This is the second of a series of four Learning Labs whose topics are selected by the women from the ILC mentoring and solidarity Network “Women for Women”. This Lab focused on working with communities to increase women’s participation: four women speakers shared their experiences from India, Kenya, Peru and Brazil. Participants heard success stories and good practices that put women at the centre.
WHAT YOU WILL LEARN
- How to increase women’s participation at community level.
- How to identify and integrate women-specific needs and issues in community projects.
- How to reinforce women’s voices.
- Sunila Singh, Social Development Foundation (SDF) member and Women’s Rights Expert, India
- Winny Chepkemoi, Women Land Rights Officer at Kenya Land Alliance (KLA), Kenya
- Melania Canales Poma, President of ONAMIAP, Peru
- Gigliola Silva de Araujo, Community leader, Brazil
THE EXPERIENCE OF SPEAKERS
Sunila Singh shared information about two specific community resources management models in India, as she was actively involved in their elaboration. They respond to specific women needs linked to water fetching, but also to domestic violence and power dynamics within the community. Both of them build upon women’s initiative, commitment and knowledge to promote water conservation but also to reinforce their role in the community. Women also engaged with local administration to claim and advocate for their rights, becoming “water warriors”! Women’s involvement is crucial to secure water supply to the villages involved.
In Kenya, in a framework of land reforms, including with regard to the recognition of customary tenure, dialogue within the communities represented a milestone to achieve women’s land rights. Women gained significant bargaining power over their land and managed to challenge retrogressive cultural barriers and gender norms. Winny Chepkemoi also highlighted how the land reforms included a significant gender component, also thanks to specific interventions aimed at facilitating the engagement of rural women in policy making decisions.
Indigenous women’s struggles to defend land rights are double-folded: on the one side they are about individual rights, but on the other hand they are about collective rights of indigenous communities.
Similarly, having communities actively involved is confirmed to be fundamental also in Peru, as described by Melania Canales Poma. Indigenous women’s struggles to defend land rights are double-folded: on the one side they are about individual rights, but on the other hand they are about collective rights of indigenous communities; the two elements are extremely interconnected. Indigenous women fight against violence and machismo (and challenging power dynamics) as well as for their land rights and for their recognition as rights-holder. Communities’ awareness and involvement, might be complicated to achieve, but they are crucial and effective, to promote women’s land rights and to challenge patriarchy and discrimination.
Gigliola Silva de Araujo focused on the challenges faced by women at multiple levels, in Brazil and globally: family, communities, society. Domestic violence and community participation are extremely linked in the examples she mentioned. Women’s struggles and women’s challenges are similar across the world, and require a process of understanding and mobilisation at community level (in particular in rural areas). She also highlighted the differential impact of the pandemic. Creating space for learning, exchanging and mutual exchange is very important to mobilise women and empower them.
Women’s struggles and women’s challenges are similar across the world, and require a process of understanding and mobilisation at community level (in particular in rural areas).
The experience of participants
Collective support for women exists, and it is crucial.
Participants also shared their experiences during a collective exercise, and a few key messages emerged:
- Women face similar challenges and discrimination (linked to patriarchy, oppression and discrimination) across the world, but they are often better adapted in dealing with crisis and/or conflict situations.
- Working with rural women is often challenging, but it is extremely interesting and effective.
- Collective support for women exists, and it is crucial.
- Political, economic and social empowerment are fundamental for women and their communities.
- Women from local communities play a significant role in promoting women’s rights at different levels, in particular during the pandemic crisis.
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