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About this Story

This article is the outcome of an initiative World Pulse launched on our online community platform, inviting global grassroots women leaders to outline their personal experiences and recommendations on equitable and sustainable development.

In partnership with Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), we gathered 55 statements representing women from 28 countries ranging from Papua New Guinea to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The stories were delivered via the Women's Major Group to top world leaders at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) that will take place June 20-22, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This conference marks the 20th anniversary of the first 'Earth Summit' in 1992—a landmark UN summit organized in response to the growing ecological crisis.

Click here to learn more and to read all the powerful submissions.

Rio+20: Highlighting the Voices of Women

"As long as we remain 'unrecognized', the world will never fully know the long-term intergenerational effects of the nuclear industry."

Paula LaPierre, Canada

© UN Photo/Logan Abassi

"And I hope that as world leaders look for global solutions, the voices and specific needs of women will be highlighted to make sustainable development a reality for them."

Amie Bojang-Sissoho, The Gambia

Recommendation: Land Stewardship Starts with Land Rights for Women

CANADA: Homeless in Our Homeland

I am a woman of Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation descent, an Indigenous Peoples of Canada. My homeland is unceded Algonquin Nation territory, located within the watershed of the Ottawa River, under the administration of Ontario and Quebec.

Despite records that go back 400 years documenting my family’s history in this land, the “official” state administration does not recognize the existence of my people. The colonial administration removed us from the “Indian” list when we refused to relocate from our traditional territory to incorporated reserves.

For traditional Kichesipirini women, home and homeland meant an attachment to life cycles and systems. We greatly valued our independent lifestyle, our food sovereignty, and our security. We prioritized childrearing that established strong emotional bonds—to each other, to our home, and to our land.

Today, Kichesipirini women still uphold the health of families, but our culture has become progressively difficult to maintain. Continuing colonial assertions have meant that I have become homeless in my own land.

As an invisible and “unrecognized” Indigenous Peoples, we were able to live largely undisturbed in our territory for many years. We continued to harvest directly from our land to provide for our families. Then, the nuclear industry took hold in our territory. When the Chalk River nuclear site was established, we became an invisible and vulnerable population—exposed to a long legacy of contamination and health risks.

In complete ignorance, we continued much of our traditional lifestyle of hunting, fishing, gathering, farming, and nursing our children, all in one of the most contaminated regions known to the world. My own health experience—the loss of five pregnancies and unusual neurological and autoimmune problems—seems to support the fears of many: that there have been an unusually high degree of health problems in this area. As long as we remain “unrecognized,” the world will never fully know the long-term intergenerational effects of the nuclear industry.

I strongly recommend that the current Algonquin Land Claim process be modified to protect all natural persons against encroachments that negatively affect human rights, intergenerational responsibilities, environmental integrity, and social justice principles. When human families are not respected, nationhood, sovereignty, economy, health, and even international peace are compromised.

Paula LaPierre | International Aboriginal Rights Activist | Canada

THE GAMBIA: One Square Meter of Land

I am the oldest of my father’s six surviving children. In our family system, it is understood that men are the decision makers. As a woman, I was not a threat when my father died, as it was understood I would not inherit his property. It took me 23 years of silence and one year of battling to finally gain ownership. As a human rights activist, I had to take a stand, even if it meant risking my own family.

Many have recognized that women’s land tenure, property rights, and control over natural resources are keys to sustainable development, yet cultural norms stand in the way of making this a reality. Doing so requires steadfastness, determination, and women knowing and demanding their rights to landed property.

I learned about my right as a Muslim woman to have a share of my father’s property. Knowing that the teachings of Islam were behind me, I felt empowered to approach religious scholars about my inheritance. To my great disappointment, I was met with arguments from these scholars, from the men—and yes, women—in my family:

“Your uncle took care of the land for your father and now that he is dead, his children want to have a share of the land.”

“Why are you bothering yourself with this knowing that your share as a girl is half that of your brothers’?”

“You don’t need this land, all you’re trying to do is prove your point about women’s rights issues.”

Perhaps this last question was fair. I was trying to prove a point: that women’s land ownership is an important issue for our communities and for our planet. Even if I were to have only one square meter of land, I would be happy.

I met with a group of patriarchs and gave them the option to settle the matter at the family level, instead of facing a legal battle. I had all the evidence to support my case. After a year long ‘fight’, my father’s property was divided. All the children got their piece, be they male or female. Even my father’s two widows were included. We now have control over what belongs rightfully to us.

I share my struggle to access my right to inherit to motivate the many silent women in similar positions to speak out against social and cultural attitudes that continue to deny women their rights. And I hope that as world leaders look for global solutions, the voices and specific needs of women will be highlighted to make sustainable development a reality for them. I anticipate that after all the investment to make ‘sustainable development’ meaningful to the majority of the world’s citizens, strategies to overcome negative socio-cultural norms that disempower women in developing countries will not be over looked.

Amie Bojang-Sissoho | Program Coordinator-IEC, Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children | The Gambia
 . . .


Unless government investments focus on having a quality population and a well managed and sustainable environment , only then can our countries ensure a bright future for the next generations

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."

Rosa's picture

It's my honor tor have the

It's my honor tor have the chance to post my comment here to stand by your article and express my happiness to see yor post. live in a village in India. Here, the public uses vacant sites and roadsides for toileting and health problems are rampant due to poor sanitation and hygiene. Local administrations have created a number of public toilets for public use, but water scarcity and maintenance of the facilities are major issues. The unclean toilets are causing disease, and there is no sufficient water supply for cleaning them. This drives community members back to open land for toileting.Yes, it's a meaningful article.excellent post, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector do not notice this. You must proceed your writing. I’m confident, you have a great readers’ base already!
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ikirimat's picture


Thank you Rosa for the positive comments. We shall continue to make our voices loud until as one of the approaches as we move towards action. One by one, we shall change attitude. You also point out the serious issue of poor sanitation in our communities especially for girls. I agree and more needs to be done. Together we can change the world to a better place to live in by all.

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."

Sustainable development is all about securing an uncompromisable future for humanity and our ecosystem; and we can only succeed in the drive by tackling the very issues that fuel the embers of exclusion and injustice. Everyone has a role to play and there is something every one can do. The need for man to live in harmony with nature is not negotiable and the earlier we accept this fact and have the will to make certain of that, the better.


Wendyiscalm's picture

This is very eloquent, well

This is very eloquent, well said and true. Thank you.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together)

Wendy Stebbins

Wendy Stebbins
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Greengirl's picture

Best Wishes!

Many thanks to you! You are an embodiment of encouragement!

Very warm regards,

Olanike Olugboji

Greengirl's picture

Best Wishes!

Many thanks to you! You are an embodiment of encouragement!

Very warm regards,

Olanike Olugboji

ikirimat's picture


Thank you Olanike for adding your voice. Yes people are central in all this issue.

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."

Dear need to move information between people as well as their rights. Care and value is a solidary way to the environment and the lives of our brothers around the world

Frenny Jowi's picture

where is the commitment?

Media reports say the Rio outcome document is weak and lacks ambition. And with the latest environmental assessment report dubbed GEO5 having stated that earth's resources especially the marine ones are still at high risk even after 20 years since Johannesburg summit,that resolved to reverse this kind of degradation among other resolutions, it calls for high will power and commitment by leaders and citizens to save the earth.

I don't how sustainable development can be achieved without linking climate change to sexual and reproductive health: an issue that affect girls and women most.

kind3500's picture


Why will Brazil be hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics when there is so much else to be done there? Will the Olympics bring more wealth and awareness to the issues as outlined above , or will it be a distraction, something that will convince the world that everything is okay in Brazil? I believe something needs to be done, and priorities need to be straightened out.


lovepowerrespect's picture

Love one another

It is really important to care and love each other in spite of racial differences.

Paula LaPierre Kichesipirini Algonquin's picture

Kichesipirini Continues...

Thank you so much for the encouraging words. Words are important. Women's views of their own life experiences are a unique perspective of world events and how they play out in the real life grassroots level....We continue to assert, through a fog of misinformation and selective social participation and consultation processes at the State level, that there are ways to avoid these social problems. Many of the solutions have already been established but are not implemented. Brave women must carry on telling the Truth.

Paula LaPierre
Principal Sachem
Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation
Kichi Sibi Anishnabe
Culture is a pillar of sustainable development. Make certain then that is is culture with integrity.

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