Gender

3 southern African chiefs pledge to increase women’s access to land

By SITEMBILE SIWAWA
TRADITIONAL leaders from three countries in Southern Africa have committed themselves to increase women’s access to land by banning oppressive customary practices in their chiefdoms.
The traditional leaders include Chiefs Bright Nalubamba and Chikanta of the Tonga speaking people in Zambia, Chief Charumbira of Zimbabwe and Chieftainess Tereza Ndovi of Malawi.
Speaking during a plenary discussion at the just ended Southern Africa Traditional Leaders Conference organised by Womn for Change in partnership with the Swedish Government in Lusaka, Chief Nalubamba said certain customary practices hinder women from accessing land.
The conference which is the second to be held drew traditional leaders and civil society organisations from Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe and ran under the theme ‘human rights-secure equitable access control and ownership of land by all’.
The traditional leader said women are important and qualify to be given land as they are the major producers of food.
“In my chiefdom Mbeza, land is not owned individually but as a family. The moment a woman is married she qualifies to own land from the family she is married into, even if she is divorced,” he said.
Additionally, Chief Chikanta said communities need to be sensitised on the harmful practices that have continued to hinder women from accessing land.
He said the practice of women getting consent from their husbands to be given land should be abolished.
“For a long time now society has been patriarchal and that in itself has been a major stumbling block for women to access land,” he said.
Speaking earlier, Chief Charumbira of Zimbabwe shared that the new constitution in his country has allowed women to be allocated 50 per cent of land from 30 per cent.
He added that women have also been privileged to own mining rights in their respective areas.
The traditional ruler has since advised policy makers to address challenges women face in accessing land.
And Chieftainess Ndovi land access by women was slowly becoming a problem in her chiefdom due to population increase.
She said although the matrilineal system is one that guides in accessing land, final authority still lies in men.
The chieftainess said “chiefs and government have now drafted a bill on ensuring everyone registers their land to avoid land wrangles.”

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