Land rights in Latin America: where are the voices of indigenous women?

Source: The Guardian Unlimited

Latin America NGO director Omaira BolaƱos explains the barriers to getting women’s voices heard in climate change talks

How is deforestation and climate change affecting the lives of indigenous women?

Women play a very important role in food production and often have to bear the brunt of the added burden of adapting to climate change in forests and farmland. Natural resource developments such as oil palm plantations or oil and gas exploration damage their fragile ecosystems and affect their ability to produce food. Despite this, they seldom have the rights to their lands. Without these rights they stand to lose their sole source of food, income and shelter.

Additionally they are often not allowed to participate in national and international strategies to tackle the issues that affect them. These are challenges that exist right across Latin America.

How is the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) helping to address the issues of insecure and unclear land rights for indigenous people in Latin America?

As a coalition we encourage collaboration between our partners and community organisations, who work through research and advocacy to catalyse major breakthroughs in forest and land rights priorities.

We campaign to ensure policy and market reforms allow indigenous peoples and local communities to benefit from the lands they have lived on for generations.

Currently, one of our focuses is on mainstreaming the issue of gender justice and the promotion of collective rights of women to land and forest.

Is the lack of strong and effective legislation the underlying issue?

Not necessarily. The underlying issue is that women’s rights are often not respected at many levels. Their contributions are not acknowledged within their own communities, in the legal frameworks of their countries, nor are women included in global discussions around natural resource management.

How could enhancing women’s presence in forest governance improve resource conservation and regeneration?

Enhancing women’s participation in decisions over land and resources will ensure their knowledge, initiatives and needs are accounted for.

Their lives are intertwined with the forests and they are integral members of indigenous and local communities, and have contributed to the governance of their territories and resources. Their knowledge is important in decisions related to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

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