The International Land Coalition reported on LANDac’s Learning Event on the Women and Secure Land Rights in Africa project, held in April 2018 in Nairobi:
Gender means many things to people, but one image that usually comes to mind once this word echoes is women. A research initiative is putting men in the picture and changing the debate architecture.
For too long, the gender debate mainly focused on women. But the spotlight, so far, does not empower women enough or increase their place in the society. A new approach is bringing men to champion women’s rights in rural communities across Africa.
Focused on improving land governance from the grassroots, the idea brings powerful men to work with women and advocate for their land rights.
We want women to have full rights to access land, for grazing and building their houses, says Chief Samson Ole Monto of Likipia North constituency, Kenya. Likipia has been a hotbed for tensions for years and has a history of repressing women. With the initiative, Chief Ole, now cherish women’s contribution to the development of his community, thus understands the importance of campaigning for their land rights.
Led by six civil society organizations—Enda Pronat in Senegal, ADECRU and Forum Mulher in Mozambique, ActionAid in Kenya, and Oxfam in Malawi—as well as ILC members GROOTs Kenya and the Netherlands Land Academy (LANDac), the initiative works in the four countries to scale up promising initiatives that work toward securing women’s land rights from the grassroots. These initiatives are inspired by the voices and every day experiences of women.
The research initiative makes gender activism inclusive by involving men. During activities, women and men learn to advocate together for women’s rights to other hostile men and communities.
Transform island of action to ocean of impact
Building on the momentum generated by the Kilimanjaro initiative-that ILC supports, the participatory action research programme gathers knowledge and harnesses successful grassroots-led women land rights ideas to scale all over Africa.
As Frits van der Wal from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs- the programme’s funder-puts it, the programme works to“transform an island of success into a sea of change”for Africa.
African royalties campaign for women land rights
Though such ideas have met fierce resistance in the past, African royalties are embracing it. For example, Paramount Chief, Inkosi ya Makosi M’mbelwa V, 34, of Mzimba district in Malawi welcomes the liberal ideas. Particularly as such ideas brandish values existing in traditional customs. In his Kingdom, women have rights to own and inherit land.
An important hallmark of the research programme is that grassroots civil society leaders and experts are also champions. In a two-day learning workshop held at the Concord Hotel and Suites in Nairobi, Kenya on April 22-23 2018, land rights activists–again, both women and men–clashed in ideas and learnt from each other.
Local champions, males and females, developed dialogues from their own perspectives and then shared methods and tactics used to campaign for rights and for sustainable development that would benefit all.
Fridah Githuku, Executive Director of GROOTS Kenya, facilitated one of the sessions. GROOTS Kenya is a national movement of grassroots and women-led community-based groups working for effective engagement in development through movement building, leadership and advocacy GROOTS Kenya became an ILC member in 2018.
More advocacy required
From the discussions, it is clear there is progress in the countries where the programme focuses, but communities need more efforts to transform the dynamism created in to real progress for people.
For Ms Trevenia Mwamburi, a grassroots woman and local champion who convinced her husband and other local chiefs to also become champions, the way forward is more advocacy.
“I cannot say our rights are sufficiently protected, we are still struggling,” says Ms Mwamburi. Few women hold land tittles and pursue their land rights. Ms Mwamburi is taking the rights campaign to men, women and youth in communities.
While home, “we go around the community, building bigger forums for men, women and youth,” she adds.