Rural women’s land rights key to food security

“Report to us immediately if any of you still hold titles that don’t give equal co-ownership of the lands you till. Inform us if there are issues that we should address,” Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) Chairperson Remedios Ignacio-Rikken said during the forum on the land rights of marginalized women in celebration of the annual International Rural Women’s Day (October 15).

Addressing the more than 100 women gathered for the activity, Rikken assured that PCW is dedicated to make land rights real for the marginalized rural women.

“It is smart to invest in rural women who do 70 percent of farm work, but this is only possible if peasant women have access to and control over land and water resources,” Rikken explained. She added that it is beyond debate that the Philippine legislation offers “vast opportunities” in terms of women’s rights and access to land. The issue, however, is the “big gap in policy implementation” which the forum aimed to address.

According to Rikken, equality, development and food security are guaranteed by the right to resources. “Individual empowerment is inextricably linked to the right to land, which is the foundation of recognition of women’s status as farmers,” Rikken said stressing that it is “basic to having equal access to agricultural support services, protection from impact of trade liberalization, and participation in economic governance bodies.” She also said that access to better opportunities will give women “better chance to break free from subordination” whether in the home or in the community.

The Magna Carta of Women (MCW, R.A 9710) strengthens women’s equal right to land ownership. It mandates the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to issue Emancipation Patent (EP) and Certificate of Land Ownership (CLOA) to all qualified beneficiaries regardless of sex, civil status or physical condition. The law also requires the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to ensure co-stewardship of spouses, and the equal status in issuing lease agreements and other fishery rights.

“Land titles provide security of tenure. Make sure your name appears as equal co-owner of the land you cultivate, regardless of the nature of your union,” Rikken said.

The Interagency Committee on Rural Women, led by the PCW and DAR, organized the forum. The forum is the highlight of the committee’s five-day celebration with the theme “The Empowerment of Rural Women and their Role in Poverty and Hunger Eradication, Development and Current Challenges.” Co-organizers were the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), DENR-Land Management Bureau (DENR-LMB), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan(PKKK). The forum was held at the conference hall of the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BWSM), DA in Quezon City.