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Uncounted: the hidden lives of Batwa women

7 May 2010

Despite being the original inhabitants of the equatorial forests of Africa’s Great Lakes region, Batwa are, in official terms, practically invisible. Facing ongoing discrimination resulting in poverty, unemployment and poor access to education and health care, their situation is compounded by a lack of acknowledgement of their struggles by their respective governments. It is extremely difficult, frequently impossible, to find statistics and data about the Batwa communities in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda; it is even harder to find gender-specific data about the situation of Batwa women and girls.

Yet comprehensive and disaggregated data collection is vital to ensure that governments meet their obligations to protect minorities and indigenous peoples under international law, and that development programmes respond sufficiently and appropriately to the specific needs of Batwa. The requirement is particularly great in relation to Batwa girls and women who, as previously documented by Minority Rights Group International (MRG), suffer multiple forms of discrimination.

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Kathryn Ramsay