A coalition led by women for women
CFLEDD is a coalition led by women for women. With its broad membership base, it is also deeply connected to other civil society movements. Among the membership, there is a wealth and diversity of experience and knowledge:
What makes the work of CFLEDD unique is that it is developing the tools to build women’s land tenure rights into documentation from the start, to guarantee women the same land rights as men. Its aim is to ensure that women’s rights, just like indigenous peoples’ rights, are explicitly addressed in new laws and decrees related to land tenure and that people are made aware of these rights, however remote their community.
“Our role is to help members of the community, particularly women, to air their grievances and claim their rights through the correct channels. This has led to a decree on forest rights. Communities need to know their rights.”
The absence of a clear legal framework governing land rights has made it easier for large agricultural, timber and mining corporations to gain access to land. Customary land tenure – where the land is owned and maintained by rural and indigenous communities who have traditionally managed it – often has no formal legal basis, so rural communities, both local and indigenous, can find themselves excluded, regardless of how well they know the land and how long they have lived there. To compound this problem, a wide variety of languages and high levels of illiteracy in rural areas means that many people, particularly in the most remote communities, are unaware of any rights they do have, or are unable to understand the legal processes and documentation required to secure them. In this context, CFLEDD has had to overcome numerous obstacles to ensure that women get a place at the table for discussions about land rights. And, Néné says, its work was not universally welcomed.
“We started out very small, with very little funding, but even so we met resistance from some people, who said things like ‘Don’t listen to those women. They’re not capable of doing big projects like that. Don’t give money to those women – they don’t know how to manage it’ and so on.”
Despite these struggles, she is proud that the coalition has now become the go to organisation for women’s rights in environmental and sustainable development circles in the DRC.
“Anybody who needs information or wants to be involved in questions of women’s rights now comes to us. There was a gap for an organisation that could fight for the rights of women within the context of the environment and natural resources, because women simply haven’t had a place at the table. We are now filling that gap.”
Néné’s journalistic experience and networks have been instrumental in developing an effective communications strategy for the organisation, helping its message reach a broader audience and forcing provincial and national authorities to take its work seriously.