Promoting the rights of rural women at CSW62

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Building on collective work to advance women’s rights related to land, housing and natural resources, ESCR-Net members active in the Women and ESCR and Corporate Accountability Working Groups engaged with fellow civil society advocates, state representatives and UN officials—at the 62nd UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) focused on issues impacting rural women.

On Monday, 12 March 2018, the Women and ESCR Working Group coordinated a parallel event at the NGO Forum to the CSW titled “Rural women leaders advancing human rights and shaping standards: Evolving openings.” The event, which was moderated by Pauline Vata of Hakijamii, foregrounded opportunities for women’s leadership in collective advocacy structural and macro-economic issues that constitute root causes of human rights violations against women and girls in rural areas.

Female leaders Zenayda Serrano of Movimiento Unificado Francisco Sánchez-1932 (MUFRAS-32), Elina Horo of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and Christiana Louwa of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples shared stories of and lessons from their struggles.

“We were afraid of confronting the hard reality of impunity; above all, due to the corruption that exists in our countries. But this did not cause us to falter in our struggle. On the contrary, we encountered great international solidarity… which obligated the Salvadoran State to investigate a bit and also to prohibit metallic mining [in El Salvador].”

After sharing their stories, members invited an interactive dialogue with participants regarding opportunities for advancing community control over land and resources, as well as the necessary leadership of women in shaping demands, envisioning just futures and shaping global norms.

On Tuesday, 13 March, the Women and ESCR Working Group co-sponsored a session at the official CSW together with the Permanent Mission of Finland. The event, which was moderated by Sanam Amin of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development. Featuring presentations by Pilar A. Alcalá of Instituto de Liderazgo Simone Beauvoir, Judit Geller of European Roma Rights Center, Christine J. Kandie of Endorois Welfare Council and Chanda Thapa Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, the event explored openings to confront structural barriers preventing the realization of economic, social and cultural rights of rural, indigenous and minority women and girls.

These presentations highlighted how the lack of adequate basic public services for many rural communities is connected to violations of rights to health, education, safe, clean water and sanitation, among others. Special focus was paid to the ways these connections disproportionately impact women.

Participants also highlighted how the wider failure to recognize the rights of rural communities to land and other natural resources expose them to the negative impacts of land grabs, climate change and large-scale extractive, energy and infrastructure projects. Moreover, for women, the impacts of these processes are often magnified by patriarchal social norms shaping the division of labor, including care, land tenure and participation in key decision-making processes. The event enabled members to share their analysis from different regions and discuss emerging openings to advance human rights for rural, indigenous and minority women.

Focusing on one of these openings, Feminists for a Binding Treaty (#Feminists4BindingTreaty) — an informal collective of advocates led by several ESCR-Net members and a few close allies — also facilitated events co-sponsored by ESCR-Net. Since 2016, this group has been making the case for a feminist perspective to inform the evolving UN treaty on business and human rights. At CSW, this call manifested in an official event with the Permanent Mission of Ecuador on March 12, which amplified the unique experiences and challenges faced by rural women and girls with regards to corporate-related human rights abuses. The event highlighted the important effects of women’s political participation in shaping accountability for human rights. Moreover, on March 13, Feminists for a Binding Treaty held a parallel event at the NGO Forum to the CSW to further deepen discussion about strategies to stop corporate impunity for human rights violations affecting rural women and girls.