With support from Ford foundation WLSA is implementing a project titled “strengthen women’s voices and participation in natural resource governance in Southern Africa focusing on Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Zambia“. The goal of the project is to ensure Women organizations, rural women, artisanal miners in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho, Mozambique, have strengthened voices to meaningfully participate, defend their rights and benefit from a mutually violence free, gender responsive, accountable and inclusive natural resources governance sector.
The majority of women in SADC live in rural areas and are dependent on access to natural resources for agriculture production as a basis for livelihoods. While women produce around 80 per cent of the food in Africa, they own only one per cent of the land. This has had far-reaching livelihoods implications for Africa.
The situation is currently being exacerbated by the expansion of an environmentally and socially destructive agro-industrial and extractives industry system that, amongst other manifestations, shows itself in large-scale land grabs. This is happening in the context of other pressures such as climate changes and food price volatility. While land grabs and other land issues have been taken up for years in the region this has tended to be done by NGOs and academics in specialized lobbying fora, there has been too little opportunity and space for rural women in poverty directly affected by these issues to speak out for themselves, to organise and shape their own destinies. Women across the continent are organising themselves to resist loss of their land, initiative projects to get greater rights to land and are often and the forefront of community resistance to land grabs. These local struggles have often happened in isolation with little support despite the fact that the issues women face are so similar across the region and the continent. Despite all the local and some national activities and some victories, the injustice of limited land and related rights for women and the poverty this contributes to remain. The recent large-scale discovery of valuable extractive resources – oil, gas and minerals – and Southern Africa presents great potential for shared economic growth and could drastically reduce poverty levels in these countries. However, if the extractive industry (EI) sector is not managed in a transparent and equitable manner, there are risks of severe negative consequences. For example,
Entrenched gender bias is not only preventing women from engaging with and accessing the economic benefits ofnatural resources such as land and extractive industries, but is manifesting through gender-blind policies and practices incommunity consultation and decision-making processes which give rise to thesystematic exclusion of women and a silencing of women’s perspectives, agendas,and interests in relation to land and EI projects.
The result is increasing gender inequality andthe further disempowerment of women and human rights infringements. For example, as land is expropriated for EI and other projects, women’s livelihoods and foodsecurity are put in jeopardy. Risks of HIV and AIDS and violence against womenand girls can escalate with the influx of transient workers, the transition toa cash economy, and the emergence of new socioeconomic stresses. Furthermore,as vital resources like water and wood become scarcer, and water becomes morepolluted, women and girls’ unpaid care work can increase dramatically. Women remain the predominant actors in the informal and communaleconomies in SADC – an acceptable indication that women still act as theprimary shock absorbers of the various crises, at micro and macro level.
In addition, the criminalization of the Artisanal and Small Scale Miners in the region increases the vulnerability of the poor especially and conflicts are rife in these countries. The miners are vulnerable to arrests, diseases andother health risks, safety and other trade related exploitation due to lack of knowledge and poor access to information. They are always at loggerheads with large scale mining companies over the use of land and resources.
There is a substantial amount of international policies promoting implementation, gender equality and women empowerment in SADC through policy, legislative reforms and development programmes. These include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW 1979), the International Conference on Population and Development (1994), Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), Sustainable Development Goals (2016), the Maputo Plan of Action (1996) and the Protocol on Gender. However, the realization of these instruments is still far from ideal. Implementation challenges, patriarchal systems (and attitudes), poor resourcing and integration of relevant policies into existing practices remain huge obstacles to the achievement of set targets. It is therefore unsurprising that in natural resources governance where women are deemed a minority and are, often, not at the center of socio-economic transformative changes, public policies,legislation and programmes.
WLSA is identifying and strengthening rural women, women artisanal miners and women in mining , their associations, networks or organised group and strengthen their capacities in organizing , influencing public policies , private company policies and legislations that negatively impact their land and mining in order to enhance their livelihood.