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Rural Women’s Assembly . We are the guardians of land, seeds, life and love . Background and history . History . The first gathering of the RWA was organised in Limpopo, South Africa in 2009.

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rural women s assembly

Rural Women’s Assembly

We are the guardians of land, seeds, life and love

  • The first gathering of the RWA was organised in Limpopo, South Africa in 2009.
  • Several organisations came together to plan and organise the first RWA ( Trust for Community Outreach and Education, Women on Farms and LAMOSA) these organisations worked with the People’s Dialogue, a partnership of organisations/movements based in Southern Africa and Latin America.
  • Women from 9 SADC countries (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zambia, Namibia, Swaziland, Malawi, Botswana) participated.
  • Most of the organisations involved were peasant, farm workers and small –scale farmers movements.
  • Main objectives of the RWA were the following:
  • Strengthen rural women’s capacity to organise around their own interests

2 Build linkages in the region around common struggles to defend common goods

3) Ensure that rural women have visibility at all levels;

first organising committee
First Organising Committee
  • Women on Farms Project (South Africa)
  • African Institute for Agrarian Studies (AIAS-Zimbabwe)
  • Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU)
  • Eastern and Southern African Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF)
  • Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA-South Africa)
  • Namibian National Farmers Union (NNFU-Namibia)
  • National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM-Malawi)
  • People’s Dialogue (Brazil-Mozambique)
  • Trust for Community Outreach & Education (TCOE-South Africa)
  • UNAC (Mozambique National Union of Farmers)
  • Via Campesina Africa office
  • People’s Dialogue (SADC)
declaration of the first rwa
Declaration of the first RWA
  • “The Guardians of Land, Love and Life” was the theme of rural women’s assembly which brought
  • together 250 women from 9 Southern African countries (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique,
  • Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe) representing peasant organisations,
  • small farmers, rural women’s organisations, farm workers unions and NGOs. We gathered together
  • in Limpopo, South Africa from the 28-30 October 2009 to discuss and work through our common
  • problems and find solutions through our struggles and joint campaigns.
  • For us, land is life. It is an expression of our existence and is integral to our ecosystems on which
  • we survive as a species - the water, seeds, plants and animals. Our culture and humanity is deeply
  • rooted in the land and how we use it. For us land is the basis for the future of our children and the
  • restoration of our dignity and hope.
  • A few days ago we celebrated the UN World Food day (October 16th) and according the UN
  • General Secretary, 1 billion people are still hungry and without food. As rural women of Southern
  • Africa, we know that millions of those hungry people live in our region of the world. The global
  • economic crisis, the food crisis and the energy crisis especially climate change are all the creation
  • 25of the rich and powerful in the world, yet the poor, especially rural women who are the producers of
  • Our families, our communities, our homes are being destroyed as the scourge of HIV-AIDS
  • permeates through our lives, leaving thousands of women and children carrying the burden and
  • effects of HIV-AIDS. Today millions of women have died because of our governments’ inabilities to
  • provide adequate resources, such as anti-retro virals, health care and education.
  • In our view, the spread of HIV-AIDS is closely associated with cultural practices such as polygamy.
  • Throughout the region there is a growing concern that polygamous relationships are the basis for
  • many rural women’s oppression and exploitation. Rape, domestic violence, incest and abuse are
  • also destroying the social fabric of our society- our governments, our social, cultural and religious
  • institutions (the church and the chiefs) are standing by in silence. We should break this deafening
  • silence
Declaration ……..

Considering all these, we therefore demand:

a) that our governments honour their commitment of the Maputo Declaration, where they all signed

for dedicating 10% of national budgets to agriculture

b) from this 10%, at least 60% should be allocated to small scale farmers

c) Scrap market-led land reform, land tenure policies and instead enact popular people- led land

reform ownership

d) Our governments and SADC implement measures that protect our biodiversity, the atmosphere,

the environment, native seeds, and our water resources.

mandate to build
Mandate to build
  • This Limpopo Declaration also gave us a mandate to build the RWA.
  • We established a reference group consisting of the organising committee and a small secretariat (TCOE, WFP, LAMOSA)
  • Also gave TCOE/ People’s Dialogue the mandate to be the project holder (raise the funds)
  • This meeting also developed the idea that we would create country level RWA – these RWA would create conditions for building a strong voice of rural women and the rural poor.
  • The main objectives were identified as follows:
  • Build a strong, unified voice and agency of rural women and small farmers
  • Integrate issues of women’s reproductive rights and health in all we do;
  • Advance the ideas and principles of food sovereignty and the defense of our common goods (land, water, seeds and forests)
  • Build alternatives to dominant paradigm – climate injustice, green economy etc.
  • Strengthen women’s leadership in peasant and rural movements.
on going work
On-going work
  • Since 2009, the RWA has continued to grow and organise actions, build local platforms and linkages
  • In 2010 – organised a gathering that focused on agriculture, agricultural policy, Maputo Declaration and attempted to deepen our understanding of what is food sovereignty;
  • RWA worked alongside of the People’s Dialogue;

Undertook country level research (case studies) on food security and the challenges that the movements faced;

  • Identified growing food crisis, insecure land tenure systems, climate change and lack of support for small scale farmers, particularly women as key challenges
promoted international rural women s day
Promoted International Rural Women’s Day
  • And World Food day as the main days for country level mobilisations and actions;
  • RWA supported partners to organise actions, events and activities on those days.
  • In 2011 the South Africans, Swaziland, Namibia and Mozambique organised the first such days.
  • South Africans had the following to say:
  • • Poverty in Africa remains a rural phenomena. 72% ofthe poorareinruralareasand 71% ofruralhouseholdsarepoor. Rural Communitieshavetheworstaccesstobasicservices- fromhealthtoeduaction;
  • South Africaranks 110 out of165 countriesonthe2010 humandevelopment index. This is despite its wealth and development.
building our capacity to fight climate change
Building our capacity to fight climate change
  • the Rural Women’s Assembly was organised in Durban from the 30th November to 5th December 2011. The RWA was organised in the People’s space so that we could engage with COP17. The RWA brought together 650 rural women (small farmers, peasants, small holders, farm workers and landless women) from South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana Kenya, Senegal, Uganda, and Burundi. There were also some visitors from India, Guatemala and Brazil.
  • It is also important that the RWA not be viewed only as an event that was organised during the COP17. Rather the process that culminated in COP17 was a journey that started early in 2011 with a series of popular workshops
mobilising on different fronts
Mobilising on different fronts
  • In other countries different processes were unfolded. In Zimbabwe, ESAFF organised workshops with local peasant women where the focus was on seed saving and seed recovery as an alternative to climate change.
  • We also disseminated popular materials on what is climate change. In Mozambique UNAC did similar things.
  • NNFU in Namibia and NASFAM in Malawi organised road shows , local meetings and workshops
  • In Swaziland the rural women decided to use the momentum to launch a Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly and also initiated a bamboo planting project. Women here also mobilised to challenge the traditional authority to access land for women in the their own rights.
resolution at cop17
Resolution at COP17
  • We, rural women, gathered in Durban at the 2nd Southern African Rural Women’s Assembly resolve as follows:
  • Knowing that climate change impacts rural women very specifically, and that we share common problems, we will:
  • Stand together in solidarity and lead the struggle against these powerful polluting forces
  • Continue to struggle for justice for rural women and hold our own governments accountable to representing our interests in negotiations such as this. We will specifically hold polluting countries accountable
  • Put pressure on our governments to meet our 50/50 land ownership for women demand and adopt policies that will address climate change and support rural women farmers. Specifically, we demand 50 per cent of funding for agriculture and agricultural adaptation go to women farmers
  • Work to create real alternatives on the ground that help us achieve sovereignty over our land, natural resources and the food we produce.
gaining momentum in 2012
Gaining momentum in 2012
  • In 2012 the RWA gained ground and profile.
  • We continued to build on the existing processes and interventions by focusing on the multiple crisis: ecological, financial, food and social dimensions.
  • Hence we used 2012 to understand what is meant bi the Green economy, AGRA and its impact on Africa and agriculture.
  • We participated in several forums:
  • 1) seminar on the Green Economy together with the People’s Dialogue
  • 2) played a key role in Brazil at the Rio+20 People’s Summit
  • 3) we organised again in collaboration with UNAC and the People’s Dialogue a Popular People’s Summit in Mozambique at the SADC Heads of State summit.
self organisation at country level
Self organisation at country level
  • In the past period country level organising has gained momentum.
  • Swaziland has led the way, now processes are under way in Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • This is important, however, the task is to build unity across the organisations of rural women, small –scale farmers, farm workers and to ensure that rural women have a voice and can fight and mobilise in their own interest;
  • It is also key that the main objectives of the RWA remain central to our movement building work and that we
  • Strengthen our feminist perspectives, building counter proposals anti-poor proposals and creating alternatives- we have answers!
where are we now
Where are we now?
  • This has been an exciting year already.
  • We have gained several new members especially in other sectors (mining and extractives) also those involved in the environment.
  • To date we have participated in CAADP at AU level;
  • BRICS in Durban and WSF in Tunisia
  • Country level mobilising is growing as is the ned to develop concrete campaigns to tackle AGRA, CAADP and the G8 Alliance.
  • The challenges are also many at country level and we have to explore how we build the RWA and the collective reflections and regional organising.