Rural Women Talks about Empowerment and Development for Socio-Economic and Political Emancipation

On Day 2 of the Southern African People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN) Summit, the Rural Women’s Assembly, Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly and Women and Land in Southern Africa combined and collectively engaged in a discussion that focused on “Rural Women Empowerment and Development for Socio-economic and Political Emancipation. More than 100 women from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) attended the discussion, and from the following countries: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Nambia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

The session was opened by Mbali Dlamini (Swaziland) with welcoming remarks from Lonhlanhla Mthethwa-Masuku (Swaziland); Mercia Andrews (South Africa); Colani Hlatshwako (Swaziland).

The panel discussion included 5 presenters from (Malawi), Charmaine Jacobs (South Africa), (Swaziland) and (Zambia). Presenters focused on the benefits of indigenous seeds for women and the communities in which they live; the challenges of domestic violence, discrimination, poverty and social ills that women in Swaziland experience; the vulnerability of domestic workers in Swaziland and the working conditions of women working and living in forestry communities. Ellen Matupi, RWA member from Malawi presented on farm input subsidies in Malawi.

Some of the issues that emerged in the discussion include: an end to domestic violence, child abuse and prostitution by young women who have no other income generating skills; strengthening of partnerships and solidarity across the region; the issue of women living with disabilities has to be taken up and their challenges and concerns addressed by women first and then remitted to the relevant authorities where appropriate; called for an end to the branding and classification of abused women encouraged women to stand up and fight for each other; the plight of care workers who render services voluntarily, but who should be remunerated because their jobs were essential to the communities in which they lived.

Action Points

After the discussion the women arrived came up with a list of action points to be undertaken after the summit and these were as follow:

  • Advocacy to get the Sexual Offences and Gender Based Violence Bill should be enacted in Swaziland should be intensified.
  • Women should begin their work at community level by engaging with traditional authorities before taking it up to national levels.
  • Women shall advocate for policy changes for SADC and send a delegation to take the proposed policies to the Heads Of States.
  • Advocacy shall begin to get SADC governments to stop Multinational Corporations from imposing their hybrid seeds and to protect indigenous seeds.
  • Governments will be lobbied to promote indigenous country and establish local seed banks
  • Women shall demand that decision-makers should always consult and involve them (women) in all processes.
  • Advocacy will be embarked on to ensure that women empowerment should not be subject to “availability of resources”
  • Women will demand on the 10% of the agricultural budget provided for in the Maputo Protocol and that 50% of that should go to women.
  • Governments should channel money that is allocated to investments in agriculture to serve the interests of women.
  • We should be permitted to exchange seeds within the region; customs regulations should not be restrictive and allow for free trade.
  • Women should be allowed to own land in their own name with no restrictions or conditions; land grabbing should not be allowed.
  • Women should access quality health services.
  • Sex workers be organized and recognised so that their issues may be addressed.
  • Small-scale farmers must be recognised and supported.
  • There should be policy and law to develop and empower women
  • A campaign to get the Lesotho government to enact their domestic bill into an Act will begin.
  • Advocacy to get discriminatory laws repealed in SADC shall begin.
  • Women of SADC, in solidarity shall join the One Billion Rising for Revolution campaign.
  • Efforts will be made to get care workers to be paid for their services.

*Summary from Report on Rural Women Empowerment & Development for Socio-economic & Political Emancipation WLSA (SAPSN) prepared by Mary Pais Da Silva for Women & Law in Southern Africa (WLSA), 20th August 2016.

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