The International Day of Rural Women took place on October 15, 2020 under the theme: “Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19.” The worldwide celebrations happened at the backdrop of heightened vulnerability of rural women’s rights to land and resources due to the pandemic.
The World Bank’s Gender and Covid-19 brief reveals that though women and girls have been affected by the pandemic in certain ways, in some areas, women have faced more negative impacts than men.
This echoes what stakeholders at the Africa Land Forum, held last September, said about land rights of rural women.
A session on inclusion and gender equality looked at how meeting the targets set in Agenda 2063 Implementation Plan (2013 -2023) are instrumental in unlocking the potential of the continent in post COVID-19 era, thus advancing land rights for rural women.
Agenda 2063 of the AU emphasises the need for gender equality, parity, and women’s empowerment; ensuring that rural women have access to land and natural resources.
In this regard, Esther Obaikol, a land tenure expert at IGAD, reaffirms the AU aspirations stating that 1 in every 5 women must have secure tenure rights, access, and control to land and other productive resources.
Ms. Obaikol admitted that gaps still exist, especially in the horn of Africa where only 1% of women have access to productive resources. “We need to step up and strengthen women’s land rights,” she said.
International Land Coalition (ILC) has been stepping up the fight by developing several approaches and tools to improve the state of women’s land rights at the rural community level.
ILC has contributed to different initiatives and strategies such as the Women Land Rights Action Plan, the ILC Africa Gender Justice and Women Land Rights Charter, the Women’s Land Rights Strategy and the Kilimanjaro Initiative.
“We have also established a Women for Women mentorship network,” said Sabine Pallas, the Donor Liaison, Strategic Communications & Gender Justice lead at ILC.
Another woman, Gertrude Karimu, the National Coordinator, Women's Network for Environmental Sustainability in Sierra Leone said that in some parts of Sierra Leone, rural women are still not able to own and use land due to prevailing customary laws and statutory laws.
It was observed that lack of economic empowerment impedes rural women from improving their livelihood. Esther Mwaura, the Global Women Land Rights Manager at ILC reflected that if land tenure for women and girls could be secured, over 50% of unequal gender power relations, economic injustice and gender-based violence among rural, urban and indigenous communities living in poverty, could be addressed.
Reaffirming that point, Fridah Githuku, the Director of GROOTS Kenya said that securing women’s land rights could reduce Africa’s troubles by 50%.
It now remains to implement the decisions taken on women’s land rights at the Africa Land Forum 2020, on moving gender justice to grass root levels, to begin to see change.