Thursday, March 27, 2014

African women push for equality in land and resource rights

Elias Ntungwe Ngalame at the Thomson Reuters Foundation: ....[M]illions of female African farmers ... are disadvantaged by cultural practices and laws that deny them equal access to land. But African women’s rights activists are intensifying their efforts to push governments to speed up land reform processes and establish clear legislation securing women’s rights to own, access and control land and other natural resources.

According to Gregory Muluh, coordinator of the Grassfield Project, a government initiative assisting women farmers in Cameroon’s northwest, the country still has no law that protects land tenure for women.

“Even if people know that refusing women the right to own land is wrong, there is nowhere to complain, and women end up swallowing a bitter pill,” Muluh told Thomson Reuters Foundation during a visit to the Grassfield Project last year. “Instituting a legal provision to safeguard the rights of women to land ownership is imperative if we really want them to contribute fully to development.”

The African Women's Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF), an international NGO, believes only reforms that include legal safeguards giving women equal say in decisions made by customary and state authorities on managing land and forest resources will boost gender equality on the continent.

“We know that wherever land rights are being ignored, women are indisputably the most affected. Banding together and raising awareness of these issues is the first step toward ensuring all women’s rights are recognised,” C├ęcile Ndjebet, president of REFACOF, told Thomson Reuters Foundation....

A farmer at the women’s agricultural cooperative of Walikaly village in Siguiri Prefecture, Guinea. Shot by Laura Lartigue for USAID

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