Press Statement: The Rural Women\’s Assembly at the Southern African People\’s Summit in Manzini, Swaziland

”The day we have freedom is the day we enjoy the same rights as men. When we ask for the same freedom as men we are perceived to not follow the law. We will not continue to be slaves. We have right to our land. We will fight for our land!” -Zodwa, Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly”

The Rural Women’s Assembly gathered on, 17 August 2016, in Manzini, Swaziland. 160 women from nine countries representing 100,000 small -scale farmers met to agree on land related issues to bring forward to the SADC Heads of State meeting.

The women concluded that their fight for land is two folded; failure from governments to protect their land rights and family structures (patriarchy) working against their access to land. Although women are the farmers and food providers of the region their efforts are not recognised through land security. The region offers a few good policies but fail women in terms of implementation. Inheritance legislation does not safeguard the widow and when women stand up they risk violence. This is their resolution to the Heads of State:

From the SADC heads of state we demand;

  • Land in the region has to safeguarded from mining and other multinational companies that grab our land. The sovereign rights of the people of the territory have to be put before so-called development.
  • That any ‘development investment’ benefits the people of SADC. That foreign direct investors are not the beneficiaries of ‘development’
  • That companies are taxed and not small scale farmers
  • That land is acknowledged for the multiple purposes that it is used for; culture, farming, traditions and symbols, identity etc.
  • That our traditional leaders are educated on women’s rights to land as stated in our constitutions
  • That efforts are made to make women know of the same rights
  • Disabled women must not be side-lined in any land distribution process

As rural women we commit to;

  • To participate in national debates on land bills and policy frameworks,
  • Educate ourselves on the good policies that already exist in the region
  • Continue to organise ourselves as women and build strong movements
  • Develop a common charter for Rural Land Rights and Tenure- this has to speak to our views for the SADC region
  • Continue to fight for our land as women and ensure that women’s rights over land are protected in law and not undermined by our husbands, our traditional leaders or governments.

The Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA) is a self-organised network or alliance of national rural women’s movements, assemblies, grassroots organisations and chapters of mixed peasant unions, federations and movements across 9 countries in the SADC region.

Contact: Mercia Andrews


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