Nelly Bassily | January 20, 2014
Women’s access to land, property and natural resources is central to realizing their economic rights and well-being. Globally, women form the majority of subsistence farmers, and play a critical role in household food security and small-scale agricultural production. Land tenure is closely linked with daily survival. Land is a productive asset to fall back on in times of crisis. In the event of divorce or widowhood, land is also a form of security, especially in the absence of measures for social protection. Control over land is a very delicate and volatile issue. In many countries, land disputes are the largest source of conflict at the household and community level.
The vast majority of women in Africa cannot afford to purchase land. While land is valued primarily as an economic resource, it is also a symbol of social status, power, and identity. In many countries, women’s relationship with land is directly linked to their relationship with men. They are viewed as dependent mothers, wives or daughters. In this context, a woman who pursues a land claim risks alienating male relatives. This can undermine her social support system. A lack of formal land entitlement can leave widows and divorcees in a precarious position. In many communities, women are not permitted to farm land owned by her husband’s family.
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights includes statements regarding the status of women in society:
Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Article 12: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with h[er] … home … everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Article 17: (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others; and (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of … property.
Here are some Farm Radio Weekly stories that look at different aspects of women’s access to land:
–Tanzania: Maasai women gain access to land (FRW 133, November 2010) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/11/01/tanzania-maasai-women-gain-access-to-land-by-john-cheburet-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-kenya/
–Zimbabwe: Women struggle to get title to resettled land (FRW 136, November 2010) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/11/22/zimbabwe-women-struggle-to-get-title-to-resettled-land-by-rachel-awuor-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-kenya/
–Rwanda: Rwanda Women’s Network brings hope to rural women (FRW 135, November 2010) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/11/15/rwanda-rwanda-women%E2%80%99s-network-brings-hope-to-rural-women-by-pius-sawa-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-kenya/
–Swaziland: Landmark ruling gives Swazi women property rights (FRW 103, March 2010) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/03/15/1-swaziland-landmark-ruling-gives-swazi-women-property-rights-ips-irin/
Here are two scripts which also look at women’s right to land:
–Land Ownership Rights: Access Denied: Why Women Need Access to Land (Package 57, Script 9, October 2000) http://www.farmradio.org/radio-resource-packs/package-57-women-are-key-to-rural-development/land-ownership-rights-access-denied-why-women-need-equal-access-to-land/
–Women, Property and Inheritance (Package 73, Script 4, January 2005) http://www.farmradio.org/radio-resource-packs/package-73-hivaids-and-food-security/women-property-and-inheritance/
You may wish to produce a call-in or text-in show and ask callers the following questions regarding women’s land rights:
-Is it common for women to own land in your community or region? Do you know women who have been denied land ownership or access to land?
-Are land laws widely understood? Where can women find up-to-date information about land law? How do customary laws and practice differ from national law? How do these differences affect women?
-What can women do if they are at risk of losing access to land? Where can they turn for help, legal advice or financial support?