Photo Courtesy: http://www.landcoalition.org/en/regions/africa/
What began as an idea in 2012, took shape in 2016 and then finally culminated into a success story in 2017. The story of African Women’s Movement demanding rights over Land and Natural Resources is one of grit, determination and a conglomerated effort of the African Women to obtain what is rightfully theirs!
The Kilimanjaro Initiative was an idea born during a meeting of rural women and civil society organisations in 2012, held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It was an idea to mobilize women, especially rural women, all over the African continent to build a dialogue around the issues of rights over their land and natural resources. Mount Kilimanjaro thus became a symbolism of determination of women to scale any heights to reach at the top – their goals.
The objectives were :
– To strengthen the agency and movement of rural women in claiming and defending their land and natural resource rights in Africa
-To engender political will amongst national governments, donor and regional institutions to implement an all-inclusive African women’s charter.
– To mobilise and support the participation of 100,000 rural women in the Kilimanjaro initiative in at least 20 countries in Africa
-To raise awareness on existing frameworks and safeguards a round Large scale land based investments and demand for their application in securing legitimate tenure rights of rural women in Africa
This idea led to the Women2Kilimanjaro initiative where thousands of women from all the four regions of Africa –East, West, North, South gathered at the feet of Mount Kilimanjaro – culminating in a mass African rural women’s assembly and a symbolic ascent by a delegation of women on Mount Kilimanjaro in the month of October 2016.
The world watched in awe, as amidst all the singing, dancing and rejoicing, shone one strong demand: Women’s Land Rights – NOW!!
The mass assembly of rural women led to the adoption of a Charter of Demands. It contained a set of 15 specific demands addressing issues related to women’s access to use, control, own, inherit and dispose of their land and natural resources.
The initiative was crucial to women’s land rights movement because for the first time in the world women’s land rights was taken up as a singular cause – irrespective of the area, region, cultural background – it was a single demand of the women from the entire African continent.
It was not about a demand alone – it was a question about giving women, especially rural women, their due dignity and respect for the immense contribution they make towards land and natural resources. It became a quest for gender justice!
Being widely covered by the media and social media alike – the initiative drew the attention of policy-makers, those in government, those involved in land rights movements. For the first time the voice of women farmers were being heard and taken notice of!
But this isn’t the end of the story. The movement perhaps reached its peak moment when the 9th Annual African Union Gender Pre-Summit held in Addis Abba from 22nd to 27thJanuary 2017 officially endorsed the charter of demands initiated from the mass assembly of rural women. It was a huge success for the initiative because it was an endorsement and acknowledgement of African Union about the need to ensure gender justice in terms rights over land and natural resources.
In the words of Kafui Adjamagbo-Johnson, the Director of Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), “The fact that the African Union (AU) is informed and now acknowledges the position of rural women, we can now expect them to give more attention to the issues.It sets in place strategies and mechanisms to fulfil equal land rights for women and respond to various discriminations and violations faced by women in their family and community.”
The Women2Kilimanjaro or The Kilimanjaro Initiative can be termed as a very successful experiment in women’s land rights initiatives. There were several reasons for that:
* It chose a symbol that was a common pride to all African Nations- Mount Kilimanjaro.
* It amalgamated the issues of women farmers and land rights activists as a single cause raised through many voices.
* It effectively used the symbolism of scaling the peak of a mountain to depct the grit and determination to reach a common goal. The hike being also undertaken by many common women, it rang out a clear message that with women nothing is impossible.
* . Irrespective of different regions involved, it managed to raise a single collective charter of demands and the demands were raised by the rural women themselves.
* It helped build a network among different CSOs, NGOs and activists – bringing them to a single cause.
* It used the power of social media effectively to reach out to the people all over the world- letting the world lend an ear to their demands.
* It effectively interwove the elements of local African culture of song, dance, music into the serious discussions. And simultaneously built in a sense of adventurism through the idea of a mountain hike. This introduced a spirit of festivity along with some serious thoughts.
This initiative would go down into the history of women’s land rights movements as a very effective idea of introducing a social, cultural and economic change – atleast in the thought process with a long term and effective planning!
Here is an interesting video-link to the event of Women2Kilimanjaro: