Dec 10, 2018 Last Updated 11:01 PM, Dec 9, 2018

The woman at the heart of sustainable development

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Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”[1]

All over the world, gender inequality makes and keeps women poor, depriving them of basic rights and opportunities for well-being.[2]The root of this discrimination is in the way of considering women as nonexistent on their own as full human beings but as always attached to someone else: a daughter or a wife of someone.

In Africa, mostly in patriarchal systems, women have been considered as entitled to no rights or to fewer rights than men. Popular beliefs in some cultures still consider them as having no right to own property in general and land in particular. If a woman hopes to someday inherit family property, the law may deprive her of an equal share, or social convention may simply favor her male relatives.[3] It is not uncommon to see a man taking over a property of his deceased brother or uncle when the late has left descendants especially when they are mainly or only girls. For many women therefore, access to land is not a guaranteed right and the consequences are even harsher for rural and unmarried or divorced women who cannot survive without land as it is their only source of income for themselves and their families.

Land is a very important natural resource and it is at the heart of everything human beings do. The inequalities in women’s rights to land affect their self-esteem and potential contribution to the welfare of the society; yet they are the primary producers of food, the ones in charge of working the earth, maintaining seed stores, harvesting fruit, obtaining water and safeguarding the harvest.[4] Many communities in African countries rely on subsistent farming as their source of livelihood.[5] Women comprise on average 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, and over 50 per cent in parts of Asia and Africa.[6] Research from the International Food Policy Research Institute has found that equalizing women’s status would lower child malnutrition by 13 percent (13.4 million children) in South Asia and by 3 percent (1.7 million children) in Sub-Saharan Africa. Experimental work suggests that increasing resources controlled by women promotes increased agricultural productivity.[7] Land being a very important resource, it is hard to believe that women can have an increased control of it while they are still limited by unequal right to access it and other productive assets; only 20 per cent of landowners globally are women.[8]

The majority of women in developing countries face situations of discrimination at the hand of the national authorities and the international community. The European Union recognizes “in words” that women’s equal access to land helps guarantee the respect of fundamental human rights, including the rights to adequate food, shelter, non-discrimination and equality; the right not to be evicted; and the right to effective remedy, etc.[9] However big companies from the same EU and other wealthy countries are responsible of various human rights violations affecting women particularly in depriving them from accessing and using their land. This happens in the conclusion of large-scale land deals for commercial agriculture. The main goal of investment in land becomes then about providing food and energy for wealthier countries using the land and water of the poor. It stands to reason therefore that large-scale land deals exacerbate poor conditions of female land access and ownership or further limit poor rural women’s opportunities for income generation.

Women have a right to equal access to all avenues to end poverty. Including attention to gender is not only a matter of social equity, but is also central to poverty reduction. If a woman is already suppressed by her own people in undermining or taking over her right to property, how much more distressing will it be for her when outsiders come in? In taking over people’s land, multinationals and large companies that are promoted in the name of “rural development” are extinguishing a candle that was already weak because land is all they rely on for their livelihood.

A woman is a string that binds the family together. Therefore, land deals that take resources away from women do not only reduce the welfare of women but also participate in the disruption of the entire family. Private and international investors, who conclude land deals with local governments, have to pay attention to the injustice affecting women in land rights. If they are genuinely motivated by sustainable development of communities, they have to make sure that the outcomes of their investments are equally distributed. Governments urgently need to bridge gaps between their existing programs that target gender equality and how they are applied in reality. The end of poverty cannot be achieved without ending gender-based discrimination.

VIDEOS

Kibera Slum in Nairobi: Women Need Equal Rights to Land | Kenya:

The women denied rights to own land: 

NOTES:

[1] Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations: https://www.google.be/search?q=kofi+annan+quotes+on+gender+equality&tbm

[2] women and sustainable development goals: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/2322UN%20Women%20Analysis%20on%20Women%20and%20SDGs.pdf

[3] Idem

[4]https://esthervivas.com/english/without-women-there-is-no-food-sovereignty/

[5] Land grabs and their effect on women’s rights to cultivation in Ghana and Malawi: https://dspace.nwu.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10394/20388/Motloung_MA_2016.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y  

[6] women and sustainable development goals: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/2322UN%20Women%20Analysis%20on%20Women%20and%20SDGs.pdf

[7] Behrman, Julia & Meinzen-Dick, Ruth & Quisumbing, Agnes. (2012). The gender implications of large-scale land deals. The Journal of Peasant Studies.

[8] women and sustainable development goals. Op. Cit

 

[9] Women’s land rights matter. How EU development cooperation can help close the gender gap in land tenure

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