Walk the talk
Rural women demand for accountability on land rights in Africa as we celebrate the second anniversary of the Kilimanjaro Initiative.
On December 11 2018, at the sidelines of the second ordinary session of the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, a parliamentary network on gender equality in land, agricultural investments and food security was launched.
At the backdrop of this achievement was a strong lobbying campaign driven by pan African rural women leaders from Southern, Eastern and Western Africa and international partners like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), and OXFAM.
Gathered in Abuja to commemorate the second anniversary of the Kilimanjaro Initiative, 58 women leaders engaged the ECOWAS Parliament, which was developing its gender action plan on agriculture to support its agricultural policy.
Patriarchal biases foil women’s rights policies
The fact that this African body is developing a gender plan is astonishing. But will it be enough to end gender injustice in the continent? Women shoulder land discriminations in patriarchal customary systems that govern rural tenure. For example, in many rural communities in Africa, women are not allowed to inherit land, either from their parents or from their husbands.
Although several countries have enacted laws ending discriminations against women and girls on land, this progress is yet to impact lives.
Systemic and structural barriers remain unaddressed. African governments have failed to establish clear roadmaps for the implementation of the many enacted gender friendly legal provisions. Unconscious patriarchal biases foil policy implementation, yet the pile of laws, policies and commitments to address gender concerns keep fattening.
Women mobilisation initiatives remain crutial
That is why collective rural women movements such as the Kilimanjaro Initiative will remain crucial in driving demands for accountability from governments.
The 2nd Anniversary was therefore an opportunity for pan African rural women to track the progress made at country and continental levels in realising the African rural women charter of demands launched in 2016 in Arusha, Tanzania and to hold governments responsible for their promises.
One way the rural women made progress in their two years of working together has been through influencing policy makers and legislators. Via increased advocacy, the Initiative was able to change these stakeholders’ perceptions and attitudes towards women’s land rights.
Women leaders are proud to have advocated for the creation of the ECOWAS Parliamentary network on gender equality in land, a policy building space created for deliberations with rural women. The network promises to be a high-level platform advocating for “best legislative practices” relevant to gender equality, responsible investments in agriculture and food security.
Furthermore, the Initiative is happy to have inspired gender affirmative actions on land governance in the continent. In 2017, the African Union (AU) recommended member states to “allocate 30% of documented land rights to women and improve land rights of women through legislative/other mechanisms.”
This is a strong commitment that needs more efforts for countries to endorse. That is why rural women of the Kilimanjaro Initiative are lobbying Regional Economic Commissions and other integrated bodies to take the lead in holding the AU and its Executive Committees accountable on this commitment. We want the development of a method of implementation and a monitoring framework for the 30% target which member states should report progress against.
On the occasion of the second anniversary of the Initiative, rural women asked ECOWAS Parliamentarians to nudge members states into deploying national public budgets to family farming, markets and value chains development. Women also asked Parliamentarians to campaign against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Africa, support AU guiding principles on land, promote regional mechanism to protect women’s rights, put in place a trust fund for rural women empowerment and address insecurity in the region, which has been making it difficult for women to farm.
The promised changes to rural women’s land rights in Africa are long overdue. Land offers a form of social and economic security and should be accessed by all. To all rural women and women land rights advocates, happy and revolutionary 2019!
Originally published on equal rights and edited for this platform.