After years and months of rural women mobilisation and logistic preparations, finally the rural women presented their charter of demands on land rights calling African governments to act upon.
More than 400 rural women from across 22 African countries assembled in Arusha from14th -16th October and presented the charter which was developed through a consultative process involving representatives of the Rural Women Assemblies and women farmers forums.
The charter was handled over to AU Commission represented by Ouriatou Danfakha on behalf of the Chairperson Dlamini Zuma.
From the evening of the 13th October 2016, caravans from two regional corners of Africa were received at the grounds of MS TCDC Arusha were the mass assembly took place. The Eastern bloc caravan with women from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda was received by women from Tanzania at the boarder of Namanga Arusha while the southern caravan with women from Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi was received by TGNP partners residing in Mbeya at the boarder of Kalonga in Mbeya. Other countries symbolically had caravans in their countries and came through flights to Tanzania.
As part of the event, 30 women from Africa, Tanzania represented by 8, did the actual climb from 10th October and they were received by their fellow rural women on 15th October at the foot of mount Kilimanjaro Marangu gate.
From Arusha to the foot of Mountain echoes of Kilimanjaro song which was composed by Odelia Koroma, the young Activista from Sierra Leone were heard in every corner “Kilimanjaro! We gonna match up there! Let our voice be heard, let our demands known! That Our Land is our Life!
The women have proclaimed the charter of principles with specific demands on women’s access to use, control, own, inherit and dispose their land and natural resource. Some of the demands as captured from the charter are; Women empowerment by enabling them to access their lad rights, technology and financial resources to improve their livelihoods of their families, Translate land policies and laws into accessible local language, 50% participation of women in decision making bodies and implementation of land issues and matters (including in the valuation of land and payment of compensation for natural resources) so that they can speak and defend for their land rights.
The women had left their families at home and sacrificed their lives in solidarity with fellow rural women fighting for the common goal – land rights for women. To women, sufferings and challenges for the climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro the second highest Mt in the World is a symbol of the sufferings that women go through as a result of denial to land rights and major means of productions. It is also a sign that women struggles continues and that they have not given up. The victory to reach the Uhuru Peak which 26 women did is the sign for victory on women land rights.
“not implementing the women demands, means that you want us to repeat those sufferings … you want us to come back here” quoted the Chairperson for Pan African Rural women Assembly, Lovelyn Nnenna Ejim.
“Climbing Kilimanjaro to the peak is not easy. We faced many challenges on our way. This is a lesson that if you want to achieve your goal it involve a lot of steps.. .therefore realisation of our land rights is also a journey which I believe one day will be accomplished….This is just one step.. commented Janet Nyamayahansi, one of climbers from Dodoma Tanzania.
During closing of the event, ActionAid Tanzania Board Chair Ms Mary Nsemwa had the following to say. “It is un-debatable fact that securing women’s land rights and ensuring their benefit from the land are key instruments in the fight against poverty and injustice…We need rise individually and collectively to demand our land right and stand in the forefront!”
The Kilimanjaro initiative was conceived during a meeting of the rural women and civil society organisations back in 2012 in Dar-es-Salaam Tanzania. The initiative aims to create space for rural women to be able to participate in decision making processes about land and Natural resources.