On occasion of September 21st, International day of Struggle against Tree Plantations, women from several countries from West and Central Africa have taken the initiative to release simultaneously the petition we enclose below.
The petition is an urgent request from women in Africa to stop the suffering and the violent impacts the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations is creating on womens´ lives, that affect women in and outside the African continent: Violence, sexual abuses, rape, harassment, persecution, destruction of their means of livelihoods.
Women want their lands back from the companies that got illegitimately hold of these through concessions given to them by governments. The women want their lands and forests back to continue being able to produce their food, they want food sovereignty!
If you wish to endorse the petition in solidarity with the women in Africa, please fill the following form with your name and/or the name of the organization you belong to and the country. On March 8, 2018, when the International Women’s Day is celebrated, the petition will be handed over or sent , to national governments in Africa and other relevant actors promoting industrial oil palm expansion in African countries.
Petition text: Stop all forms of abuse against women in and around large monoculture tree plantations
We, women from here and elsewhere, have witnessed the horrible poverty of families living next to large monoculture plantations, particularly oil palm plantations, everywhere these plantations have been established. Women, the backbone of the family unit, are the most affected.
— Women are displaced from the lands on which they have always produced food to feed their families and communities, and food becomes scarce and families go hungry;
— Women are harassed, abused, tortured and dragged into the courts just for possessing some palm nuts or palm oil, even if these nuts come from their own oil palms and are staples for their cooking;
— Some women are even raped in and around the plantations, with the rapists remaining unpunished;
— The forests and biodiversity that provide women with much of their economic and cultural resources, and are the cradle of their traditional values, are destroyed to make way for plantations, further aggravating the consequences of climate change;
— Livelihoods are drastically affected and women are forced to work as labourers in plantations where their wages are too low for them to be able to pay school fees, compromising their children’s future. Children end up resorting to theft and are regularly thrown in jail. Without decent jobs, even young children are drawn into taking drugs and end up following their fathers in drinking alcohol.
— Rivers are polluted by chemicals from the large plantations and diseases and other health problems multiply.
— Promises made to communities by the companies are never fulfilled.
We demand respect for the rights of women in and around large monoculture plantations. These women demand that their lands be returned to them in order to continue to enjoy their customary rights to use these lands to produce foods and ensure the food security and food sovereignty of their communities, the well-being of their families, and peace and development in their localities. Women must have control over decisions about the use of their lands.
By way of our signatures, we call for an end to all violence against women and we stand with the families destroyed by famine, conflict, marginalisation, theft, rape, illness, and death due to the monopolisation of their lands by large national and multinational companies. We call on governments to protect the people and for these companies to respect national laws and the lives of local peoples.