The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navy Pillay, asked Mexican Indians to fight against resistance to their occupying "positions of power."

She met with the members of indigenous groups from the southern state of Oaxaca at the seat of the state government in the last public event of Pillay's two-day visit to the region.

The U.N. official came to get a first-hand look at the situation in Oaxaca, 70 percent of whose 3.8 million residents are Indians.

She urged the Oaxaca state government "to acknowledge, explicitly and legally, the rights of the indigenous peoples, to undertake consultations and (achieve) a free and informed consensus."

"Consultation is now a legal obligation for Mexican states at all levels, and it's also a key tool for dialogue and understanding," Pillay said.

In Oaxaca, Indian communities like San Jose del Progreso, Capulalpan de Mendez and Santa Maria Zaniza have opposed big mining projects on their lands.

The commissioner noted that "the advance in a nation's health, to a great extent, is due to the level of advancement of its feminine population and if a woman is educated, an entire society is educated."

Pillay, whose family originated in India, commented that she herself is an example "of a woman who suffered discrimination."

"Indigenous women suffer two types of discrimination, as indigenous people and as women," she said, recalling her personal experience as a non-white and civil rights lawyer in apartheid South Africa.

She urged Mexico's indigenous leaders "to renew your commitment to improve the situation of women and promote their political participation and their leadership."

Pillay said that the efforts of women in the battles of the indigenous peoples should be recognized "and the indigenous peoples should fight against the resistance that exists against them."

Also present at the meeting were Oaxaca Gov. Gabino Cue and state assembly speaker Eufrosina Cruz, a Zapotec Indian woman who won election as a lawmaker after men stopped her from running for mayor of her community, Santa Maria Guiegolani.