“Pastoralist societies face more threats to their way of life now than at any previous time. Population growth; loss of herding lands to private farms, ranches, game parks, and urban areas; increased commoditization of the livestock economy; out-migration by poor pastoralists; and periodic dislocations brought about by drought, famine, and civil war are increasing in pastoralist regions of the world.”
Fraktin, Elliot. 1997. “Pastoralism: Governance and Development Issues” in Annual Review of Anthropology. 26:235-261.
The Global Gathering of Women Pastoralists will take place from 21-26
November 2010, in Mera, a rural part of India where pastoralists have lived for several generations. The Gathering is the first of its kind to bring together 100 nomadic pastoral women to share experiences and strengthen networks.
The goal of the Gathering is twofold: 1) To contribute to the empowerment of women pastoralists to participate equitably in decision-making within their communities, governments and other national, regional and international forums; and, 2) To raise awareness of the unique challenges faced by women pastoralists in social, economic and ecological environments that are in transformation.
By UN estimates, over 300 million people worldwide are dedicated to pastoralism, a type of land use that covers nearly 30% of all land. Neeta Pandya, from Marag, explains that “pastoralists are the stewards and custodians of common lands and traditions. They make their living from extensive livestock husbandry on marginal lands, easily adapting their livelihoods to change through ancient coping and mobility strategies that are deeply rooted in their cultures”.
As Pablo Manzano, Global WISP Coordinator at IUCN ESARO, further explains, “evidence shows that pastoralism plays a significant role in natural resource management”. However, pastoralists are often misunderstood and marginalized socially, economically and politically due to perceived administrative problems posed by their mobile livelihoods. Consequently, negative stereotypes pervade pastoral policy and management in many countries.
In many parts of the world, women pastoralists are further marginalized through limited decision-making opportunities. However, in India, “patoralism takes its cues from nature, and nature is gender neutral” explains Jasuben Bharwad, a practicing Indian pastoralist woman. For Bharwad, “women have always played an important role in pastoral societies in India, but threats to pastoral ways of life are leading to shifts in gender relations, threatening the independence of women”.
Despite the numerous challenges they face, including poverty and access to maternal healthcare, pastoral women are influential forces for change. Indeed, women pastoralists are increasingly active participants in global policy dialogues and the Gathering will build on this momentum.
The Gathering is the initiative of Marag, which means “path” in Gujarati. Marag is a voluntary organization established in 1994 that works to educate, organize and empower the Maldharis, a marginalized pastoral community from Gujarat in India.
Information for the Press: Reporters interested in covering the Gathering will be given accommodation, food and access to the internet at the Gathering venue; a cultural centre that has been built to preserve and encourage pastoral ways of life. Reporters are welcome to observe the Gathering and take part in cultural events and festivities. They are also welcome to participate in a peaceful march of thousands of pastoralists adorned in traditional dress ending at the Gandhi Ashram.
For more details about the event, please contact the Marag Organizing Committee:
Jay Joshi +919825013774 firstname.lastname@example.org , Parul Jain +8980455735 email@example.com
To arrange interviews with organisers or participants, email firstname.lastname@example.org
More information: Gathering website: http://www.womenpastoralists.com/
The event is sponsored by IFAD (www.ifad.org/)
With support from
IUCN – WISP (www.iucn.org/wisp/)
League for Pastoral Peoples and Indigenous Livestock Development (www.pastoralpeoples.org/)
World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous Peoples (WAMIP) (www.wamip.org/)