As per the Ten Commitments taken up by International Land Coalition during ILC Global Land Forum in May 2015 at Dakar, Senegal, equal land rights for women have been set as one of the ten commitments the ILC and its members adhere to as a contribution to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As a part of the follow-up, activities strengthening the issue of Women’s Land Rights have been taken up by ILC-Asia since end of December 2016. Accordingly organisations from 5 different Asian countries have set up a long term goal to take positive initiatives to ensure advocacy and awareness to initiate positive actions on behalf of the government and the local social systems in their respective situations to ensure a gradual situation of gender justice with regard to ownership, control and decision making on land and land based issues by women.
The focal organisation of the activities is Swadhina (India). Apart from this, each country has a regional Co-ordinating Organisation. Bangladesh is co-ordinated through ALRD, Nepal through CSRC, Cambodia through Star Kampuchia, Indonesia through RMI/SAINS.
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In a landmark move by the Government of Jharkhand state in India, the registration fee for land is going to be free for women. In a meeting held on 3rd of May 2017, Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Sri Raghubar Das, took a decision to do away with registration charges for property registered in the name of women.
It has been an endorsement of long-standing desire of the organisations working for women’s land rights in the area.
Swadhina working in the area specifically in the area took no time to congratulate the governement on it’s move. In a letter to the Chief Minister, Swadhina enumerated the various reasons as to why the move would benefit women’s rights in the long run.
‘Sir, your decision is a strong endorsement of the struggle for Gender Justice. We are confident that it would have a long drawn effect on the lives of women:-
- Encourage marginal women to have land and property in their name.
- Endorse the position of women as farmers and help establish the fact that women are equally able farmers.
- Provide protection to women on their rights over their land
- Combat the system of dowry effectively
- Curb the propensity to abandon wives
- Improve mutual understanding and dependence
We take this opportunity to express our heartiest gratitude once again to your government. We urge other state governments to emulate this example. We also express our solidarity and would request other NGOs to provide solidarity and support in reaching awareness on this to the remotest corner of Jharkhand.’
That women can voice their grievances and intervene to put forward what is right has once again been proved by the women of a remote village in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India.
Deoria is a small village in Udaipura district of the state. Dominated by the ‘musahar’ community,the village women have to combat poverty every day of their lives. The families being very poor have very property or land that they can call their own.
Under such circumstances when a local contractor began digging pits for the purpose of making toilets in front of each house, the women put down their feet. It wasn’t a question of hygiene but a question of protecting the dignity of their land. The toilets being constructed in front of each house would mean the children wouldn’t have a place to play, the women wouldn’t have a space to themselves where they would cook.
Moreover, the people said that the contractor was engaged in corruption and mal practices.
SDF, which has a strong presence in the area, stood with the women of the area. SDF’s coordinator in the area, Ms Sangeeta, explained that they were not against toilets but it is essential to understand that when people have no houses to live, there has to be a judicious use of the land available. They suggested that Community toilets could be built at the village Panchayat land and each family be handed over one toilet for personal use. That would be feasible and would make the village much clean than anticipated.
With the support of SDF, the village women joined hand, wrote a memorandum, invited the attention of the media and compelled the officials to visit the village and probe their points. The officials were in agreement with the cause of the women, thus suspending the programme till a better planning was in place. They promised to look into the issue seriously and take action accordingly.
SDF’s interventions in village Udaipura in district Deoria of Uttar Pradesh is already well documented by International Land Coalition under the best practices. This adds one more feather to the pride of the organisation as well as of the local women.
(Reported by: VidyaBhushan Rawat, SDF)