With support from the Common Wealth Foundation, Akina Mama wa Afrika embarked on a 3 year project 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, Namibia and Swaziland”. The project which was launched in Zambia, has so far trained a total of 33 women from Zambia (15) and Swaziland (18) in feminist research, advocacy and movement building. The recently concluded training held on 11th -14th of May 2016 at the George Hotel, Manzini in Swaziland was critical for Swaziland women as it re-awakened the need secure women’s land rights. Key among the outcomes of the meeting was the formation of a women’s land alliance that is aimed at mobilize women groups and collective advocate for women’s land rights with unified voice
While the ownership of resources is a key driver of empowerment, there are many African women whose property rights are denied. The violation of women’s property rights is largely fueled by patriarchy which perpetuates the subordination of women and renders women powerless in a male dominated society. “Land ownership and access is confused with headship which is communicated as strictly a male preserve. The means of acquiring land being cattle and money are generally viewed as more of men’s then women’s terrain.” Doo Aphane, Women for Women
Swaziland is one of the many African countries that have adopted and ratified international and regional instruments stipulating the equality between men and women such as the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women1979 (25th April 2004.) ratified without reservation, AU Women’s Protocol in 2012, SADC Gender and Development Protocol ratified in September,2012 and adopted a constitution with provisions that clearly spell out the rights of women and a national gender policy of 2010.
Despite the existence of the above laws and policies, women’s land rights are still violated in Swaziland. There has been a failure to implement laws and policies on women’s property rights especially in as far as women’s land rights are concerned, there are outstanding Bills such as the Administration of Estates Bill and Marriage Bill which if adopted into law would have a bearing on women’s land rights, but these are yet to be made into law. These coupled with presence of a dual legal system of Roman –Dutch Law and customary law, which has not been reconciled in many facets and emergency of large scale land acquisitions for commercialized farming in Swaziland further threatens women’s land rights.
As discussions ensued, participants cited other barriers to women’s land rights that included; customary laws, norms and practices, lack of and /or limited knowledge on land rights, and lack of collective action challenging government to implement laws and policies that could foster women’s land rights. “I was asked to bring my husband, a brother, or a son to register land in my names”. Mabuza Bongiwe, Municipal Council of Mbanane Important to note also was the link drawn between women’s bodily integrity and power dynamics on women’s property rights.
Although there have been individual actions undertaken against the violation of women’s land rights such as the High court case of; Mary-Joyce Doo Aphane v. Registrar wherein Aphane challenged the validity of S16 (3) of the Deeds Registry Act in view of Section 20 and 28 of the Constitution these actions have not been sufficient enough to transform women property rights thus calling for more action.
Demonstrating their solidarity and commitment through songs participants collectively developed a political agenda geared towards ensuring government domesticates laws and policies to enable women access, own and control land. In addition an action plan was developed encompassing activities on conducting a baseline survey on women land rights, documentation of women’s lived realities, development of IEC materials on women land rights for awareness campaigns, and engagement in advocacy initiatives among others. Women being deprived the right to own land also deprives them of the economy. Zethu
Although the formation of a movement on women’s land rights is not going to be an easy road for the women of Swaziland especially at a time when the public order management bill is underway the women were determined to push for the realisation of women’s land rights. As the saying goes where there is a will there is a way, we trust that with commitment from the Swaziland women, support from AMwA, and other partners, Swaziland women will be able to realise and enjoy their land rights.
Where will you be when…
We engage every woman on land rights
We question land issues fearlessly
We defend our birth rights on land dissemination
We own and use land without barriers…
Extracted from a Poem by Nelisiwe .N.