International Women's Day 2021

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Statement by UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw

This year International Women’s Day celebrates the theme ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’. After a year of unprecedented impacts from the pandemic, it’s clear that women globally have been disproportionately affected by the health, social and economic repercussions of COVID-19.

With economies beset by lockdowns, and fundamental disruption to established international, regional and local trade patterns, women’s reliance on land, and their frequently weak legal protection and social status, makes them even more vulnerable to land degradation in a COVID-19 world.

These stark facts make clear the importance of strong support to women in implementing the UNCCD mandate.

Equal access to land, and security of land tenure, are fundamental to inclusive sustainable development. Even before the pandemic, in more than half of the world’s countries, laws or customs hindered women’s ownership or access to land. Globally, barely 10 per cent of agricultural land is held by women.

Equality of land tenure offers both a safety net and a post-pandemic economic launch pad for millions of the most vulnerable women. It delivers tangible and meaningful benefits – poverty reduction, food security and gender equality. Secure tenure also permits land to be used as collateral, accessing credit, markets, and income opportunities, and bringing better education and health care within reach.

Women and girls must be at the heart of action on land tenure. Promoting gender equality enhances the effectiveness and sustainability of environmental interventions. The UNCCD Gender Action Plan represents an ambitious step towards gender equality in the implementation of the Convention, and we must continue unwavering support for efforts by women and girls to strive for equality, build resilient post-pandemic economies and bolster thriving communities.

As we seek to build a better world post COVID-19, let’s celebrate women who provide leadership to communities that are restoring degraded land. Let’s honor these women, who can lead humanity to a better and more equal post-COVID-19 future. Guided by all these women, the UNCCD mandate seeks the same goal.

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Photo (c) Michael Martin