Isabela Inbali, 43, lives in the village of Ledem A Bissora in the Oio region of Guinea-Bissau. She is married, the mother of five children and is one of a group of women farmers who asked SWISSAID to help them acquire land. In Guinea-Bissau, where the land belongs to the men, this was anything but an easy task. The women farmers broke through the patriarchal rules that prevented them from earning a living on their own. Isabela tells of her journey.
How did this project come about?
I wanted to earn money to send my children to school. I decided to go into market gardening. My father lent me a small area to grow vegetables, and I started with onions and eggplants. My fields soon yielded well, and the women of the village approached me to help them do the same. We then decided to organize ourselves into a group, especially to buy seeds and acquire our own land.
No woman had her own land?
In our custom, men own the land. Women have no right to it, not even by inheritance or marriage. So we can work the land that a man lends us, but as soon as he needs it, in the best season, he will take it back. Paradoxically, it is often the women who are responsible for the survival of the household, and it is therefore very dangerous for the whole society that the woman cannot own her land.
“We women have more confidence in ourselves and in our important role in society.”
Isabela Inbali, a peasant woman from Guinea-Bissau, who fought to get land of her own.
How did the project help you?
The “Access to Land for Women” project helped us to legalize a perimeter of land in the name of our group. A long process of advocacy and sensitization with our traditional leaders was undertaken. The men were also included throughout the process.
What has this changed concretely?
I finally have a space to work, where I don’t fear that a man will come and take it away from me. I am proud and happy to have this chance and to know that we, the women, now have a plot that belongs to us. I have more hope for the future, because I have the security of being able to work the land sustainably, produce vegetables and sell them for income.
This has changed the mentality of the whole community. Our mentality as women, who now have more confidence in ourselves and in our important role in society. But also the mentality of the men, who have accepted the legalization of our land and even decided to accompany us in the market gardening activities; they help us with clearing the land, repairing the fences, and with many other tasks. But what makes me happiest is knowing that my children have a better life. Thanks to the good yield of the crops, they can not only go to school, but also have a real breakfast before going to school, which was not always the case. And we can plan for the low periods by transforming or drying certain fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, okra and sorrel. This secures our food and gives us confidence in the future.