Her Land, Her Rights: Empowering Women for Environmental Conservation
In commemorating World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought in June, this year’s themed, Her Land, Her Rights, we are reminded of the urgent need to safeguard our natural resources. Venter Mwongera, Communications and Advocacy Coordinator at ABN delves into the paramount importance of empowering women in the fight against environmental degradation.
As the scorching sun beats down upon our planet, leaving trails of arid wastelands in its wake, we are compelled to reflect on the significance of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. This annual observance serves as a solemn reminder of the dire consequences of environmental degradation. On such a day, themed Her Land, Her Rights, the world pays homage to the spirit of Mother Earth and highlights the paramount importance of empowering women in the fight against desertification and drought.
Desertification and drought know no boundaries. They transcend geographical barriers and affect communities around the world, with devastating consequences for the environment, livelihoods, and human well-being. And it is often the women who bear the brunt of these challenges. Women, particularly in rural areas, are intimately connected to the land, relying on it for sustenance, shelter, and economic opportunities.
“Women are the custodians of the environment. They are the ones who bear the burden of collecting firewood, fetching water, and feeding their families. They have a deep understanding of the importance of nature and the need to protect it,” states Gertrude Pswarayi-Jabson, National Coordinator, PELUM Zimbabwe. Consequently, they become the torchbearers of resilience in the face of ecological adversity.
“When you empower a woman, you empower a whole community. Women are the ones who mostly select and plant the seed, tend to the crops, and nurture the land. Their contribution to environmental conservation cannot be underestimated,” espouses Dennis Tabaro, Executive Director, AFRICE in Uganda.
Women as custodians of traditional knowledge
In many parts of the world, women are the custodians of traditional knowledge passed down through generations, equipping them with invaluable insights into sustainable land management. Their deep connection to the Earth empowers them to make informed decisions and implement practices that mitigate desertification and drought. Yet, all too often, their contributions go unnoticed, their voices unheard. “I have always believed that the key to sustainable development lies in the hands of women. When women are given the resources, knowledge, and support they need, they can work wonders in protecting the environment,” observes Ms Wanjiku Mwangi of Porini and an ally of ABN.
Empowering women is not merely a matter of justice, it is an imperative for sustainable development. When women are given equal rights and opportunities to access and manage land, they become agents of change, capable of transforming arid landscapes into flourishing oases. ” Sustainable land management programs that actively involve women at all stages tend to achieve their intended outcomes effectively in combating desertification and drought.” Dr. Regina Muthama, an advocate for sustainable food production systems.
Mere Jah, director of CEVASTE in Benin and the vice chairperson of ABN’s board agrees. “Women have an inherent understanding of the interconnectedness of environmental, social, and economic issues. They strive for holistic solutions that benefit both people and the planet.”
To Combat Desertification and Drought, we must prioritize policies and initiatives that support women’s land rights. This entails providing legal frameworks that recognize and protect their tenure rights, granting them equal access to resources, and ensuring their active participation in decision-making processes. “When women have secure land rights and access to resources, they become powerful agents in combating desertification and drought, leading the way towards a greener future,” says Dr. Fatima Patel, Environmental Policy Consultant.
Furthermore, investment in education and capacity-building programs for women is crucial to equip them with the knowledge and skills needed to combat desertification and drought effectively. “Women play a pivotal role in development agenda,” explains Rodrigue Mihindou, Muyissi Environnement in Gabon. “We see girls and women eager to learn and apply the land rights we pass on to their community groups. An enabling land rights policy allowing women to own land could contribute to combating of desertification as women care for the environment as they farm their land for food.”
Moreover, “We recognize the resilience and determination of women who have already taken the lead in this battle.” Mihindou adds. Women around the world have pioneered sustainable land management practices, restoring degraded ecosystems and revitalizing communities all across Africa. Their stories of triumph over adversity are listened to in awe, inspiring others to follow suit and igniting a global movement for change.
Preserving our planet’s fragile ecosystems and combatting desertification and drought is not a task that can be accomplished in isolation. It demands collaboration, inclusivity, and a recognition of the rights and wisdom of women. “I firmly believe that women have the power to change the course of our planet’s future. By supporting and empowering women in their environmental efforts, we create a ripple effect that benefits us all.” Wise words from the late Prof. Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, 2004.