Giving land ownership to women

Saturday December 7 2019

Stakeholders on women’s rights holding fliers

Stakeholders on women’s rights holding fliers with information on land ownership in Tanzania. PHOTO | SALOME GREGORY 

By Salome Gregory

Gone are the days when women in our communities were left out when it came to making decisions at different stages in life.

These included decisions on owning property, and the right to air their concerns in their communities.

Efforts by human rights activists are changing all that. This is good news for women in particular, and communities in general - especially in Africa where reports on women development show that there still is a huge gap between men and women in the areas of gender equality.

A recently launched campaign titled ‘Stand For Her Land,’ aims at promoting land ownership rights for women in Tanzania, as well as supporting them with the right information on how to fight for their rights to land ownership.

The 12-year long campaign is among other efforts to support women’s development in Tanzania. The campaign brings together international and local organizations that champion women rights.

It is coordinated by the Rural Development Institute, a not-for-profit organization that has partnered with governments and local organizations - including the Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA) - to secure legal land rights (LANDESA).

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Zawadi Pesambili, 33, is a mother of three children who lives in Sakamanga, Ifakara in Morogoro Region. She is among the 60 per cent of women who are targeted by the campaign to get the requisite information on how to fight for their rights on land issues, as well as to strengthen land access process for women.

About two years ago, Zawadi separated from her husband - and was left with no property worth talking of. In the event, she move out of their family home with her three children to her parent’s home in Zanzibar. Her husband remained in the house they had built together, now its virtual owner.

In due course of time, her neighbours informed her that the government was issuing title deeds. Because her husband had not nformed her of this, she suspected him of ill intentions regardingtheir land.

“I had to travel from Zanzibar to Ifakara to find out the status of our marital property, including the land. My husband told me he registered his name as the sole owner. I went to the police - but, before I could fime my complaint with the police, one lady advised me to contact TAWLA officials first,” says Zawadi.

“I thank God that TAWLA responded quickly - and, in just a week, I was given ownership of the ‘marital’ land by a court order, practically shutting my husband out. Currently, I am living in the house, my husband having been ordered to vacate the house,” she says, somewhat smugly!

Tike Mwambipile is chairlady of the Campaign. She says TAWLA has many such cases and the campaign was launched to redress the extant land policies and laws in so far as they impact daily lives in the country. The objective is to change the perception of male domination, and the system that denies women the right to own land.

“The Campaign has four different phases that will start with three years of focusing on the Campaign’s goals. These include educating women on the economic gains of owning land, as well as eliminating all aspects that result in male domination over women when it comes to owning land,” says Mwambipile.

Launch of the Campaign was officiated by Faustine Ndugulile, the deputy minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, the Eldery and Children. He insisted on records management, paying attention to statistics as a way of knowing how far the Campaign would have achieved at the end of the proverbial day.

“It will be easy to know the achievement we have made under the campaign. We will be able to know what the real situaion is on the ground - and, later, asses the improvement made by the Campaign,” Ndugulile explained.

Ponsiania Pius is a member of tha Tanzania Widows Association (TAWIA). She says the Stand For Her Land Campaign has come at the right time as it will work with other stakeholders on women’s right to owning land.

She says, in most families when a man dies, his wife is not allowed by her husband’s relatives to inherit their joint property, including land. The Campain will help women to readily access ownership of land and other property.

Ponsiania has gone through similar challenges in her life. But, through TAWIA, she managed to successfully fight for her rights. She is now able, willing and ready to sensitize other women on their rights.

TAWIA especially targets widows, widowers, orphans and children in difficult environments.

The TAMWA executive director, Dr Rose Reuben, says it is a great honour that Tanzania has been selected the first country to stand as an example.

Soon after completion of the Campaign, other African countries will benefit from the lessons learnt during the Campaign, and act on them.

She says Tanzania has a someland-related laws that are straight forward on land ownership for women. But the challenge is the culture which our communities harbour regarding women.

She reevaled that, during the Campaign, women will be made aware of some land laws to enable them understand their basic rights, and how best to pursue them to the hilt. Such laws are the Land Act (Number 4 of 1999); the Village Land Act (Number 5 of 1999), and the law on solving land issues (Number 2 of 2002).

“The Campaign will remind us on the laws and how to applythem on a daily basis. The Campaign we will also include men as they badly need the same education for them to know how they should support women is securing their rights,” says Dr Reuben.

Rachael Boma, the UN Women Programme Specialist, made the following remarks during the official opening of the Stand For Her Land campaing at the National Museum of Tanzania:

“The Sustainable Development Goals-2030 Agenda places land rights and tenure security at the centre of sustainable development, recognizing the fundamental links to the promotion of gender equality, ending hunger, reducing inequalities and realising human rights for all,” she said.

For its part, “the African Union’s Agenda-2063 also gives importance to securing women’s land rights as a critical area for action in eradicating poverty and reducing gender equality gaps in control over resources.

“Tanzania’s national policies and development frameworks demonstrate strong commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment - and provide a conducive environment for the implementation of the Campaign as reflected in the Constitution and Land Laws that protect women’s rights to own, access and use land.

“It is also important to note that women’s participation in land administration roles - including decision making - is significantly lower than that of men,” says UN’s Boma - adding that “few women are represented in processes relating to land use planning, parceling and land registration.

Land governance systems - both at the local and national levels - are dominated by men, with women having inadequate knowledge, limiting their capacities to claim their land rights.

Men dominate in village land councils, which might impede on women’s effective participation and voice in land adjudication processes,” she adds.

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