- Dr Janet Edeme is the Head of the Rural Development Division in the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment of the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- Her Division is responsible for coordinating the implementation of the African Union Agenda on Land and its challenges, Post-Harvest Loss Management, and Empowerment of Women and Youth in Agriculture.
Special Focus on Leading Voices on Women’s Land Rights in Africa
What is the importance of International Women’s Day (IWD), and what does it represent to you?
International Women’s Day reminds us of the critical role women play in our societies and their valuable contribution to Africa. If you consider the African landscape, our women contribute to the sustenance of our agriculture and food systems and achieving food and nutrition security. Women, therefore, need land as well as other productive resources for them to contribute towards the development of Africa sustainably.
When women can enjoy their land rights, they will be able to contribute to the achievement of Agenda 2063 sufficiently; more specifically, Aspiration 6 envisions an Africa whose development are people driven, relying on the potential offered by African People, especially its Women and Youth, and caring for Children. Through Aspiration 6 of Agenda 2063, we hope to achieve full Gender Equality in all spheres of life, including accessing and owning productive land.
You’ve worked in this space for a long time. What about 2022 to 2023 has surprised you the most on women’s land rights?
During the period 2022 and the early months of 2023, the world was recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic disrupted the status quo and prompted renewed thinking on managing global food supply chains.
The Russia-Ukraine Conflict, however, slowed down the post-Covid 19 pandemic recovery process, and what we have seen is an increase in agriculture production costs, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is heavily reliant on fertiliser, agro chemicals and raw crop inputs from the two countries that have been in conflict for close to two years now.
We, therefore, need to rethink and strategize how women can position themselves and apply sustainable agriculture practices that can enhance their productivity and leverage opportunities that the reduced importation of foods from Europe would create. We have sufficient land in Africa, but we must ensure that our women are resilient to the many external shocks, including wars, epidemics and climate change.
How can we build back a society that supports women’s land rights?
To have a society that supports women’s land rights, we need to ensure that our Member States put policies and legal frameworks in place that protect women’s land rights despite their status and whatever tenure arrangements they have land on.
There is also a need to adapt to low-cost Information Communication Technologies (ICT) and associated applications and use them for enhanced information sharing among women and other vulnerable groups. This will help increase awareness of the available opportunities women can leverage and benefit from their land rights. ICTs can further facilitate women’s increased access to registering land rights, agriculture extension, finance and technical assistance.
We also urge AU Member States to deliberately increase the quota for women’s participation in various Public-Private Dialogue (PPD) platforms both at the regional and national levels. This is key in facilitating women’s participation in planning, and decision-making and increasing their access to information to land.
What can men do to help to achieve equality for women’s land rights?
Men are involved in decision-making over land. They are also involved in land administration worldwide and can promote women’s rights to land in their daily roles as administrators of this vital resource. This includes creating a gender-inclusive business environment that limits the barriers to entry of women and women-led businesses in various sectors of the economy.
What advice would you offer to young women interested in pursuing a career in the land/ land governance sector?
Opportunities in the land sector are diverse, and you can always find a place to influence change as a surveyor, administrator, lawyer defending other women’s rights, policy maker, and planner. The opportunities are endless in the land sector!
With the increasing digitalisation of processes, we expect tech-savvy young women to innovatively develop technologies and platforms that would address the challenges that disproportionately affect women’s access to land. Working in the land sector allows you to contribute to development, specially and uniquely.