Blog: Spotlighting Tools to Defend Women’s Rights at the UN Commission on the Status of Women

May 2, 2024

By Ana Osuna Orozco and Daniela Velit

Women make up half of humanity and yet we are underrepresented in decision-making globally; we hold much less economic power; we face disproportionate levels of domestic and other kinds of violence; we have poorer access to education; we bear the brunt of unpaid care work; we are also more vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change events. For example, it is estimated that 70% of the people who died in the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 were women. While this number is particularly striking it shows you cannot have effective climate change adaptation strategies without addressing gender inequalities.

This year, Rainforest Foundation UK participated in the 68th UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68), the UN’s largest annual gathering on gender equality and women’s empowerment, held in New York from 11 to 22 March.

With our partners Shibuye Community Health Workers, Kenya Land Alliance and TMG Think Tank for Sustainability, we presented Haki Ardhi (“land rights” in Kiswahili), a digital system that enables women to report abuses of their land rights via a free text message. The tool brings women closer to the people who can support them and enables local organisations and community paralegals to manage individual cases systematically (see an inspiring short video about this here). However, aggregating all this information in the Haki Ardhi platform has given place to something bigger: it has pushed authorities to react to these cases more promptly (visibility has increased accountability) and it has generated valuable insights on the structural changes needed to stem the root causes of women’s land rights abuses.

We also presented ForestLink, a digital system similar to Haki Ardhi, that is used by Indigenous Peoples in Peru to defend their territories from illegal mining and logging. It starts with community forest monitors sending alerts about threats their communities face. The information generated by these monitors is sent to FENAMAD, the Indigenous Federation we have partnered with since 2016, in Madre de Dios, in the south-east of the country. They coordinate immediate responses, including security/protection plans, advocacy actions and legal support against environmental crimes. ForestLink, like Haki Ardhi, empowers grassroots organisations by giving them control over their data and facilitating impactful change.

At CSW68, adopting a gender lens encouraged us to explore new angles in our work on community forest monitoring in the Peruvian Amazon. For instance, we are considering supporting Indigenous groups to document gender-based violence (GBV) in the context of forest crimes (such as human trafficking, sexual exploitation and sex work). We are also addressing specific security risks women face in forest monitoring and defence activities, exploring how ForestLink can assist in managing security for women forest monitors or women Environmental Human Rights Defenders (EHRD).

The CSW68 meetings and presentations that we attended – including from the Huairou Commission, Callas Foundation and Rainforest Foundation US –  confirmed our belief that the point of departure is to support women at the grassroots. Some pointed out the divergence between “progressive” laws and their implementation on the ground. Others highlighted that facilitating women’s access to work and finance would be a spectacular boost to the global economy. Many groups presented innovative local initiatives that are already changing power dynamics at the local level.

Our hope is that this conversation will flow beyond the CSW – into global climate and biodiversity processes, for starters.  If we envisage global challenges as a complex tapestry, women represent a vital thread running through every intricate pattern. Each thread symbolises women's unique contributions, struggles and resilience in shaping our society's fabric. Just as a tapestry loses its richness and integrity without every thread, addressing gender inequalities is essential for unravelling the knots and creating a more harmonious and equitable world.

To see the video of the The Haki Ardhi App


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