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Supporting Women’s Rights and Power

March 2013

 “There are thousands upon thousands who weren’t as lucky as I was—I survived hunger….I probably would not have survived had it not been for the support and solidarity of groups like Grassroots International.”  Janaina Stronzake, an internationally known woman leader in the Brazilian land rights movement


With International Women’s Day fresh in our minds and hearts, we are reminded how the worldwide struggle for women’s rights continue, especially for women in the Global South.  

Rural women face daunting circumstances: of the nearly 870 million people who go hungry every day, 70 percent are women and girls. Despite being responsible for up to 80 percent of food production in some regions, women own less than 2 percent of all property worldwide. Land and water grabs by profit hungry corporations – often involving backroom deals with government officials – are dislocating rural families by the millions and destroying their livelihoods. This concentration of land, water and food systems into the hands of a few hands exacerbates the fundamental inequality experienced by women and girls.

That is why Grassroots International places such focus on women’s rights to land, water and food—they are central to elevating women’s rights and status, and critical to addressing the current global food crisis. 

Grassroots International’s Women and Resource Rights Program focuses on efforts that nurture female leadership, foster an environment free of violence, defend and promote the human rights of women, and build women’s economic self-sufficiency through sustainable projects. 

The following accomplishments over the past year illustrate the work we do and its impact:

Freedom from Violence:

  • As a result of the Campaign to Stop Violence against Rural Women, Nicaragua’s government passed landmark bill to stop violence against women and protect their human rights. Our partners throughout Central America are now using this victory to push their respective governments to follow suit.
  • We supported the launch of a campaign to end violence against Haitian women, and the production of a study documenting violence against women in Northern Haiti.
  • Urban and rural women-led organizations in Guatemala are paving the way for the Women’s World March to come to that nation, building awareness of violence against women in all its forms.

Defending Women’s Human Rights:

  • In Tamil Nadu, India, advocacy and community organizing by a women’s group are helping to secure land rights of women farmers and increase work opportunities for landless female laborers, especially Dalits (‘untouchables’).
  • Over 80 women organizers and leaders from Maranhão, Brazil have gained leadership and advocacy skills to support land reclamation efforts.
  • Women from the Garifuna community in Vallecito, Honduras won a court order to regain land wrongfully taken away from them.

Sustainability and Economic Self Sufficiency:

  • Women in 45 indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Mexico have established a growing network of over 1,300 organic vegetable gardens.
  • The number of organic urban gardens created by and for poor women in Gaza, Palestine—on rooftops, backyards, and bombed-out spaces between buildings—reached 2,500 (as of 5/2012). These provide much-needed nutrition as well as generate income.
  • In Northern Haiti, a peasant women’s group has developed a dairy project enabling them to supply fresh, locally produced and ecologically safe milk to local schools and strengthen Haiti’s fragile food security.

Women’s Leadership:

  • Three hundred peasant and indigenous women received training at the Central American Peasant School in Nicaragua in agrarian reform, agroecology, and advocacy strategies for securing land rights for women.
  • In southern Mexico, women continue to take the lead on a popular initiative to educate indigenous communities in the Sierra Juarez about indigenous rights.
  • The “We are the Solution” campaign, organized by a dozen women-led rural organizations in five West African countries, is equipping family farmers with the skills to ensure that their voices are heard in the development of ecologically and socially-sound farming policies.

The challenges are immense—therefore the opportunities are great. And the ripple effects of greater women’s empowerment, equality and rights ripple outward to their families, communities and beyond.  With the support of our donors and readers like you, we are seeing how effective, positive solutions are leaping boundaries and oceans to sow seeds of hope and justice globally. 


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