It is in response to this discrimination that over the last decade, as L. Muthoni Wanyeki (2003) has documented, a women’s movement has grown in Africa to demand a land reform and land rights for women. But this movement will not succeed in a context where the women making land claims or insisting on holding on to the land they have acquired, are treated as witches. Worse yet, this movement can be used to justify the kind of land reform that the World Bank is promoting, which replaces land redistribution with land titling and legalization. For some feminists may believe that titling gives women more security or can prevent the land disputes that have so often been the source of witch-hunting and other forms of warfare in rural Africa.
This belief, however, is an illusion, since the land law reform which the World Bank and other developers (e.g. USAID, the British Government) have promoted can only benefit foreign investors, while leading to more rural debt, more land alienation and more conflicts among the dispossessed. (Manji 2006). What is needed, instead, are new forms of communalism guaranteeing an egalitarian access to land and other natural resources, one in which women are not penalized if they do not have children, if the children they have are not male, if they are old and can no longer procreate, or they are widowed and without male children coming to their defense. In other words, feminist movements, in and out of Africa, should not let the demise and/failure of a patriarchal form of communalism to be used to legitimize the privatization of communal resources. They should, instead, engage in the construction of fully egalitarian commons, learning from the example of the organizations that have taken this path, like Via Campesina, the Landless Movement in Brazil, the Zapatistas, all of which have been committed to the building of women’s power and solidarity as a fundamental condition of success.
Indeed, viewed from the viewpoint of the African village and the women who have been the victims of witch-hunting, we can say that the feminist movement too is at a crossroad and must decide “which side is it on.” Feminists have devoted much effort during the last two decades to carving a space for women in the institutions, from national governments to the United Nations. They have not, however, made an equal effort to “empower” the women who, on the ground, have borne the brunt of economic globalization, especially in rural areas. Thus, while many feminist organizations have celebrated the United Nations’ decade for women, they have not heard the cries of the women who, in the same years, were burnt as witches in Africa, nor have asked if ‘women’s power’ is not an empty word when old women can be tortured, humiliated, ridiculed and killed by the youth of their communities with total impunity.
Silvia FEDERICI, Witch-Hunting, Globalization, and Feminist Solidarity in Africa Today p. 14-15