Law Project 2.633/2020 is presented to the Brazilian Congress and may sign a point of no-return in the struggle for the Amazon and its socio-biodiversity
Anna Letaiko is a middle-aged woman with a soft voice that carries wisdom and strength. Her husband is an older man, and together they live in small mud house in Mundarara – a remote village in Longido district in Tanzania, accessible only by a rough dirt road. It is a Maasai community similar to the one in which I grew up, except that the community’s livelihood is based on mining and pastoralism while my community still depends on farming and pastoralism.
I met Anna through my work with WOLTS – a five-year action research project on women’s land rights in pastoral communities that are affected by mining. As a speaker of the Maasai language, my job is to facilitate and translate in training sessions and help develop training materials.
In Maasai culture, it is very rare for women to own land. Men see themselves as owning land on behalf of the whole family. If women do apply for land, they usually apply in the name of their husband or son.
However, the law in Tanzania (Land Act, 1999, and Village Land Act, 1999) grants women and men the same rights to land access, ownership and control. The law also says that women have the same rights in decision-making over land. What Maasai customs mean in practice is that women are denied the right to apply for land and own it themselves.
During our research we heard that, when women in Mundarara applied for land in their own names, their applications were ignored, not taken seriously, and even thrown away. Some women were even asked for sex in exchange for land documents.
Our aim through the WOLTS project is to support the community to find their own solutions to land rights problems. To help them achieve this, we asked them to select community ‘champions’ who would be trained in land rights, mining laws, investment laws, mineral valuation and legal procedures for licence applications, as well as gender-based violence.
Anna was one of the first champions to be trained in Mundarara. When we first started working in the community, Anna did not even know that she had the right to own land. After the WOLTS training sessions, she put in an application, and it was taken seriously.
A few months later, Anna received a small plot near the village centre where she wants to build a modern house. As a trained champion for gender equity, she has promised to help other women by raising awareness and assisting them to become land owners like herself.
The growth of artisanal mining in Mundarara has brought many changes to the community, including giving families new sources of income. Women are finding that they have more opportunities to earn money and participate in community and family decision-making, including through land ownership.
Documenting and sharing Anna Letaiko’s story reminded me how quickly life is changing in pastoral districts due to factors like mining. I hope it will inspire readers, raise the voices of less fortunate groups, and improve everyday life in communities similar to my own.
As a Swahili speaker from Tanzania, I have not often had the opportunity to meet or work with people from remote Maasai communities. However, I recently visited the villages of Naisinyai and Mundarara in the north of the country as part of a global research project on women’s land rights in pastoral communities affected by mining (the WOLTS project).
What the US faces on its southern border is not a security problem, but a humanitarian crisis, and punishing attempts at deterrence cannot resolve it. Enabling people to stay where they are requires, first and foremost, strengthening their right to be there.
A conversation with Julie Maldonado, Associate Director at Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN), and Co-Director of Rising Voices: Climate Resilience through Indigenous and Earth Sciences.
This is the second interview in our Climate Crisis, Global Land Use, and Human Rights Interview Series. See the first here.
Banks must stand with Indigenous and local communities in respecting their land rights
In 2018, every week more than three people were murdered, defending their land and environment from destructive industries like mining, logging and agribusiness. These killings represent the extreme end of a spectrum of violence and threats directed at land rights defenders.
The climate crisis will reshape our relationships to land around the world. Journalist David Wallace-Wells warns that, once the planet warms 2°C above preindustrial levels — the target set by the Paris Agreement — “major cities in the equatorial band of the planet will become unlivable,” and 400 million more people will suffer from regional water scarcity.
Indigenous and local community women play crucial roles as household and forest managers, food providers, and leaders of rural enterprises—and make invaluable contributions toward global sustainable development and climate goals. The evidence is clear that securing their rights to community lands offers a promising path toward prosperity and sustainability in the forested and rural areas of the world. Yet these rights remain constrained by unjust laws and practices, and the voices of these women are consistently underrepresented in decision-making processes at all levels.
At this year' Global Landscape Forum (GLF 2019), one message was loud and clear: diversity is key to restoration and sustainable landscape management, more specifically the emphasis on a variety of viewpoints and stories, is what will help us reach our goals!
Across the globe, indigenous and rural women make invaluable contributions to their communities and toward global sustainable development and climate goals. They use, manage, and conserve the community territories that comprise over 50 percent of the world’s land and support up to 2.5 billion people.