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“When images of the world’s disasters flash across television screens,” wrote Jan Egeland (2005, p. 1) in the Foreword to Broken Bodies, Broken Dreams: Violence Against Women Exposed, “more often than not, we are presented with a rough sketch of the humanitarian crisis. Rarely do the cameras venture beneath the surface to look at the hidden impact of a humanitarian crisis on affected communities. If they did they would find that virtually without exception, it is women and children who are the most vulnerable.” So it is with the twin crises facing South Africa today: poverty, particularly due to lack of access to land and environmental degradation and gender based violence. The legacies of colonization and apartheid, and in particular, land dispossession, were predicated on violence against indigenous communities, with the most serious impacts being on women.
In the post-apartheid dispensation, mining, fracking, state enterprises like dam building, etc represent continuities of this herstorical violence. Further, researchers and activists have often argued that the land distribution programme tends to ignore the needs of women, particularly those whose livelihoods is dependent on the land, and that when women are taken into consideration, the unequal gender norms that expose them to violence in their homes and communities are largely ignored. It is for this reason that indigenous knowledge systems across the globe are premised on the belief that “for indigenous communities…,the linksbetween land and body create a powerful intersection—one that, when overlooked or discounted, can threaten their very existence” (Women’s Earth Alliance and Native Youth Sexual Health Network, n.d. p.2).
This means that any form of violence on the land (for example, through environmental degradation) or poor access to land is inextricably linked to violence on people’s bodies, particularly women’s bodies (through environmental racism, gender based violence and other forms of violence). How, for example, can we take seriously, and address the marginalization of women in the land distribution program in rural communities? How might we integrate the needs of women into research and interventions related to land and mining rights and extraction of minerals?
These and other questions will be debated at the feminist dialogue organised by Agenda Feminist Media. The dialogue brings together feminist academics, activists and practitioners to not only work towards understanding the intersections between lack of access to land/land degradation and gender based violence, but to also debate ameliorative strategies for social change.