From where I stand: Khateeja Mallah
Farming is all that I know, my only source of income. I first began working in the fields with my father when I was 10 years old and after that with my husband, to whom I was married off when I was 13. I became a widow nearly three years ago and have to support eight children—seven daughters and one son. I was landless with no entitlement to the crops or land where I work.
It is really hard work especially the harsh summers we face. Being a woman, there are a lot of things I did not like, such as bargaining for my work rights or enduring harsh words from landowners. At times I get frustrated with my life but looking at my children, I decided to cover my helplessness and be strong—I have to face everything, good and bad, to improve their future.
Having legal access to land, a place to live, and receiving a share of the crops that I plant and harvest was unimaginable. [Until] I learned of my rights and the benefits of tenancy agreements and landholding through the [UN Women] trainings I attended. The sessions taught me that I had valuable farming knowledge and experience, and most of all, that I had rights.
Now, for the first time in my life I can say something is mine. This land, as far as the eye can see is mine—this paper says so. This is my land and I am its queen! I am excitedly waiting for my tough farming days to pay off—for the day when my children are older and earning a good living. That will be the day when I sit down and take a relaxed breath, and start to enjoy life.”
Khateeja Mallah (Durdana), 31, is a widow from Pakistan’s Dadu District in Sindh Province. She is one of 1,214 landless women farmers who have received land tenancy rights through a programme being implemented by UN Women, FAO and ILO. Through tenancy agreements, feudal and tribal male landlords lease their land to women farmers for an agreed period of time, giving them access to the land, a place to live, and the chance to run the farms and receive a portion of the profits from the crops grown. These efforts reflect Sustainable Development Goal 1, on ending poverty, which includes targets on land ownership and control, as well as SDG 2, on sustainable agriculture, which includes secure and equal access to land.
Read more stories in the “From where I stand...” editorial series.