More needs to be done to empower women’s access to land
By Daphne Machiri
In developing countries rural women play different roles in guaranteeing food security.
In Zimbabwe and other southern African countries, women have taken advantage of land reform programmes and gender equity initiatives to improve the livelihoods of their families. In recognition of the critical role played by rural women, Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA), a regional organisation recently convened a conference in Makonde District in Mashonaland West to celebrate strides made by women in procuring land rights and ownership.
The conference was held under the theme: “One Women Hectare” and was attended by several countries including Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique.
Zimbabwe, through the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement has implemented laws which have empowered and guaranteed women rights to own and use land on equal status with men through Statutory Instrument 53 of 2014.
Speaking at the conference, Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement principal land officer for Mashonaland West, Norah Dhliwayo, said the SI 53 of 2014 under the A1 model was a policy which was revised so as to place great importance on resolving issues of ownership, customary practices that discriminate against women when it comes to land inheritance.
“These rights entail the ability of women to own, use, access, control, transfer, inherit and otherwise take decisions about land and related resources.
They also encompass women’s rights to secure land tenure and to meaningfully participate at all stages of land policy,” said Dhliwayo.
RWA Zimbabwe director Thandiwe Chidavarume applauded government for making initiatives in recognising women’s rights saying differences in land tenure should be recognised if land objectives, such as increasing land productivity, providing affordable housing and promoting sustainable resource management are to be met.
“Zimbabwe also works along international policies which state that equitable access to land is a human rights issue. And enshrined in the UN Economic and Social Council Commission on the status of women ‘land rights discrimination’ is a violation of human rights, ” said Chidavarume .
She said as an organisation their motive was to offer solutions, legal literacy, and change the mind-set of women through research based trainings, consultations and lobbying for gender justice.
“We also offer market linkages, as well as micro finance facility for the starters for various projects. We give them advice prior to starting of their projects,” said Chidavarume.
Vice chairperson of RWA Zambia, Dorcus Shonga, said she was pleased with strides made by the Zimbabwe government in empowering women through land.
She said the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock in Zambia was working closely with women from community level in making sure that women access land.
“Women access to more land is integrally linked to global food security, sustainable economic development as well as the pressing fight against the HIV epidemic and prevention of and responses to gender-based violence,” Shonga said.
RWA Zambia is lobbying for community seed based projects in all provinces, small livestock production like African goats, free range chicken and growing of small grains such as groundnuts and millet.
“Our focus is also on indigenous seeds as to maximise food security in Africa, in Zambia we are teaching rural women to adopt the bring and share concept which our forefathers used to do in all communities.
We also believe Africa can manage to feed itself using indigenous seeds,” said Shonga .
She said agriculture has helped women in Zambia to overcome discriminatory cultural attitudes and practices at the institutional and community level as they also continue to work with traditional leaders in every community .
“Our initiative is to push for sustainable development work to increase community awareness of land rights especially for rural women who depend on land for their livelihood.
The most important key area of intrusion is land registration, which gives wives an opportunity to secure their property rights to land that is registered in the names of both spouses,” said Shonga .
“We are there to equip communities with knowledge as many communities are experiencing gender disparities in regard to land rights and legal knowledge.
They are linked to assumptions that men as heads of households control and manage land implicitly reflecting ideas that women are incapable of managing productive resources such as land effectively,” she said.