ILC members use different strategies to ensure the participation of women in decisions about land and natural resources governance. They have used the following guiding steps across regions to ensure the process is successful.
This "how-to note" is the result of a collective brainstorming exchange that took place during the second workshop of the Community Land Protection Learning Initiative, in July 2019. Members from all over the world contributed to it: RMI, JKPP, RRF, Observatorio Ciudadano, ICCA, IIED and NAMATI. This note is part of a series of five.
THE COMMUNITY LAND PROTECTION LEARNING INITIATIVE IS EQUIPPING ILC MEMBERS WITH THE PRACTICAL SKILLS TO EMPOWER COMMUNITIES TO DOCUMENT AND PROTECT THEIR COMMUNITY LAND RIGHTS
How to increase women’s attendance at community meetings
TIMING AND LOCATION ARE ESSENTIAL
The timing and location of meetings is essential to ensuring that women attend community land protection meetings. Keep in mind the general times and places of women’s work each day, and schedule meetings at convenient locations and times for them. For example, hold meetings at craft centres where women frequently meet, or identify locations within the community that are accessible and convenient for women working in the community.
CREATE DIVERSE CONTENT TO ENHANCE INTEREST
Creating diverse content for meetings enhances interest in the meetings. Relevant topics that strengthen women’s livelihoods such as women’s land rights, and in some cases, adult literacy classes encourage women to participate in community land protection meetings. Some meetings must be exclusively for women, to encourage them to speak freely, without any fear of judgement by men in the community. Most importantly, women must be at the forefront of organising, mobilising and facilitating meetings.
FAMILY FRIENDLY MEETINGS ENHANCE ATTENDANCE
Family friendly meetings enhance attendance by women in the community. As such, encouraging families to attend the meetings together and providing different services such as day-care for the children incentivises women to attend the meetings. Further, serving home cooked meals at meetings ensures the full participation of women as their families’ food needs are met. Most importantly, educational services such as adult literacy classes can incorporate women’s land rights and community land protection themes into the course material, and can involve both men and women in order to sensitise the community of the importance of women’s land rights.
How to increase women’s verbal participation at community meetings
FACILITATORS PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE
Facilitators play an important role in encouraging women participate in discussions. They initiate discussions on topics that affect women, encouraging them to share their authentic experiences. As part of their facilitation role, they may also ask guiding questions, creating more space for women to contribute to the discussions. With the assistance of visuals, symbols and other communication aids, the facilitator may guide the women to discuss openly matters that affect them.
Listening to women encourages them to share their views without fear or shame. Facilitators must be exemplary, and give women a chance to share their experiences without unnecessary interruptions. Find outspoken women champions, who can model for other women how to speak out, share their thoughts and ideas, and build their confidence.
VENUE SET UP MATTERS
Set up the venue in a manner that is conducive to a continuous flow of participation such as a circle so that everyone is equally visible and has an equal opportunity to participate. Where possible, holding meetings in the local languageencourages women to express themselves freely.
MEN ARE ALLIES
Men are allies in securing women’s land rights. As such, it is important to capacitate men to act as gender equality promoters and women’s land rights champions. To achieve this, it is essential to listen to the concerns of men and youth. The group can be split into men, women and youth, and have each group present its concerns and viewpoints to the full group, further opening communication channels within the community.
How to ensure the adoption of women’s ideas by the community
ACKNOWLEDGE AND AFFIRM THE IMPORTANCE OF WOMEN’S KNOWLEDGE
Acknowledging and affirming the importance of women’s land rights is imperative to strengthening community land rights in general. As such, it is essential to reinforce the value of women’s knowledge to the whole community. Their critical knowledge includes expertise on firewood collection, medicinal plants, water, and other resources. As such, women must always be included in discussions about land and natural resource management.
CHAMPION WOMEN’S INTERESTS
Championing women’s interests “beyond the meetings” ensures actual protection of women’s land rights in day-to-day life. Innovative ideas like women-led panel presentations, writing books and policy briefs on women’s land rights must always include the voices and represent the views of women. Video and radio can be used to communicate and document women’s challenges in securing their land rights. If incorporated into project activities, the ideas that women share can be used to seek funding for community land protection initiatives.
WRITE DOWN EVERY IDEA
Writing down all of the ideas shared by women is a step closer to ensuring the incorporation of their ideas into the final decision. The community is given an opportunity for recapitulating the meeting to make sure that important ideas are included in the final decision.
WOMEN MUST TAKE THE LEAD
Women must take the lead in advocating for their community land rights. They should see themselves as leaders and champions of their cause. As such, women must participate in different initiatives for capacitating them with leadership skills. Most importantly, women must have an opportunity to work with community leaders, attend national forumsbringing leaders together, or community meetings where they interact with leaders on matters of national or regional land policies.
How to ensure that women are elected to positions of power
DECONSTRUCT GENDER ROLES
Supporting the community to deconstruct gender roles and redefining leadership roles is essential for putting women in leadership. Challenging the idea that leadership is masculine and tough, and introducing a new leadership norm assists to create space for women’s leadership.
ESTABLISH COMMUNITY POLICIES AND QUOTAS
Leveraging national mandatory policy quotas or establishing a mandatory community policy to elect women to positions of leadership within the community assists women to ascend to positions of power. Women are encouraged similarly to take positive steps to empower themselves, and run for local elections, and not settle for secondary and administrative roles such as secretary or treasurer. Further, communities are encouraged to elect gender-balanced leadership.
CREATE NEW SPACES OF POWER AND ENCOURAGE MENTORING
Creating entirely new spaces of power, like cooperatives, and ensuring women leadership is another means of putting women in power. Further mentoring and skills enhancement is critical to improving women’s chances of attaining positions of leadership. In their leadership roles, women are encouraged to mentor each other and share their skills. For example, women in national leadership positions can mentor women in local positions, linking them to greater opportunities within their networks.
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