On World Food Day, rural women demand land rights to fight hunger

October 16th, 2008 - 5:03 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) Seventy percent of the female workforce is engaged in agriculture, yet only 10 percent women farmers own any land. On World Food Day Thursday, women from various parts of rural India demanded agricultural land rights - to battle hunger and poverty.Supported by members of local NGOs and international NGO ActionAid’s HungerFree campaign, these women, most of whom work as agricultural farmers yet don’t have the right on their piece of land, stressed that this was the way out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

Kamala Matan of Orissa, who belongs to a tribal community, said that their fight for joint pattas (land titles) with their husbands, which gives them a legal claim to the land they use, has ensured them food security and an independent livelihood.

“This patta gives us strength. We don’t fear the men now. They can’t threaten to throw us out,” Matan said.

“Other people can learn from us. When we get the patta we can claim the land and after us, our children will inherit it,” she added.

Convincing the men was not easy, Matan said. However they have managed to convince quite a few.

“We have been convincing men to sign the patta application in joint names. At the women’s group meet, we told our husbands that even we have daughters and tomorrow if her husband divorces her, then she will face the same problem. If we all sign the patta application together, this will help them. So they signed it,” she said.

Rambati, who hails from the Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh and belongs to the poverty-stricken Sahariya community - a primitive tribal group in which men typically marry twice - said: “If the government doesn’t give ownership of land to women, what will happen to the first wife if the husband marries again or deserts the wife? How will she manage her and her children’s lives?”

Everjoice Win, ActionAid’s Head of Women’s Rights, said: “There is no quick fix to ending hunger, but there is a long-term solution. In poor countries, it is women who grow most of the food and feed their families. But their rights to access and control the means to do so are not provided and in some cases are violated outright.

“States can be more food secure by implementing and upholding new laws that give women more secure rights to own or access land in their own right as citizens.”

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