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RWA Media Statement: Africa Day 2024

As rural women across Southern Africa, we are deeply concerned about the socio-economic injustices and structural inequalities which continue to plague our continent. On this Africa Day, while acknowledging our shared history, aspirations and the progress made since the founding of the African Union sixty years ago, we must also confront the stark reality that Africa to this day is still poor and indebted. Southern Africa, like the rest of the continent, is grappling with the detrimental effects of corrupt and dictatorial regimes that undermine democracy and good governance. Our rich mineral and natural resources should be sources of prosperity for all. Yet mismanagement and exploitation have left us burdened with excessive debt, depriving us of the wealth we rightfully deserve.

Patriarchy, deeply entrenched in both our societies and governments, is a fundamental root cause of the oppression and marginalisation we endure. This patriarchal system perpetuates Gender-based violence (GBV), restricts our access to resources and decision-making, and reinforces harmful stereotypes that undermine our autonomy and dignity. We cannot continue to ignore the damaging impact of neo-colonialism, perpetuated by multinational corporations and commercial interests, which exploit our resources cause irreversible environmental harm. The African Union, tasked with safeguarding our sovereignty, has failed to protect us from this rampant exploitation. Rural women are vital to Africa’s agricultural sector but we find ourselves ensnared in cycles of poverty, inequality, and violence. Despite our crucial contributions to ensuring food security and sustainable development, we are systematically denied access to resources, opportunities, and essential services. Our plight is exacerbated by the indifference of global corporations and the paralysis of the African Union.

Achieving seed and food sovereignty must be a mandatory focus. We can no longer tolerate being marginalised and exploited. The power to control our food systems must be reclaimed from corporate interests and corrupt governments. We demand the right to save, use, exchange, and sell our seeds, free from the constraints of oppressive regulations and patents imposed by multinational corporations. 

We draw attention to the commitments made by our governments under the Malabo Declaration, which calls for the allocation of 10 percent of public expenditure to agriculture. This pledge, if honoured, has the potential to transform our agricultural sector, enhance food security, and promote sustainable development. However, we must go further. We demand that this funding be directed towards supporting agroecological practices, empowering small-scale farmers, and ensuring that rural women have equal access to land, resources, and decision-making processes.

We stand united against the patriarchal neoliberal systems that seek to undermine our autonomy, our traditions, and our future. Our traditional knowledge, passed down through generations, is under threat from genetically modified seeds and corporate monopolies. These entities, driven by profit, are robbing us of our heritage and our right to feed our families with nutritious, culturally appropriate food. We demand the dismantling of the corporate control over our seeds and the immediate cessation of policies that prioritise profit over people. We demand an end to the land grabs and the privatising of the Commons. We reject the commodification of our natural resources and the enslavement of our economies through insurmountable debt. It is our ancestral right to save, share, and plant our indigenous seeds, free from the constraints of patents and biopiracy. We, as the custodians of the land, the guardians of the seeds, and the nourishers of our communities, rise today to claim our right to seed and food sovereignty. Our liberation is intertwined with the liberation of our land. Until Africa is truly free from the chains of poverty and debt, we can never be truly free.

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