#WPS: Creating connections: empowering rural women in human rights leadership

Women-led organizations often work to empower women to utilize their leadership skills, knowledge, and the power they possess as changemakers to claim their human rights and to build stronger communities.

Rural areas and living are often treated as a disconnected reality from industrious, globalized capitals and cities that host large economies, populations, and are often the political epicenter. Yet, rural economies, like the agricultural sector, and their labor forces are inextricably connected to the global economy, and women make up a significant portion of the agricultural labor force while simultaneously carrying out the bulk of unpaid domestic work. Gender disparities in both the informal and formal labor sectors disproportionately affect women with lower wages, less labor rights protections, unequal opportunity to senior positions, gender-based violence, and other rights violations.

Women have a leading and multidimensional role in rural communities as workers, caretakers, mediators, organizers, protectors of land and the environment, culture-keepers and storytellers, and many other roles but have been and continue to be deliberately excluded from official decision-making processes and positions. This, in turn, has perpetuated existing inequalities and that ultimately have a negative impact on the local economies, environment, and social and political stability.

"Women have a leading and multidimensional role in rural communities as workers, caretakers, mediators, organizers, protectors of land and the environment, culture-keepers and storytellers, and many other roles but have been and continue to be deliberately excluded from official decision-making processes and positions."

Women-led organizations work as peacebuilders in communities. They often work to empower women to utilize their leadership skills, knowledge, and the power they possess as changemakers to claim their human rights and to build stronger communities. This work is important in all settings, but in conflict-affected communities this work is especially critical as women are severely impacted and account for the overwhelming majority of those affected by conflict. Our grantee partner, Alianza de Mujeres Tejedoras de Vida del Putumayo, works with local women in many ways in one of Colombia's most severely conflict-affected departments - Putumayo. They are a platform of 65 grassroots organizations that are composed of mostly rural women who have been working on human rights, advocacy, social inclusion, and environmental defense for over 20 years. Women involved are empowered and empower each other to become human rights defenders and local peacebuilders. They work to build resilience of local women at all levels and in both private and public life, and in turn, community resilience is strengthened as well. One of the key areas of work for Tejedoras de Vida is to build climate resilience through women's leadership. For this goal, they work to strengthen the participation and formation of women leaders - las guardianas del agua - to advance opportunities for intervention and advocacy in planning spaces, land use planning, climate change, use of hydrocarbons in the Amazonian piedmont or the protection of natural resources in the region.

The NHRF is proud to support an organization working with women in such a multifaceted way that explores and enhances their strengths and capacities as local leaders and helps to create and put them in spaces of local decision-making, ensuring they are able to fulfill their vital role in community peace and resilience building.

Photo: Alianza de Mujeres Tejedoras de Vida del Putumayo.

Beijing Declaration - Women and the environment

(a) Ensure opportunities for women, including indigenous women, to participate in environmental decision-making at all levels, including as managers, designers and planners, and as implementers and evaluators of environmental projects;

(e) Take measures to integrate a gender perspective in the design and implementation of, among other things, environmentally sound and sustainable resource management mechanisms, production techniques and infrastructure development in rural and urban areas;

(f) Take measures to empower women as producers and consumers so that they can take effective environmental actions, along with men, in their homes, communities and workplaces;

(g) Promote the participation of local communities, particularly women, in identification of public service needs, spatial planning and the provision and design of urban infrastructure.