PLAAS and NELGA Digital Seminar Series Shares Lessons and Limitations around Women Land Rights in Africa

On Thursday, August 28, 2020, the Institute of Policy, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) held its NELGA-monthly web seminar on the topic: Legal pluralism and poor implementation hold back women’s land rights in Africa: What can we do?

The online seminar, which had over 80 participants from across Africa and globally, highlighted the essential linkages between women’s rights, formal and customary laws, and land tenures in Africa.

Women have restricted access and rights to land in Africa as laws and legislation at national and local levels are not inclusive. A vital takeaway from the seminar was the importance of building on existing international initiatives like the Kilimanjaro Initiative, national and state-level regulations, laws, and social-economic development interventions for women’s land rights in Africa.

Indigenous mechanisms for accountability are not gender-neutral. Formal laws are hardly implemented in rural locations where customary laws prevail over land tenure and rights. Women end up marginalized and, at times, given single plots that are not favorable or suitable for profitable purposes. Women are also facing double slaughter in their land rights due to increasing pressures from large-scale land-based investment in extractive sectors and agriculture.

There is a need to pay more attention to women’s land rights and their weakness. Unfortunately, the flaw stems from women’s insufficient participation in customary land management.  Women need to be empowered with education, information, and fiscal support to be able to meaningfully participate in decision making spaces and support the struggle for women’s rights.

Collective formalization can protect women’s land rights as it promotes inclusive ownership and diversity in land tenure within communities. Land reforms need not come only from statutory laws but also from modifications needed in family and marriage laws as such laws are the primary determinant of land ownership in many communities in Africa.

Panelists included Emmanuel Sulle (Research Associate, PLAAS), Benard Moseti (Oxfam, Pan Africa Programme) and Joséphine Atangana (Programme Officer Plateforme Régionale des Organisations Paysannes d’Afrique Centrale (PROPAC) as they jointly presented the outcomes of the three-year project—Women’s Land Rights for Inclusive Development and Growth in Africa. The project was implemented in seven African countries: Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, and Togo.

You can watch a video of the discussion here. You can also download a snapshot of the online conversation on Twitter here.

Interested in the Women Score Sheet and Training of Trainers Manual for Women Land Rights as presented during the online seminar, click here.