Women's Land Rights Conference
The 3rd Pan African Conference focusing on Land Rights for Women was held on a high note as hundreds of delegates from different African countries converged in Nairobi to attend and share experiences. ACORD, ActionAid and Oxfam with support from more than 10 other partners convened the week-long African Women's Land Rights Conference, from 30th May to 2nd June 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya.
Janah Ncube; facilitator.
The conference brought together women's and land rights activists and organisations including farmer associations, pastoralist groups, women survivor groups, lawyers, academics in the field of land, agrarian reform and women's rights as well as parliamentarians that are committed to strengthening women's rights in Africa.
The aim of the Pan African conference was to re-energise the struggle for women's land rights, access to justice and reparation for survivors of sexual violence. These are fundamental human rights which are the basis for women's empowerment, improved food security and social justice in Africa.
Africa's Dependence on Land
In his message to the delegation, The Assistant Minister for Lands, Hon. Gonzi Rai observed that the economies of most countries in Africa are largely dependent on land resources, yet land-related problems have been a big impediment for effective utilization of these vital resources.
"In Kenya, land is critical to economic, social and cultural development of our Nation and plays a key role in promotion of the Government effort in eradication of poverty, attainment of gender equality and women empowerment towards achievement of Millennium Development Goals"
From statements by different speakers from across the African continent, it was clear that a lot more needs to be done to guarantee the rights of women to land ownership in Africa. Heightened competition for land has immediate impacts on women's land tenure security and land-use options. Other factors such as cultural barriers, costs of living, and their ability to afford the price of farm land were noted as continuing to hamper the struggles of women in Africa to attain the rights to land.
Land is resurfacing as a contentious issue in the face of increasing global interests in land, water, food, and fuel security. Violence against women continues to undermine women's rights including land and property rights. More competition for land, as seen in large land grabs, has immediate impacts on women's land tenure security and food security in a situation where the achievement of women's land rights remains a challenge in Africa.
Recent initiatives to address land issues in Africa include new land laws and titling projects in a number of countries and the African Union Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa. Many organisations continue to work on practical projects and advocacy to address land issues. We need to learn from these experiences and understand the new challenges and opportunities for women's land rights and land use. Furthermore, African women and girls face increasing violence due to conflicts and a culture of violence and patriarchy in many countries. Accessing justice for victims of SGBV has never been easy and needs clear policies and actions to end impunity and protect women.
Justice and Reparations for Women.
The conference focused on sharing new information on the situation of women's land and food rights as well as access to justice and reparations in order to devise actions to improve these rights. This was achieved through the sharing of case studies and research and engaging in discussions drawing on the experiences of the wide variety of participants at the event. The gender component aimed at building on existing work and approaches on ending impunity on SGBV in conflict and post conflict situations and empowering women in Africa as a way of reducing their vulnerability to poverty and violence.The programme covered the areas of:
- Learning from recent land reforms and their impact on women;
- Agricultural policies, programmes, investments, and appropriate farming models;
- Land grabs, land conflicts, and women's already fragile rights to land;
- Linkages between land rights, SGBV, conflict, and compensation for women;
- Women's right to access justice and reparations;
- Women's land and natural resources rights struggles that can inspire further action;
- Climate change and impact on woman farmers and pastoralists;
- Field visits to learn about women asserting their rights and challenges still faced;
- What needs to be done and developing a plan of action to advance women's rights.
A new web-based platform has also been set up for sharing the papers and discussions after the conference. This is being used to take forward certain online debates following the conference. Presentations and other papers shared during the conference, as well as related documentation and fresh material can be accessed through the website. To access log on to www.landforafricanwomen.org and register.
Fundamental Rights to Land
Working for social justice and development, ACORD recognises the critical value of land for women who grow 70% of Africa's food. ACORD is working to strengthen the capacity of women and girls to claim their rights and meet their own needs.
We must also ensure that crimes of SGBV and seizures of land do not remain unpunished and women survivors are recognised by judicial systems, protected and compensated.
For more information, you can view ACORD's Women and Land Rights web page and watch the 30- minute film from Rwanda titled ‘Women and Girls Heads of Households in Post-Conflict Rwanda'. Also link to the conference website and post comments, share resources and views on land rights.