Women's economic justice remains at the heart of Akina Mama wa Afrika’s programmatic interventions. With support from The Commonwealth Foundation, AMwA embarked on a three year project to strengthen women's voices to advocate for secure and equitable land rights in southern Africa, targeting Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia. The ultimate goal of this initiative is to build a vibrant women's movement to advocate for women's land rights amidst the rush for large scale land acquisition across the continent.
The project started in Zambia in April; from 18th to 21st 2016 under the theme "Contributing to building a vibrant women’s movement advocating for women’s land rights in the new wave of land acquisition in Zambia" The four day training brought together 22 participants from women's organisations, research institutes and mainstream organization. Trainings for Namibia and Swaziland will be held between May and June 2016 respectively.
In Zambia, like any other African country, land is one of the single most important assets, with most communities depending on it for subsistence livelihood.Unfortunately most of the land is communally owned, undocumented and administered under the customary law. This has exposed many communities especially from the Northern part of Zambia to evictions from their land for both large scale agriculture and industrial development. Women who particularly rely on land for their livelihood have had to pay a higher price. As large-scale land acquisitions for agricultural production, mineral extraction, industry and forest conversion, by foreign companies, governments, and domestic investors, increases, land tenure security becomes a more pressing challenge especially among the rural communities that largely depend on land for their livelihood.
Women's land rights in Zambia are protected through various international and regional instruments/conventions that Zambian government is a signatory to like the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Declaration and its Platform of Action, The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, and the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development amongst others. At national level, women's land rights are protected by the Zambia Constitution, the Zambia Lands Act, that support equitable access to and ownership of land and prohibit gender-based discrimination;the 2000 National Gender Policy which provides for the 30 percent allocation of state land to women and calls for equal and fair distribution of the remaining 70 percent between men and women; in addition, the Interstate succession Act governs the division of an estate where the deceased did not have a will.
Despite the above, participants showed concern about the discriminatory nature of the customary rules and practices against women's access and control over land, contrary to the provisions of the international, regional and national laws and policies. It was noted that 94% of the land is customary owned and administered by the traditional chiefs Most of the customary land is undocumented, which leaves the Chiefs with ultimate powers to allocate land to community members and any investors. Besides, and the chiefs exclude women from the land administration leadership. 'Customary law promotes patriarchy and sees women as adjunct to the group where they belong and not as equals. As such, customary law practices are often in conflict with human rights norms which guarantee equality between women and men. This has meant that women can only access land through their natal family or and husbands…." Lucy Masiye- Board member Young women's Christian Association-Zambia
Unfortunately, the Zambian Constitution is silent on the discriminatory practices under customary land tenure, as well as the Zambia Lands Act and the Interstate succession Act, whose provisions apply only to State land, leaving most Zambian women without legal protection for their land rights under customary arrangement.
This coupled with Women’s ignorance of land tenure systems, makes them increasingly vulnerable, not only to land grabs but to violence as well. Discussion around customary law as a promoter of patriarchy and the gaps in the statutory laws and policies compelled participants to come up with strategies to address issues of power especially those exercised by cultural institution. High on the agenda was to establish and or strengthen the existing network that would spearhead the advocacy campaign on women's land rights in Zambia. .
Efforts by some non-governmental organisations to strengthen women’s land rights were appreciated, however, challenges of consistency and lack of effective coordination with regards to formulation, implementation and monitoring of gender sensitive laws. The training was much appreciated as it strengthened the participants’ capacities in movement building and advocacy on women land rights in Zambia.
"Advocacy on women’s land rights has been silent. The land issue is generalized thus leaving the interest of women, youths and people living with disability (PLWD) voiceless and without support. The implementation of the 30% under the gender policy is not fairly being adhered to by those given the mandate to facilitate land allocation. There is no monitoring mechanism to verify the implementation of the 30%.In addition; CSOs are not coordinated on the land rights for women. This training is timely to encourage the strengthening or formation of a movement to focus on women's land rights and security to tenure" Engwase Mwale Executive Director NGOCC
Committing to their pledges, participants cotively developed a two year advocacy action plan geared towards 'Promotion of Women’s access to Land and Security of Tenure'. Some of the planned activities included; undertaking a feminist research on the implication of large scale land acquisition on women; the review and influence the adoption of the 2006 draft Zambia Land policy to address the discriminatory inheritance laws,; awareness creation on women's land; translation and simplification of the procedures of acquiring land in local languages; and documentation of women's lived experience to add voice that usually draw the attention of policy makers; and inclusion of cultural leaders and men in the advocacy campaign as potential allies.
Compiled by Ms. Patience Ayebazibwe