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A new blog for IIED on What Women Want to happen when their communities are affected by land deals.

Our work on gender, land and accountability, which looks at large-scale land acquisition processes in sub-Saharan Africa, has highlighted a lack of opportunities for women to be involved in key discussions that affect their livelihoods.

Consultation processes between investors and local communities commonly rely on traditional land governance structures, which are led by men. When it comes to land issues, men are considered to be the official owners of the land, and to represent the wider communities.

These consultations between local communities and investors are crucial as this is when the implications of the changes proposed by investors on land use and livelihoods are discussed. They are the opportunity for the community members to put forward demands and to highlight key needs.

All too often, only men are involved in these discussions, and women’s voices are excluded. This can have long-term and deeply felt impacts on their lives and livelihoods.

 

Read more here.

Sharing a new blog I have been working on for IIED.

(G)ender inequalities in land governance can be seen as the result of women not being involved in local decision-making processes around land. They are also connected to wider gender discrimination in local or cultural practices, and to attitudes in social hierarchies…. it clear how important it is to have a good understanding of the issues at a local level. For projects seeking to improve women’s access to land, exploring these local dynamics is key to addressing root inequalities.

Read the full piece here. 

Sharing a new briefing I have been working on about gender equal land governance.

Discussions around gender equality in land governance in sub-Saharan Africa often highlight the fact that only a small percentage of women own land, and many projects addressing land and gender in the region focus on women’s ability to acquire land. But this framing does not fully convey the breadth of challenges women face in relation to land stewardship, such as involvement in decision making. Based on learning from an event that brought together 28 NGO practitioners and academics from East and West Africa, this briefing suggests that any attempt to tackle gender inequalities in land governance must also take into account local contexts and gender dynamics. Projects must start at a household level, put aside easy assumptions about customary practice, and — perhaps most crucially — ensure that women’s voices are solicited and heard.

Download the full briefing here.

women farmers

Securing a right to land for women, we expect to find that it will protect her economic security and also her livelihoods, as well as her rights in divorce and inheritance. We don’t often think it will also protect her right to say ‘no’. Yet, some studies highlight that securing a land right for a woman, goes far beyond the direct obvious benefits of secure tenure. These additional benefits include assuring control over her sex life.

A report by OSI, called Securing Women’s Land and Property Rights’ refers to research which makes distinct connections between securing control of economic assets, in particular land, as a important for women to also have control over their sex lives.

To give some examples:

  • One study from Western Kenya shows that the integration of women’s property and inheritance rights with HIV prevention and treatment reduces HIV risk.
  • Research in Kerala, India shows that 49 % of women with no property reported physical violence compared to only 7 % of women who did own property. This is an enormous difference.

These would both suggest that feeling secure about property and livelihood, make women also feel secure in her home and regards her emotional relationships.

A quote from Rasghida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, also brings this home:

“Inequality and sex-based discrimination with regard to land ownership and its effective control, is the single most critical contributor to violations of the economic, social and cultural rights of women among the agrarian economies of most developing countries.”

As does one from Caroline Sweetman, in a paper for Oxfam:

“Efforts to fight HIV and AIDS around the world are ineffective in protecting young women in particular from infection because they fail to focus sufficiently on the need for women to have control of economic assets if they are ever to gain control over their sex lives.”(Caroline Sweetman, ‘How Title Deeds Make Sex Safer: Women’s Property Rights in an Era of HIV,’ From Poverty to Power: Background Paper, Oxfam, 2008.)

It is easy to forget or overlook the links between issues such as land and reproductive rights, yet so enlightening when links like these are made. When we work in the NGO sector, we are all too often encouraged to focus on only one topic, with little time to explore the connecting issues. Yet, when you think about it, it makes so much sense: providing a woman with secure ownership and decision making power over the place where she lives and earns her livelihood, allows her to make empowered choices in other parts of her life and most especially inside her own home.

It makes we wonder, how can we highlight these links more often into our work? Or are there ways to strengthen these benefits by being aware of them?

Further Reading:

So many interesting recommendations on this list. Don’t know where to start. I will report back when I have the chance to read some of them!

TED Blog

summerreadinglist_istock_34481384_HiRes_983pxSummer: the season for cracking open a good book under the shade of a tree. Below, we’ve compiled about 70 stellar book recommendations from members of the TED community. Warning: not all of these books can be classified as beach reads. And we think that is a good thing.

books-Elizabeth-GilbertPicks from Elizabeth Gilbert, author 

The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman. “The only book I have ever bought by the crate-load. I give copies of this sumptuous masterpiece to everyone I care about. I could try to describe it further, but … it would be more efficient if you just read it yourself. (Watch Maira Kalman’s TED Talk, “The illustrated woman.”)

Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror in Science by Richard Holmes. “I just finished writing a novel about
18th- and 19th-century scientific exploration, and this engaging book was a…

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A series of photos on Betel Nut from Dawei in the south of Myanmar. Betel is popular in Myanmar and is chewed as a stimulant. The production of Betel is an important source of livelihood for farmers in the Dawei area.

rolling betel

The ingredients of Betel

Betel ready to eat

While we are constantly reminded of the interconnected nature of the world, this interconnectedness has not extended to our responsibilities as citizens. The Virtual Dinner Guest Project is an initiative that attempts to address this problem by bringing people together to connect around political, social, and humanitarian issues.

The basic premise of the project centres on sharing a meal, a universal ritual to which we can all relate. There is a twist though – the meal is shared around a computer screen, connecting diners from different countries via Skype. The project brings together diners through links with universities, media groups, and civil society organizations.

Maddox describes the Virtual Dinner Guest Project as “a mechanism to play catch-up to where our governments are having a conversation. People are not consulted or directly in involved in high level dialogues, although their destinies are absolutely impacted by those kinds of decisions. In a failing global economy, it is becoming essential to be involved in the world in a practical way, not just through charity donations.” Echoing a global trend propelled by revolutions and civil society groups, he states: “at the end of day why shouldn’t they be spokesmen – we are all just one voice among many.”

In contrast to the traditional aid paradigm, Maddox aims to focus on local activists and create south-south collaborations, in which people and projects with similar concerns can support each other through their own experiences. Maddox’s aim is to work toward a global network of local actors who interact and practically apply the lesson’s learned from Virtual Dinners in their work: “Talk, digest and then act. That’s us,” Maddox says.

“Conflict is always going to exist,” Maddox remarks, “but how you manage it is important.” For him, engaging people in discussion is the first step toward building peace, and he is pursuing this belief one dinner at a time.

Read the full article at Muftah.

While the revolution appears to have had immediate effect in generating enthusiasm for democracy, it does not seem to have triggered the same kind of immediate broader change in rural areas. However, equality and freedom for rural women is being negotiated through careful development strategies in the long-term. According to Lindsey Jones of ACDI-VOCA, “the two key factors that I’ve seen contribute to creating change in the rural areas are education and income-generating opportunities for women.”

Indeed, revolution is not the only way to create change. Improved education, training programmes and initiatives to encourage participation may not be dramatic, but they are proof that whatever the political attempts to exclude women, rural women are gaining more opportunities slowly and surely.”

Read the full article at: Think Africa Press.

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A new month, a new round-up of rights news from around the world. In addition as I am just starting a new job in South East Asia the regional focus will expand a little to reflect interesting new resources I discover here in the course of my work.

Firstly, an interesting short piece in the IHT on the situation of women in Myanmar. The author Didi Kirsten Tatlow highlights some of the major issues being addressed in terms of gender. She reports on “very active” women’s groups taking advantage of the new political liberalisation. She highlights legislative need such as the preparation of a law on domestic violence. Also interestingly she highlights a role for women as peace-keepers in the communities affected by war, such as the current violence between Buddhist and Muslim communities. She also states that a more general survey of women in the country to understand better there status and role in this society. I look forward to seeing the results of some of these interesting ideas.

Secondly, a piece in 500 Words Magazine, a magazine publishing essays on Sudan through the words of the Sudanese Youth. I particularly like this piece
Why Breakfast should be banned in Sudan which recounts in an amusing way the problem of inefficiency in Sudan’s working culture. Another nice piece is What we used to be and what we are now which reflects on the changes in Sudan since his childhood and discusses the responsibilities of the youth of today in addressing development.

Finally, a compelling look at sexual harrassment and sexual violence around the world by the Fair Observer. These selection f articles compare and contrast the issue of assuring safety for women in their day to day lives in a number of different contexts, from implementing laws in post-conflict DRC to combatting traditional values in post-revolution Egypt, to creating safe public spaces in Latin America. to the difference class can make in protecting women from violence in India. All the articles highlight a common idea of women being perceived a certain way by society, requiring certain special treatments or being required to limit themselves to certain feminine behaviour or actions.

The origins of these ideas are very nicely highlighted by the South African contribution, an interview with Bernadette Muthien. She states:

(l)et’s just try to understand how the violence works: Gender based violence obviously occurs based on gender and the root cause of all violence we would argue is patriarchy. It precedes all the economic systems we know today … And patriarchy has been around for thousands of years … What patriarchy does is it uses violence in general to control people and gender based violence specifically to control people. This can be seen by looking at child rape and child sexual abuse. When a child is raped, then that person is marked by that rape for the rest of their lives. Sometimes they themselves become perpetrators. In other words, if you rape a child, you have that person incapacitated for almost the rest of their lives. It can become an incredibly powerful source of control, and then you have an automatic cyclic existence of rape: generation after generation gets raped. I become a parent, I rape my child – it perpetuates itself and the mechanisms of control become almost unconscious. It is a system to maintain control over people, and women in particular.

She goes on to conclude with a vision which takes sexual abuse and harassment out of the box of gender issues and women’s issues. She highlights a wider aspiration which includes aspiration for a new form of masculinity and an idea of feminism which is cooperative rather than competitive. A difficult goal perhaps, but one which could really make a difference.

In her words:

I would like to continue to have hope. We must try and find hope for what we do and it would be good if we could continue to do the work we do – To find more and more people using cooperation rather than competition, and if more and more men come along and say “We have to construct better models of masculinity, better ways to relate to one another”; more and more women saying, “I do not want to be a victim. I want to take my own agency and power but I don’t want to be like Margaret Thatcher either. I want to be a woman who is not patriarchal.” and women coming together, working with one another, that could be very wonderful.

An article I wrote on urban gardening in Egypt has been published by UNDP in a report on Green Economy in Action.

The article is included demonstrating examples of “agriculture demonstrating practical, concrete, and on the ground green economy country experience”, with the aspiration that this will “provide information and knowledge for policy and decision makers and practitioners on the positive implications of greening some priority sectors, including job creation, resource efficiency, and generally contribution to sustainable development”.

I think this is a testament to the wonderful projects that the featured organisations are working on in Cairo. The growth of urban gardening is an interesting phenomenon. It was inspiring to see what can be created on the rooftops of a busy city such as Cairo and the positive effects that these gardens can have for food security, the environment and communities.

The link to the report can be found here (see pages 23-24 for the article).

For more information about the featured projects see: Schaduf; Thousand Gardens in Africa; Permaculture Egypt and Nawaya.