Dagens presentation avklarad!

Nu har jag hållit min presentation och det gick mycket bra, även om det är svårt att veta riktigt vad man egentligen har sagt, eller vad som har gått fram, men reaktionerna var i alla fall väldigt positiva.

Jag vet att det inte är så pedagogiskt att lägga långa texter här på bloggen (särskilt inte på engelska) men lägger ändå ut min presentation, som den är. Alldeles strax kommer foton och reflektioner från paneldebatten.

Both practice and research tell that there is no single land issue to be solved but it is a question regarding almost all aspects of rural life and development. Thus, there is no recipe or quick fix to solve the challenges faced in ensuring land rights for the rural women living in poverty. The actual land laws seem to be one relatively small step in guaranteeing the right to land. And even taking a legalistic approach – it is not only about land laws but about a set of laws that are interlinked, such as land, inheritance and family law and even the constitution.

Many land laws that have been successful in promoting a more equal land distribution take into account and respect customary law but challenge among other aspects of it, those that are discriminatory to, for example women. One reason for the importance of customary law is that women might have more power in an informal decision making structure than in a formal, another is that the formal process is costly and may benefit groups that can influence the formalisation process. Looking at land rights from a gender and poverty perspective is not only about ownership but about guaranteeing the security of tenure for a cause. This includes lease of public land or user right to communal land, and also the question on individual versus collective land rights.

A study done by IIED in eleven countries in Southern Africa shows that ten out of eleven have or are in process of getting a land law that has a clause recognizing the independent rights of women. However, the law enforcement is weak and the rather radical laws are not accompanied by reforms changing the point of departure that is unequal not only in gender terms but in terms of economic classes etc. This highlights the need for political courage and will to challenge existing power and economic structures, strengthen local and national authorities as well as the need for strong grass-root movements that holds the government into account and demand the people’s right to land. Thus, women’s actual participation and influence over such movements are crucial.

Mozambique, where all land belongs to the state, is one example where all major legislation relating to land, including the constitution and the family law, are explicitly supportive of women’s land rights but where the implementation faces many problems related to the absolute poverty and weak institutional environment. Another main challenge is the weak investment in the agriculture sector. The peasant’s union was highly involved in the elaboration of the land law and has been key actor in promoting awareness of land rights and also mobilising small-scale farmers for a collective voice. With the establishment of an increasing number of large-scale land-based investments, the union is assuming the important role of watch-dog and defender of the peasantry’s interest towards the investors.

Land is not only they key to long-term increased and more diversified agriculture production and food-sovereignty, but also provides women and men living in poverty with means to negotiate the diversification of their livelihoods, build up off-farm activities, secure housing, get access to cooperatives and other forums where land ownership might be a condition. The cultural aspect of land shouldn’t be overlooked and in many countries it would be wrong to look at land as an asset that can be negotiated, which brings us back to the necessity of taking into account the customary law. The way we relate to land also explains why not everybody would agree that one of the benefits with owning land is the possibility to use it as collateral for loans. You cannot use a part of your culture as collateral and you cannot risk that the bank takes the maybe only and most important resource that you have.

The argument of the smart economics of women’s empowerment has been repeated many times during the last days. But we must not forget that rights are rights even though they are bad economics, thus the smart economics argument is a good tool to convince decision makers and global institutions to support gender equality, but it must never be our main reason. What would then happen if, when or where we find out that it is not smart economics?

Another argument brought up during the last days is that women’s access to productive resources, such as land, would provide food for 100-150 million persons and thus solve part of the global food crisis, which is also one of the questions for this seminar. But also here I would like raise a critical question regarding our reasoning: women’s right to land and other resources should not be conditioned to yet another domestic task and responsibility. Women should have the same right as men to produce whatever they want, including crops from which they can gain a monetary income. Or what will happen if, when or where rural women in the poor countries don’t accept to be the solvers of the global food crises?

Finally, some words on development cooperation in regards to this topic. To generalise and provoke, it seems that donor countries chose not to see the the broader picture, in which they themselves are actors. Donors say yes in promoting gender equal land laws but they do not take a stand in the critical issue of land-grabbing, many times done by companies from donor countries. Donors say no to increased support to the agriculture sector (support from Sweden fell by 25 per cent between 2008 and 2010), which is the main sector for rural women living in poverty, while they say yes to the supporting access to markets, risking to put women in poverty even further behind. But then they say no to reforms in global markets including regulation of financial speculation on food.

I wonder if we can expect rural women living in poverty to assume the responsibility of solving the global food-crisis in this political landscape?


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