HerstoryOfChange – Dorothée Marie Lisenga, advocate for women’s land rights in DRC

As an ecofeminist network, we want to give space to the stories of inspiring champions of gender equality and the fight against climate change and environmental degradation. We believe that a sustainable future and environment require feminist solutions that reflect the lives of people on the ground. Women hold the key to change in the fight against climate change. While climate funding often goes to large-scale projects, women’s solutions are often sustainable & affordable. That’s why we work on transformative gender equality and women’s human rights in conjunction with sustainable development and climate justice. One of these champions is Dorothee Marie Lisenga.

To celebrate International Biodiversity Day on May 22nd, we released a new video to highlight Dorothée’s achievements:

Dorothée Marie Lisenga won a Gender Just Climate Award in 2018. For an equal world, she identifies “the need to address the legal system which is rooted in colonial and patriarchal thinking.” Her winning project, CFLEDD, started in 2016 and has since passed new land and forest laws in eight provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo that allow women to become landowners. In addition, the project trained 480 women and supports peasant women who are now working towards climate justice solutions. This represented a breakthrough in the existing barrier for women to participate in climate action.

By organising the Gender Just Climate Solutions Awards at the Climate Summit, together with the Women & Gender Constituency, we are trying to draw attention to solutions, such as Dorothee’s. Women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change and environmental degradation. They are often the ones who work in the fields or at home and are the first victims of droughts, floods or climate-related disasters. At the same time, women and their organisations can play a fundamental role as producers of food and as consumers of energy and water in devising technical and social solutions to the climate crisis. In 2018, Dorothée Marie Lisenga’s CFLEDD project won the Gender Just Climate Awardin the Transformational Solutions category. By passing new legislations in eight provinces of the DR Congo, it is now possible for women to become landowners. The project also supports and trains women to contribute to climate action.

Women’s formal access to land rights contributes to the fight against deforestation and is an important step towards climate justice

480 women advocates in the DRC were trained to change land and forest laws and secure women’s land rights, through policy dialogues at the provincial level and participatory mapping in forest communities. All this was thanks to an amazing woman, Dorothee Lisenga, who, together with the NGO CFLEDD, organised dialogues on women’s inheritance rights between customary chiefs, local and indigenous women. This led to huge successes in women’s access to land and forest rights in the Equateur and Maindombe provinces of the DRC.

According to a 2016 study, 70% of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) did not have access to land and forest rights until recently. CFLEDD conducted a study on women’s land use and held Multi stakeholder dialogues with governments and traditional tribal leaders, to convince them to reform land tenure decrees to give women land rights.
The NGO reached a milestone in providing women with access to land by passing ground-breaking new legislation on land and forests in eight provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. By training 480 women advocates in participatory mapping and dialogues with tribal leaders, community members and local authorities, they removed one of the biggest obstacles for women to participate in climate action. Their work also supports women farmers in developing agroforestry activities (planting fruit trees, acacias, small livestock) and in detecting illegal industrial activities. By promoting ancestral knowledge, they empower indigenous women and improve food security.

“We need to address the legal system that is rooted in colonial and patriarchal thinking.” Dorothée Marie Lisenga

CFLEDD fights patriarchal norms and customary law that deny women access to property rights over land. The organisation seeks to recognise the land and forest rights of women in the Equateur and Maindombe provinces of DRC, with the aim of strengthening their e!ective participation in reducing deforestation. An advocacy tool has been developed and is used in dialogues between local and indigenous women, customary chiefs and provincial authorities. Recommendations arising from these dialogues led to the adoption of two provincial ordinances guaranteeing land and forest rights for women. This is transforming the patriarchal framework of the country and strengthening the role and decision-making power of women in DRC’s forest management policies for climate action.

CFLEDD transforms the law and guarantees land rights for women!

The special feature of this project is that the successful Trainer of Trainer programme unites women from different ethnic groups who are fighting together for their rights. The constructive dialogues involve all community members and tribal leaders and enable new land rights for women. the project has also led to the passing of new legislation granting official land rights to women. The new landowners have demonstrated their ability to carry out climate mitigation and adaptation activities.

You can read more about the project here