Women leaders from around the world took centre stage at the United Nations General Assembly calling for women’s land rights at a music-filled event to mark Desertification and Drought Day.
Speakers from countries as diverse as Canada to Chad, Iceland to Lesotho, shared their experiences and explained how droughts, land degradation and desertification are disproportionately impacting the women and girls in their communities.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said: “We depend on land for our survival. Yet, we treat it like dirt.” He blamed unsustainable farming for eroding soil 100 times faster than natural processes can restore them and said 40% of land is now degraded.
Speaking passionately about the generations of farmers in his family, Csaba Kőrösi, President of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, said: “The data could not be clearer. When women farmers have access to own land, they grow more and so do their children and nations. Together, these positive shifts in women’s empowerment have a ripple effect on income, and children’s welfare.”
The first-ever female Prime Minister of Namibia, Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, spoke about what Namibia is doing to go above and beyond on women’s land rights. And there were also video messages from the Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Vice-President of Spain Teresa Ribero Rodríguez.
Sonia Guajajara, Brazil’s first-ever Minister of Indigenous Peoples, delivered an impassioned plea in support of Indigenous women leaders in her country. Jennifer Littlejohn, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, represented the United States, highlighting its government’s commitment to gender equity and equality.
The event was jointly organized by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), UN-Women, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, UN Human Rights and the UN Development Programme to mark the annual Desertification and Drought Day, which falls on June 17th.