This article focuses on the right of consent for women and their communities in respect of extractives and large-scale (or ‘mega’) infrastructure projects that affect their access to, and control over, land and natural resources indispensable to their lives and livelihoods. As we point out, the right of consent is determined by prevailing deeply unequal power structures. Poor women confront a double exclusion from power and decision-making about land and resource use – on the basis of both their class and gender. The political economy of power and vested interest surrounding these projects at all levels from the community to the international spheres mean that communities, and women within them, rarely enjoy the right of consent on a free, prior, informed, and ongoing basis. In addition, women are locked out of rights of land ownership in communities living under common property and this, combined with other patriarchal power relations in family and community, inhibits their voice and influence in community decision-making. This is the second exclusion they suffer, this time on the basis of their gender. Consent, even if legislated or institutionalised in policy and systems of state, corporate, or multilateral bodies is rarely granted but rather won through struggle and demand. The article will present an inspiring case in the South African context where unequal power has been inverted and a unique community, with women playing a leading role, has claimed the right of consent in practice through struggle. It concludes with some suggestions for the work needed to strengthen women’s rights of consent in respect of mega ‘development’ projects in Africa.
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