Leaving the shadows: The situation of rural women in the Gran Chaco region of Argentina

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

In order to draw attention to rural women´s rights and access to land in the Gran Chaco region of Argentina before the UN CEDAW Committee, ILC members in Argentina elaborated an alternative report articulating work with diverse CSOs.

An interview with Daniela Savid (Fundación Plurales)

In order to draw attention to rural women´s rights and access to land in the Gran Chaco region of Argentina before the UN CEDAW Committee, ILC members in Argentina elaborated an alternative report articulating work with diverse CSOs. The report provided elements for the Committee to exert pressure on the Argentinean State so it complies with the responsibilities that governments joining the Convention take on.

Fundación Plurales, Fundapaz, Redes Chaco and Federación Argentina Agraria (FAA) had the important task of implementing and guiding a series of actions which resulted in the report Access to Natural Resources of Rural Women in the Gran Chaco Region, Argentina. This report was presented to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) at its 65th session [1], highlighting how the lack of access to land and other natural resources negatively impact on the lives and development of women in the Gran Chaco. [2]

In an interview with Daniela Savid of Fundación Plurales, we learnt more about the process to elaborate on this report.

THE PROCESS BEHIND THE ALTERNATIVE REPORT

"The objective of the report was to explain the situation, particularly for indigenous, criollas and peasant women of the Gran Chaco region in Argentina, of rural women´s rights in relation to access to land and natural resources, assessing as well the links to other interrelated rights". (Daniela Savid, Fundación Plurales)

To elaborate the report, the four organizations did extensive collaborative work with various civil society organizations (CSOs) of rural and indigenous women, aiming to collect their stories and to obtain first- hand information about the challenges they face. Participatory workshops with women of different Chaco territories were conducted to learn their views of their situation and public policies promoted, and to collect specific information of their experiences regarding land and other natural resources. At the start of the process, some women did not understand the possible impact of a report elaborated in a participatory manner.  When they later understood the relevance of presenting their own voices to an international body such as CEDAW, participation in the process highly increased.

"This stage was very rewarding as women of these civil society organizations, for the first time, were consulted on their rights, policies, and links to the State. The start was a bit difficult because women did not completely understand how to conduct the process to elaborate and present the report. They were unclear if the information they shared was intended to make a complaint or to draft a report within an international framework. Later, the process was very interesting, because women spoke their feelings and thoughts." (Daniela Savid, Fundación Plurales)

An important factor in the data collection process was that each organization worked from their own experiences, boosting the debate and the elaboration of the report.

"We ILC members organized ourselves into groups. Each group had a facilitator or person in charge who became responsible for each province. This resulted in a participatory process that engaged women of rural and indigenous communities from nearly the entire Chaco region in Argentina". (Daniela Savid, Fundación Plurales)

 

THE RESULT

The alternative report, also known as “shadow” report, gave evidence of a reality not previously addressed in the periodic reports submitted by the State of Argentina to CEDAW. It was possible to give voice to rural women, making public their concerns and struggles relating to lack of access to land and water, and to the increasing pollution of their natural resources by agrochemical use. It also showed the current close link, in their territory, between access to natural resources and women´s rights.

Thanks to the report, difficulties to access land and water of rural women in the Argentinean Gran Chaco region entered the CEDAW agenda. Another key achievement was that CEDAW, taking into account points and suggestions highlighted in the report, issued recommendations to the State of Argentina. In that sense, the report was an important tool to promote the rights of rural women, underlining as well how relevant was the involvement of the main actors: women themselves.

 

THE CHALLENGES

It is important to continue with processes of inclusive reporting such as this one. They not only help to advocate for women´s rights, but also have a positive impact on strengthening capacities and empower women to defend these rights.

"Most of us know about it but, in everyday life, the subject of peasant and indigenous women´s rights is rarely or never spoken, discussed or trained on. The workshops to elaborate the shadow report were spaces to strengthen capacities and to offer tools for women to use in actions at their municipalities, their communities and at other instances." (Daniela Savid, Fundación Plurales)

For the four organizations elaborating the report, the big challenge for the future is to monitor that CEDAW recommendations are implemented by the State of Argentina. A main task will be developing a strategy for it, and to support organizations to regularly revise indicators to check the country´s progress.


 [1] The 65th CEDAW session was held on October 31, 2016.

 [2] The Gran Chaco occupies 24% of Argentina national territory and it is home to approximately 41 thousand indigenous inhabitants

 

 

  • Access to the document  “Incidencia ante la commisión CEDAW para posicionar los derechos a la tierra de las mujeres rurales” (ILC Case Study 0022 Argentina ES) is available on ILC Good Practices database

Learn more about women´s land rights actions promoted by ILC here.