Listen up ! Rural women, voices of resilience
Without rural women’s secure land tenure, there is no climate justice!
The work led by rural women(*1) across the globe has been crucial to advancing justice and equity in environmental and climate dialogues and decision-making spaces at local, national and international levels, and contributing to more inclusive and effective strategies for addressing environmental and climate challenges. These include:
- Establishing and managing community-based restoration and conservation areas, preserving and regenerating vital ecosystems and biodiversity while also ensuring local access to natural resources in a holistic manner, prioritizing people and planet.
- Promoting and implementing agroecological practices such as crop diversification, organic farming, and water harvesting, amongst others.
- Advocating for women’s as well as Indigenous and tribal communities’s right to land, leading to policy changes and legal reforms at the national level.
- Increased leadership and participation of women and Indigenous peoples in local and national governments and global policy spaces. At the international level this has ensured the adoption of critical declarations such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the inclusion of more gender-responsive language in climate agreements, including the UNFCCC Paris Agreement.
Notwithstanding the significant historical advocacy endeavors and the indispensable roles rural women play within our communities and movements, we remain a considerable distance away from realizing a genuinely just and equitable world for them.
At the heart of this challenge lies the critical issue of land tenure. Land is the foundation for biodiversity, health, shelter, livelihood, and climate resilience. It is also central to people’s and communities’ power and identity, carrying our histories, belief systems, as well as our connections with our ancestors and our ecosystems.
However, driven by globalized food systems, which are largely based on staple crops such as wheat, rice, corn, and soy(*2), land is valued as a commodity or an asset to serve the interests of large agroindustries and investors. Industrial agriculture uses large expanses of land for monocrops (*3), using similar techniques, machinery, chemicals, plant varieties and seeds across the globe. As a consequence, we are seeing severe land degradation and deforestation, loss of genetic diversity in crops (*4), as well as the erosion of ancestral and local food production practices and diets.
Large-scale agricultural industries exacerbate the issue of insecure land tenure by displacing smallholder farmers, Indigenous communities, rural women, youth, and landless rural populations from their already precarious land holdings. These vulnerable groups are already grappling with challenging circumstances resulting from environmental degradation and contamination in their territories, further intensified by the ongoing climate crisis.
Rural and indigenous women face additional hurdles in asserting their rights and securing access to land due to deeply ingrained patriarchal social norms, limiting women’s ability to make economic decisions and participate in decision-making processes related to natural resources, from household decisions to national policies.
Women in rural areas, globally, constitute 41% of the agricultural workforce, a figure that rises to 49% in countries in the Global South (*5). Unfortunately, their work is predominantly informal, characterized by low social protection and minimal or non-existent labor rights. Rural women, in particular, tend to fall into a poverty trap due to limited access to financial support. The traditional concept of the “head of the household” is often equated with men, leading to the exclusion of women from agricultural extension programs, data banks and support. Access to credit and loans is also limited for rural women.
In the year 2021, a staggering 60% of the human rights defenders who lost their lives were individuals advocating for land rights, environmental conservation, and Indigenous rights. Rural women, who in many cases are actively engaged in protecting their territories, face systematic violence, through criminalization, repression, targeting and displacement. In many cases this is overlooked and underreported.
Despite international recognition of the right to land, most women do not have access to land ownership. A recently published Oxfam report, which examined international commitments on women’s land rights, through the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Generation Equality Forum (GEF) Action Coalitions, indicated that out of 68 countries that reported on women’s rights to land ownership and/or control in their legal frameworks by 2022, only about 31% had laws that considerably protect women’s land rights.
Unfortunately, without transformational action on women’s land rights by key power holders, this situation will only get worse. Rural livelihoods, primarily based on agriculture, are directly threatened by climate-induced disasters. With estimates of up to 1.5 billion more hectares of land being degraded by 2030, we will see increased land tenure inequality and marginalization, particularly for those groups that have been socially and historically excluded. Women’s insecure land tenure will mean that rural women will face increased food insecurity, climate vulnerability, violence and loss of livelihoods.
CALL TO ACTION:
Since 2016, the International Analog Forestry Network has been collaborating with rural and Indigenous women and girls across the Global South, supporting them to become advocates and practitioners of Analog Forestry (*6) within their communities. A significant portion of the women we engage with are active members of community-based organizations at the forefront of collective efforts to champion environmental, social, and gender justice for their communities and territories. Additionally, they are driving initiatives for ecosystem restoration and the adoption/re-integration of agroecological practices, actively contributing to the natural cycles of regeneration in our planet. They are also enhancing their communities’ resilience in the face of the ongoing and ever-deepening climate crisis.
“There is no climate justice, without rural women’s secure land tenure!” Urgent action is needed to ensure land governance that centers ecosystem restoration, food sovereignty and gender justice. From IAFN, we join diverse movements and coalitions across the globe fighting for women’s land rights, to demand:
- Secure access and tenure for women to their main source of livelihoods: land, water, forests;
- Ensure women’s voices and power in decision making processes and local, national and international level, centering their knowledge, practices and leadership;
- Protect women land defenders
- Increase financial support and accompaniment to continue strengthening rural women’s work, knowledge and capacities in territorial and ecosystem restoration and management, centered on economic and social justice.
JOIN THE IAFN CAMPAIGN “LISTEN UP! RURAL WOMEN, VOICES OF RESILIENCE”
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You can find our Campaign Toolkit on THIS LINK (images, instructions to film your message, social media copy, etc.)
(*1) IAFN acknowledges and respects the diversity of gender identities and works with women, girls, and non-binary people.
(*3) Growing a single crop year after year on the same land
(*6) Analog Forestry is an approach to ecological restoration which uses natural forests as guides to create ecologically stable and socio-economically productive landscapes. For more information please visit https://www.analogforestry.org/.