To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, Landscapes News is publishing a series of stories honoring women with a laurel for their dedication to improving the landscape. In this profile, Landscapes News contributor Katelyn Roett, writes about Renée Giovarelli. Check Viewpoint all week for more laurel recipients.
When women have rights to the land they farm, their family’s nutrition, health, education and environment improve, according to Resource Equity co-founder Renée Giovarelli.
“Having rights to land that cannot be easily taken away can mean the difference between living with domestic violence and being able to leave, or the difference between feeding your family well and eating one meal a day,” says Giovarelli.
One of the world’s foremost experts on women’s land rights, Giovarelli has more than 20 years of experience focusing on the legal and sociological issues central to gender equity in access to land and natural resources. Her work has influenced central policy positions on land access, use and control for leading international development organizations.
According to Giovarelli, once a certain number of women get involved in land governance concerns, more will join and eventually they will have a real voice. A Rights and Resources Initiative report also found that securing women’s participation in community governance bodies can have a number of positive forest conservation outcomes, while contributing to local and national economic development.
“What we don’t know is how to ensure that women have enough knowledge, time and space necessary to apply and enforce their rights–in every project, every time,” she said. “There is very little research about what works for women in the context of large, expensive projects intended to document land rights, boost agricultural productivity or improve sustainability.”
To help fill this knowledge gap, Resource Equity will launch a project this month that will collect what’s known about women’s land rights, curate that information in a way that can be easily searched and found and identify what else is required to make women’s land rights real.
Giovarelli has always been concerned about people who do not have enough to eat.
In the 1970s, she became a vegetarian after reading a book about how much grain animals require and how many more people that grain could feed. She ran the Missoula Food Bank in Montana for four years in the 1980s, and she wrote her law school thesis on the human right to food and the Ethiopian famine in the early 1990s.
“Really, land rights are not very inspiring until you come to understand them,” Giovarelli says.
“Women’s equality, girls’ education, stamping out HIV, or stopping violence against women—they all make sense as important causes right off the bat. But securing land rights for women can frequently serve as a driving force to combat many of these challenges.”