For Land and Life: 16 Days of Global Action

Today, rural women from 20 countries across the globe are taking a strong and united stand against the unprecedented scale of land and resource grabbing in the world. For the next 16 days, in what we call the 16 Days of Global Action, rural women under the slogan “No Land, No Life!” will rise to educate, mobilise and engage their communities, schools, governments, and the general public. Through their collective power and creativity, rural women’s groups will assert the need for land to the landless, food sovereignty, biodiverse ecological agriculture, reclamation of traditional seeds and knowledge, and women’s rights.

Started in 29th March this year at the declaration of the Day of the Landless by PANAP, ARWC (Asian Rural Women’s Coalition), APC (Asian Peasants’ Coalition) and partner groups, the campaign No Land, No Life: March for Life! Fight for Rights, Land and Resources! is a response to the deeply felt effects of intensified land and resource grabbing on small-scale farmers and food producers, including women. After the world food crisis seven years ago, the monopoly control of landlords and big corporations over huge tracts of land has tightened more than ever through the neoliberal restructuring of agriculture. Genuine land reform remains an unrealised dream for the millions of farmers who toil under increasingly exploitative and hazardous conditions, while losing control over food production. Globally, food production—which depends on the ownership of land and resources—has become alarmingly unsustainable, as land and resources are utilised by a handful of individuals or corporations only as a means to achieve superprofits.

For rural women, land and resources mean life. Without it, they have no community, they have no livelihood, they have no culture and identity. Without it, they cannot even feed themselves and their own families. Rural women are seed savers and land tillers, community leaders and family managers. They are indispensable to food security and to society. However, they are virtually fighting for survival today, as land, seeds, water and other productive resources are being taken away.

Land and resource grabbing is an unmistakably growing threat. According to the Land Matrix website, around 1,067 land deals covering more than 38.9 million hectares have been concluded worldwide since 2000. Most of the agricultural lands involved are in Africa, Asia and Latin America with investors mainly from the US and Europe.[1] It is a re-colonisation of the world, except that it is being made acceptable by neoliberal policies implemented through various international and national instruments.

It is a re-colonisation that is marked by human rights violations and violence against men and women. Extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and even mass evacuations have become more common in rural areas where there are conflicts arising from land and resource grabbing—such as in Southern Philippines, where the indigenous Lumad are being killed for defending their ancestral lands from the encroachment of mostly foreign mining companies. Just last week, social activist Medha Patkar and 10 others were arrested in the Allahabad district in Uttar Pradesh for protesting over the Indian government’s proposed thermal power plant, which has displaced nearly 2,000 farmers from over 500 hectares of land.

The need for rural women to speak up on the threats to their land and life bore life to the 16 Days of Global Action on Rural Women. For the past months, PAN Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) together with about 75 of its network partners, have been raising public awareness on the rural women’s six demands, namely: (1) land to the landless; (2) genuine agrarian reform; (3) biodiverse ecological agriculture; (4) reclaiming of traditional seeds and knowledge; (5) women’s rights; and (6) food sovereignty. These demands are both timely and timeless. They arose from a meticulous process of collecting their experiences, struggles, and aspirations across the region—through a journal that passed from woman to woman, through speak-outs, public assemblies and fora, lobbying, and marches and protest actions.

For it is the same threats of land and resource grabbing that have encouraged rural women to stand up and assert their rights as women and as members of the affected communities. They do so by defending their lands against encroachers, setting up community seed banks and collectively-owned ecological farms, among others.

For the next 16 days, they will thus bring their struggles for land reform and food sovereignty to policymakers, opinion makers, and the general public through various awareness raising activities. An active online campaign utilising social media and using the hashtags #NoLandNoLife #RuralWomenRiseUp will also be launched. All these will culminate with mass actions on October 15, World Rural Women’s Day, and October 16, the World “Foodless” Day.

Through these activities, rural women will call for justice for their sisters and brothers who have fallen victim to countless human rights violations resulting from land and resource grabbing. For it is the everyday life-or-death struggles for land that gave birth and strengthened the resolve of rural women across the globe to fight for their future – one that is intricately intertwined with the future of food production that serves the interest of the great majority instead of the profits of the few. As we are imperiled by fast dwindling resources and poisoned land, the need for rural women and other marginalised rural sectors to fight back remains urgent, necessary and just more than ever.

No Land, No Life!

Women, Assert Our Rights to Land and Resources!

*The 16 Days of Global Action on Rural Women is a global campaign to highlight and support the struggles, leadership and victories of rural women as they continue to assert and reclaim their rights to land and resources. From October 1-16, more than 70 organisations and movements in 20 countries are holding various activities to forward the rural women’s agenda and demands.

Reference:  Marjo Busto, Programme Coordinator, PANAP (marjo.busto@panap.net)

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[1] Data from http://landmatrix.org/en/ as accessed on 29 September 2015