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Laws Create the Necessary Space for Social Change


With the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court, we reflect on our work in advancing women’s rights

After being in place for nearly 50 years, many thought that the rights granted by the US Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision were utterly secure. Rooted in considerations of privacy, Roe was part of a series of other decisions in the 1960s and 1970s which recognized the rights of individuals to make personal decisions – such as the use of contraceptives or marrying someone of a different race – without the interference of the government.

Since then, there have been other decisions that have honored this right to privacy – most recently, the right to same-sex marriage – and there is understandable concern that by reversing Roe, all of these other decisions will be reassessed through the current Supreme Court’s lens.

It is arguable that Roe was always vulnerable to this type of action given that it was enshrined by a legal precedent that was then not supported through legislation. In our own work around the world, we are focused not on the litigation side of women’s land and property rights, but on developing long-term legislative solutions that have the potential to bring about meaningful and lasting change.

Yes, litigation and enforcement of women’s land and resource rights is an essential component of any robust women’s rights initiative, but it’s important to note that putting laws in place simply creates the space necessary for change. If these protections and rights aren’t supported by cultural change, then they run the risk of being rebuked by future government administrations. Laws cannot be separated from the culture that they are created in, and there is a lot of necessary work to be done in terms of education, communication, and integration of new perspectives.

As Gloria Steinem once said, “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.” The work that we do at Resource Equity is to create capacity for this “unlearning” around the globe, to promote the exploration of and adoption of gender equity within specific cultural contexts, and to advise in the development and implementation of legal interventions that have the potential to influence positive systemic change for women.

Changing the hearts and minds of people is difficult work, and we know that our colleagues in the United States who focus on women’s reproductive rights will be working tirelessly to ensure that women have access to safe and effective reproductive healthcare.

At Resource Equity, we stand firm in our commitment to advancing women’s rights. Within our specialization of land and resource rights, we know that as women have equitable access to the means of economic security, they have access to the means of shaping their future and choosing what’s best for themselves, their families, and their communities as a whole.

Because empowered women do, in fact, change the world.

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