Notes to broadcasters: Women and land rights

    | January 27, 2014

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    To read the full article on which this week’s story was based, Widows in Tanzania struggle with property grabbing by relatives, please go to:

    Women’s access to land, property and natural resources is a basic human right. Around the world, women do the majority of work on farms and in the home. Being able to own land, property and livestock is closely linked with daily survival. In the event of divorce or widowhood, women should not face the prospect of being disinherited.

    The vast majority of women in Africa cannot afford to buy land. While land is valued for its capacity to produce food and support domestic animals, 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. Therefore, a woman who attempts to stake a formal land claim risks alienating male relatives. This can undermine her position in her family and community. When widows and divorcees are not in possession of a legal deed of ownership, they can find themselves in a precarious state.

    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… privacy, family 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; (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:

    Burkina Faso: Rural women owning land for the first time (FRW #275, January 2014)

    Tanzania: Maasai women gain access to land (FRW 133, November 2010)

    Zimbabwe: Women struggle to get title to resettled land (FRW 136, November 2010)

    Rwanda: Rwanda Women’s Network brings hope to rural women (FRW 135, November 2010)

    Swaziland: Landmark ruling gives Swazi women property rights (FRW 103, March 2010)

    Women’s right to land is necessary for community development (FRW 139, December 2010)

    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)

    Women, Property and Inheritance (Package 73, Script 4, January 2005)

    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?