Woman holds banner for women's land rights during protests in Durban
Photo: James Akena/PACJA
Annie Thomas, the Project Manager of the European Commission’s Human Right to Land Project, has come to Durban for COP17.
The multi-country project and commission on Women’s Right to Land is is a three year project which started on 2nd November 2009 and is being implemented in Sierra Leone, Guatemala, and India, working with five different partners in the three countries.
They work with different communities in each country, Annie explained: "In India we work with Dalit (below cast) women; in Sierra Leone we work with HIV positive women, (many of their husband’s have died and they no longer have access to land); and in Guatemala with tribal communities, mostly the Mayan communities".
We came to Durban because we are working on women’s right to land and agriculture and it has great links to climate change.
Not being granted the right to own land denies women independence and means they are constantly dependent on men in order to survive. They must either stay with their family and live off their father’s land or marry and live off their husband’s land but if the men die or there are family divides then women are left with nothing and no means to make money or grow food.
In Guatemala, for instance,
the women’s land was taken away from them as many of their husband’s have died due to the long war there.
In India, the Dalit community generally doesn’t own land and are very poor. “Our project distributes land to the Dalit community in two southern states,” said Annie, “and we pushed forth a policy that this land cannot be sold to any non- Dalit citizen”. However, many other individuals are still managing to claim ownership of this land. “But now with the Right to Information Act”, Annie explains, “we are able to find the land of a Dalit and retrieve the land for individuals from these communities”.
Annie came to Durban with other representatives of the programme to unite with other women fighting the same battles: “At the inception programme we knew that COP 17 was coming and we knew there was a link between this project and we were looking for an opportunity to share our experiences with other groups of women.”
This they have done and have encouraged other women through the realisation that they are not alone. The overall decisions on climate change remain in the hands of the governments.