Women starved of land

As demands for land become more strident across SADC, the region's MPs say it is time to wake up, smell the coffee and ensure access for all citizens, especially women.

12 July 2018 | Local News

A veteran South African lawmaker has challenged SADC member parliaments to support legislative frameworks that promote women's access to, and ownership, of land.

Lawmaker Rosalia Morotua made the call through a motion moved during the 43rd plenary session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum (PF), which took place in Luanda last week.

In the motion, Morotua enjoined SADC parliaments to debate the gender dimension of land ownership and agricultural industrialisation in their respective countries.

Additionally, she encouraged the SADC PF to engage the secretariat to determine progress towards advancing women's access to land in the agricultural sector.

“The limited sex disaggregated data for land ownership in the SADC region shows that men own most of the region's land,” she said.

Tanzanian MP Esther Masi seconded Morotua's motion.

“Women in most of the SADC countries simply do not own land, yet they are the ones that produce food and feed our nations,” Masi said, adding that in Tanzania it was estimated that women produced about 80% of the food.

Malawi MP Patricia Kainga said the SADC gender protocol barometer of 2017 attributes the poor access to land by women to stringent trade facilities that most women are unable to qualify for, and customary practices that prevent them from inheriting land.

“This region has a task to protect our women in land ownership and credit facilities,” she said.

An MP from Seychelles, Wavel Ramkalawan, said SADC countries could learn something from his country about the land issue.

“As a parliament and as a people, we identified this issue and we passed the necessary laws to do away with discrimination. Today, women and men in the Seychelles have equal access to land. Women can inherit land and there are no issues,” he said.

He encouraged national parliaments to resolve the land question at a national level.

“Bring those motions on; fight those injustices and through that women will get their proper place in society,” Ramkalawan said.

Botswana MP Duma Boko suggested that MPs use legislation to promote equitable access to land.

“Land is an inelastic resource. If someone holds tracts and tracts of land, rendering such land available only to himself and his family, is there a way we can free up some of that land?”

He warned that the writing was on the wall and enjoined his fellow lawmakers to wake up and smell the coffee.

“This is the question that bedevils South Africa, it bedeviled Zimbabwe with all the difficulty that it brought, and it now seems to bedevil the womenfolk,” Boko said.

He cautioned against assuming that men were the only ones denying women access to land and called for a hard look at customary law and other factors.

“Under customary law, what are the rules that apply for the devolution and succession of land? In a lot of instances when you say the relatives of the man come and take the land, you may actually be talking about the mother of the man who has died. So, it is another woman grabbing land from a daughter-in-law. It must not appear as if all the time it is the men.”

South African MP Shaik Emmam argued that land ownership bestows dignity on people and urged governments to help citizens acquire it.

“I want to encourage all SADC members to at least provide serviced land to every family, particularly women,” he said.

Lesotho MP Tsepang Mosena said land was key in the quest for self-determination and the socio-economic development of all peoples. She recalled that land was at the top of the list of grievances when many SADC member states waged liberation struggles.

“The guns have since fallen silent in many parts of Africa. However, demands for equitable access to land are growing more and more strident. Indeed, in many of our member states, equitable land distribution remains an unfinished, emotive business,” she said.

Mosena said very little land was in the hands of women and girls and “yet they make up the majority in many member states and bear a disproportionate burden of providing care to the sick, broke and busted”.

She attributed their low access to land to their lower income earning capabilities, due to a plethora of factors that include lower education access, patriarchy and patriarchal lineage, propped up by deeply entrenched beliefs about inheritance and succession.

“Strange as it might sound in the 21st century, we still have member states in which the girl child cannot inherit her father's land ahead of or alongside her male siblings.”



MOSES MAGADZA

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