« ‘Je prie Dieu qu’il ait partage et communion entre nous les femmes, que nous parlions d’une seule voix, pour se faire entendre par les autorités, qu’ils nous écoutent et nous soutiennent dans nos initiatives, à vaincre la faim et avoir abondement à manger’ Marthe Ladem, productrice rurale Logone orientale ( voir histoire de vie ‘Avec la femme rurale pour un Tchad sans faim ‘)
‘I pray to God that there is communion and sharing among us women, that we can speak with one voice, to be heard by the authorities, that they will listen to us and support us in our initiatives, to overcome hunger and have plenty to eat" Marthe Ladem, woman rural producer Logone Orientale (see: histoire de vie campaign ‘With rural woman for a Chad without hunger’)
It is not always easy to be a girl and woman in Chad. According to the 2021 Global Gender Gap Indicator Report, Chad is ranked 148th out of 156 countries. The maternal mortality rate in Chad is phenomenally high at 856 deaths per 100,000 births (IMF 2019). Literacy rates are low across the country but are particularly gendered with only 20 per cent of young women being literate (IMF 2019).
Equal rights are recognized by the laws including the constitution, but the life of many women and girls is for the most part, a life of suffering, discrimination and denial of basic rights. Due to complex patriarchal norms, they are regarded as less worth, weak and inferior human beings, as demonstrated by the expression “Mara sakit’ (‘she is just a woman’). They are considered unable to exercise a public leadership role. Relegated to her reproductive and caring roles, exposed to any form of violence, many women in Chad are deprived of the possibility to represent and define themselves. Their access to resources, including land, is often denied, and aggravated by demographic explosion and climate change impact.
A gender and Resilience study carried out by Oxfam in 2018 found that in the provinces of Barh El Gazel, Kanem and Lac, women were excluded from land allocations, leaving them dependent on highly insecure forms of land acquisition. Nevertheless, women also show effective ways in collectively negotiating access to land, for instance through women’s groups and cooperatives.
When asked, women said they need access to land and access to credit.
During a workshop aimed at defining the focus of a campaign to improve policies in favor for women in the occasion of political election in 2016, the involved women’s organizations realized that access to land and credit are essential to fight hunger in Chad.
This is how women’s land rights became the central focus for the campaign ‘Avec la femme rurale pour un Tchad sans faim’ (With rural women for Chad without hunger). Initially started by Oxfam and two partners, the Cellule de Liaison et d ’Information des Associations Feminines du Tchad (CELIAF) and the Conseil National de Concertation des Producteurs Ruraux du Tchad (CNCPRT), the campaign attracted a coalition of 15 civil society organisations, which are still leading the campaign today. The campaign was able to mobilize 25.000 women in 7 provinces during the period 2017-2019.
As land, and women’s land rights, were sensitive issues, the campaign had often faced the reluctance of local authorities; nevertheless, 300 ha of land were eventually allocated to 18 women's groups. As a result, lobbying at the national and local levels has been conducted to build trust and relations with the ministries, local authorities, and other concerned actors. These local and national campaign actions have laid the groundwork for advocacy work by Oxfam and other actors for a broad national land reform in Chad.
Trying to walk on this road was and certainly is a journey to rugged terrain; today there are women exploiting and trying to develop the land they have been allocated, while others still face challenges in exploiting their own land because of social pressure.
Cérémonie de remise des terres aux groupements des femmes de la province de Koumra, Janvier 2018. @Oxfam/Mahamat Ibrahim
Knock-on effect of a women’s land rights campaign
It is a shockwave the campaign, thanks to trust and relationships created the stories from the field and support from influential actors, new momentum was created to push for boosting a dormant land reform in the country.
The reform process was set in motion in June 2018, when the Ministry of Spatial Planning, Housing Development and Urban Planning withdraw from the National Assembly a draft land law that had been tabled since 2014. An inter-ministerial and multi-stakeholder committee was established to review the Land Code with the objective of aligning it to international principles and standards and with the clear mandate to make the new legislation more favorable to women’s land rights. The renewed interest and opening of the government to addressing land reform lead other international partners to resume or initiate their support to land reform process. Among others, the Dutch Embassy in Chad, and the Land-at-Scale program engaged on what can be considered today one of the biggest land specific interventions on land governance in the country. FAO received a request to support the government in the preparation of a national land policy. This land policy is expected to be prepared based on an inclusive process, inspired by the VGGT principles and recommendations.
Land-at-Scale project in Chad and women’s land rights
Thanks to the trust, the relationships created on the ground and the support of influential actors through the first "rural woman" campaign, a new impetus has been given to the campaign to push for the promotion of the land reform. A new phase of the campaign ‘femme rurale’ will see the light under the project ‘Gouvernance foncière inclusive et juste au Tchad’ (Just and inclusive land reform in Chad) implemented by Oxfam and its partners under the Land-at-Scale program for the period 2021-2024.
In this phase the coalition will be strengthened, also attracting more organizations, preparing civil society organizations to fully participate in the legislative processes, and first and foremost continuing and enlarging the work on the ground, not only to guarantee access to land but also towards securing land rights of women and girls.
The whole Land-at-Scale project was conceived based on the understanding that women’s land rights can’t be treated in isolation from broader land rights, land governance and land administration issues. In addition to the specific campaign work on women and girls’ rights, the project is rolling out through initiatives spanning national policy influencing work, reform of land administration system, and local support to land use management, women economic empowerment, land conflict transformation, and legal empowerment.
The project is not (only) about women and girls’ rights, but it is definitely about a land reform that will not happen without them. It is about women and girls trying to overcome ‘Mara Sakite’ concept, it is about women and girls inspiring and leading on wide ranging land governance aspects that have an impact on them, their communities, and the entire society.
Rural women and girls, they can be ‘thought’ and ‘do’ leaders for inclusive land reform, let them be!
‘J’ai envisagé l’avenir, pas le présent, pour nos jeunes, qui veulent aussi travailler de la terre, c’est pour ça qu’on a envisagé travailler la terre pour que les enfants eux même mangent avec nous et quand nous sommes disparus ils vont prendre le relais’ - Colette Djimadaoum, exploitante agricole province du Mandoul. (de histoire de vie campagne ‘Avec la femme rurale pour un Tchad sans faim ‘)
"I envisioned the future, not the present, for our youth, who also want to work the land, that's why we want to work on our land so that the children eat with us and when we are gone they will take over" Colette Djimadaoum, rural farmer of Mandoul. (see histoire de vie – campaign ‘with rural woman for Chad without hunger’)