land- and water-protectors who have been at the forefront of action in protecting Mother Earth, including the women of Grassy Narrows (who spoke previously at the UN in 2016) who have been working to protect the waterways on their traditional lands and home community despite a lack of access to clean, healthy water.

    The ME Strategy acknowledges Indigenous women across the lifecycle have shared responsibility to protect, support, and care for the natural environment and all our non-human relations. This perspective is foundational to our future as Indigenous peoples and a central part of healing from the impacts of colonization and intergenerational trauma. As Indigenous women, we will use our traditional teachings and wisdom to heal the harms against Mother Earth. Indigenous women understand their responsibility to protect the air, land, and water.

    Expected Impact

    ONWA’s Mother Earth Strategy directly contributes to accelerating SDGs 5, 6, and 15.

    The climate crisis is impacting the health, safety, security, and ways of life of Indigenous communities, while also deepening existing conditions of inequality for Indigenous women, their families, and communities. With 90% of disasters now classified as climate or weather related, Indigenous communities and their territories face heightened risks related to the safety and sustainability of their lands and water systems. As stewards of their lands and waterways, Indigenous women are at the forefront of action defending their territories from irreversible harm. The traditional knowledge and cultural values Indigenous women hold are key to the protection and sustainability of the natural environment for all future generations in all communities. With this dire context in mind, Indigenous women as water carriers must have the safety to fulfil their obligation to ensure that the land and water are clean, accessible, unpolluted, and continues to fulfill its spiritual roles for our communities, grandchildren, and future generations.

    ONWA’s ME Strategy will support several initiatives to reclaim Indigenous women’s access to traditional practices throughout their healing journey. The ME Strategy will provide Indigenous women and girls the ability to reconnect with their culture and Mother Earth, and to reclaim their inherent cultural roles and their rightful place as leaders within the community. Substantive and meaningful solutions to address access to clean water and a healthy environment cannot be put forward until the systemic issues that impact Indigenous women, girls, and their communities are understood, addressed, and remedied. Doing the work to develop our ME Strategy will allow for Indigenous women and girls to gather and heal as a collective by leveraging cultural practices and generational knowledge transfer. Through the ME Strategy, we will build Indigenous women’s capacity by providing access to cultural and healing activities that not only support their healing but help them to share and teach their children and grandchildren. Indigenous women are the leaders in their families and in leading their families to wellness through the protection of Mother Earth, the health and wellbeing of Indigenous women and their communities will improve as a whole.

    Indigenous women who take up the role of land, water, or environmental defenders are well versed in establishing and practicing ongoing tactics and strategies to protect their children, families, and communities from the impacts of global climate change. The facilitation of knowledge-sharing between Indigenous women to strengthen global and local solidarity between Indigenous women in all countries must be protected. Through the updating of our Water Commission Toolkit as part of ME Strategy development, we expect that current and future generations of water protectors will be supported in the ongoing resistance and remediation of climate change and environmental degradation. The knowledge and expertise of Indigenous women and girls is vast, and through their positions as experts of traditional knowledge, our ME will be protected.


    ONWA's membership consists of 12 Chapters (incorporated Indigenous women’s organizations providing frontline services) and 21 Councils (grassroots groups of Indigenous women supporting community development models), representative of First Nations, Inuit, Metis, and non-status Indigenous women across Ontario.

    Additional information

    • ONWA – About Us, provides an outline of our values, strategic issues model, organizational structure, and 2021-2031 Strategic Picture:
    • ONWA – Full Moon Ceremony, shares our cultural teachings and practices with videos:
    • ONWA Water Commission Toolkit (2014):…

    Goal 5

    Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

    Goal 5


    End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere


    Whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non‑discrimination on the basis of sex


    Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation

    Proportion of ever-partnered women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to physical, sexual or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partner in the previous 12 months, by form of violence and by age


    Proportion of women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to sexual violence by persons other than an intimate partner in the previous 12 months, by age and place of occurrence


    Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation

    Proportion of women aged 20-24 years who were married or in a union before age 15 and before age 18


    Proportion of girls and women aged 15-49 years who have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting, by age


    Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate


    Proportion of time spent on unpaid domestic and care work, by sex, age and location


    Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life


    Proportion of seats held by women in (a) national parliaments and (b) local governments


    Proportion of women in managerial positions


    Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences


    Proportion of women aged 15-49 years who make their own informed decisions regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use and reproductive health care


    Number of countries with laws and regulations that guarantee full and equal access to women and men aged 15 years and older to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education


    Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws


    (a) Proportion of total agricultural population with ownership or secure rights over agricultural land, by sex; and (b) share of women among owners or rights-bearers of agricultural land, by type of tenure


    Proportion of countries where the legal framework (including customary law) guarantees women’s equal rights to land ownership and/or control


    Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women

    Proportion of individuals who own a mobile telephone, by sex


    Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels


    Proportion of countries with systems to track and make public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment

    Goal 6

    Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

    Goal 6


    By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all


    Proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services


    By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations


    Proportion of population using (a) safely managed sanitation services and (b) a hand-washing facility with soap and water


    By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally


    Proportion of domestic and industrial wastewater flows safely treated


    Proportion of bodies of water with good ambient water quality


    By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity

    Change in water-use efficiency over time


    Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources


    By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate


    Degree of integrated water resources management 


    Proportion of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation


    By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes

    Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time


    By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies

    Amount of water- and sanitation-related official development assistance that is part of a government-coordinated spending plan


    Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management


    Proportion of local administrative units with established and operational policies and procedures for participation of local communities in water and sanitation management

    Goal 15

    Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

    Goal 15


    By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements

    Forest area as a proportion of total land area
    Proportion of important sites for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity that are covered by protected areas, by ecosystem type


    By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally

    Progress towards sustainable forest management


    By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world

    Proportion of land that is degraded over total land area


    By 2030, ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, in order to enhance their capacity to provide benefits that are essential for sustainable development

    Coverage by protected areas of important sites for mountain biodiversity
    Mountain Green Cover Index


    Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species

    Red List Index


    Promote fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and promote appropriate access to such resources, as internationally agreed

    Number of countries that have adopted legislative, administrative and policy frameworks to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits


    Take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products

    Proportion of traded wildlife that was poached or illicitly trafficked


    By 2020, introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species

    Proportion of countries adopting relevant national legislation and adequately resourcing the prevention or control of invasive alien species


    By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts


    (a) Number of countries that have established national targets in accordance with or similar to Aichi Biodiversity Target 2 of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 in their national biodiversity strategy and action plans and the progress reported towards these targets; and (b) integration of biodiversity into national accounting and reporting systems, defined as implementation of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting


    Mobilize and significantly increase financial resources from all sources to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and ecosystems


    (a) Official development assistance on conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity; and (b) revenue generated and finance mobilized from biodiversity-relevant economic instruments


    Mobilize significant resources from all sources and at all levels to finance sustainable forest management and provide adequate incentives to developing countries to advance such management, including for conservation and reforestation


    (a) Official development assistance on conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity; and (b) revenue generated and finance mobilized from biodiversity-relevant economic instruments


    Enhance global support for efforts to combat poaching and trafficking of protected species, including by increasing the capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities

    Proportion of traded wildlife that was poached or illicitly trafficked
    Name Description
    Development of ONWA's Mother Earth Strategy
    Implementation of ONWA’s Mother Earth Strategy, including key internal and external actions
    Ongoing engagement, advocacy, and partnership development - ONWA's Annual AGA
    Ongoing engagement, advocacy, and partnership development - ONWA's 2024 She is Wise Conference (Theme: Water)
    Staff / Technical expertise
    ONWA staff across our 6 portfolios (Community Services, Community Development, Policy, Research and Engagement, Strategy and Communications, and Corporate Services) offer a spectrum of technical expertise.
    Other, please specify
    Community Collaboration through engagement, advocacy, and partnership development including cultural and traditional activities.
    Other, please specify
    Knowledge sharing and exchange through our various community events and annual gatherings including our annual She Is Wise conference and our Annual General Assembly
    No progress reports have been submitted. Please sign in and click here to submit one.
    Action Network
    water logo
    31 March 2023 (start date)
    01 April 2031 (date of completion)
    Ontario Native Women's Association
    1. North America
    Other beneficiaries

    ONWA’s Mother Earth Strategy is multi-pronged and wide-reaching with both internal and external initiatives and activities. The ME Strategy will directly benefit (internally) ONWA staff, membership and the Indigenous women and communities supported through ONWA’s direct services and membership-delivered services and supports. Externally, broader Indigenous communities, other organizations and the public both nationally and internationally will benefit from ONWA’s increased advocacy, knowledge-sharing, greening-efforts, and capacity building.

    More information
    Contact Information

    Cora, Executive Director