Rural women farmers till the lands and plant seeds to feed nations. They ensure food security for their communities and build climate resilience. However when it comes to owning land, accessing agricultural inputs, financing and technologies for climate resilience, they are left far behind men.
In Ghana, although a number of international conventions, protocols and treaties have been adopted, together with its national legal frameworks, there is the need to emphasise commitments to ensure equality of all persons before the law and better land governance systems, focusing on improving women’s land rights.
Unfortunately, significant pieces of evidence still suggest that the rights of rural women are not fully protected when it comes to access to productive land. This could be attributed to economic, social and cultural factors; thus, inhibiting rural women’s access and control over land and natural resources.
Status of rural women in Ghana
Rural women in Ghana produce close to 60 per cent of the country’s food and contribute 50 to 70 per cent of the labour force within the agricultural sector. This notwithstanding, rural women earn only 10 per cent of the income and own about eight per cent of the land.
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This hinders their ability to access other sources of production because of their lack of land titles. They produce, process and prepare most of the food consumed locally, thereby making them the primary stakeholders for food security.
One of the major factors affecting rural women’s access to and control over land is ignorance of their land rights. In addition to this, the high cost of land, coupled with their role in performing unpaid care work, denies them access to adequate income.
Most of them are unable to raise the needed amount of money required to access land in their communities. Commercialisation and urbanisation of most of our community lands are factors for the prohibitive cost of land in most of our communities.
The length of time and the cumbersome land registration process are other factors that prevent rural women farmers from documenting their land and acquiring land tenure security.
Cultural barriers, including patriarchal and social norms still remain a major setback to women’s land rights. Land largely remains the domain of male privilege. In some communities in Ghana, rural women’s access to land is still dependent on their relationship with a male family member and is forfeited when the relationship ends.
Lack of political will is another major setback. Ghana has passed very progressive laws with gender equality provisions in the heart of it; however, there is lack of political will reinforcing the marginalised position of women, which undermines efforts to improve women’s rights. It also hampers wider strategies for economic development.
At the African level, rural women farmers experienced marked improvement in their struggle for improved systems to access and control over land and natural resources within the year 2016.
That year witnessed the following:
• The transitioning of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
• The 26th African Union Summit declared 2016 as the “Africa Year of Human Rights with particular focus on the Rights of Women”
• The launch of the Kilimanjaro Initiative Campaign by rural women on the International Day of the Rural Women which falls on October 15 every year
Overview, objectives of Kilimanjaro Initiative Campaign
The launch of the Kilimanjaro Initiative Campaign was commemorated by 500 rural women from 22 African countries. These women assembled at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro, located in Tanzania, East Africa, in October 2016, where they developed and proclaimed a Charter of Demands bordering on access to and control over land and natural resources.
This campaign aimed at calling on the relevant stakeholders to prioritise the issues affecting women’s land rights, strengthening the agency and movement of rural women in claiming and defending their land and natural resource rights in Africa, and engendering political will among national governments, donor and regional institutions to implement an all-inclusive African women’s charter.
Charter of Demands
The major outcome of the launch of the campaign was the declaration of the Kilimanjaro Initiative Charter of Demands. This is a document containing 15 demands by rural women on ways the government, policy makers and international partners should work to advance rural women’s land rights in Africa.
Key provisions in the Kilimanjaro Initiative Charter of Demands include: (traditional, community, religious and land sector actors), youth, people with disabilities and women on the laws and policies on land
• Women empowerment by enabling them to access their land rights, technology and financial resources to improve their livelihood
• Banning harmful and oppressive cultural practices that undermine women’s rights, including those that prohibit women from inheriting land and other resources
• Women and communities to have a say on what land, investors and companies invest in their communities. These investors must be obligated to provide information about the impact of their investment (sustainability - economic, environment, health, social and infrastructure)
• Enacting and amending laws to provide safeguards to women’s land rights
• Translating land policies and laws into simplified versions and accessible local languages
Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), Ghana, under the Oxfam GROW campaign, wishes to use this opportunity to remind the government, policy makers, land sector agencies and international partners on their commitments to advancing women’s rights in Ghana.
We are also calling on all stakeholders to commit resources to the actualisation of the provisions contained in the Kilimanjaro Charter of Demands to ensure the rights of rural women farmers are promoted and protected and to contribute to the realisation of Goals One, Two and Five of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that respectively relate to: ending poverty in all its forms everywhere, ending hunger to achieve food security and improved nutrition, as well as promoting sustainable agriculture, and achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.