IWD: A call to promote women’s ownership of land

07Mar 2023
Deo Mfugale
The Guardian
IWD: A call to promote women’s ownership of land

IN all countries in the world, the International Women's Day (IWD) represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater gender equality. This day encourages effective global action for advancing and recognizing women in the quest for gender equality and-

-in Tanzania, striving to achieve gender equality in land ownership and other property in general.

This year’s theme, DigitALL: innovation and technology for gender equality, speaks volumes in the context of using technology and innovation to promote the rights of women to own land and protect that ownership through acquisition of certificates of customary rights of occupancy (CCRO), among others.

For Tanzanian women, the International Women’s Day presents another opportunity to make their voices on land ownership and secure tenure heard by local and the international community while at the same time strives to strengthen their resolve to narrow the existing gender gap. For government it is a reminder to step up legal reforms and budgetary allocation both in a bid to create more space for reforms that would hasten the realization of women’s land ownership and protection of the same.

For local and international NGOs, CBOs and other civil society organizations, IWD reminds them of their responsibility to educate and raise awareness among women of the importance of owning land and using it to reduce poverty, among other things.

Using the strength of their coalitions, the non-state actors are better placed to work with grassroots women groups in order to groom informed women and girls who are ready and willing to stand up for their rights to own land. Projects and programmes such as Stand for Her Land (S4HL) that is being implemented by a coalition of NGOs under the leadership of Landesa have been instrumental in reaching out to rural women and educating them on the right to own land and benefits associated with that ownership to individuals and families.

“The International Women’s Day is an opportunity for soul-searching among stakeholders to determine their contribution in empowering women to own land and protecting that ownership. It is an opportunity for government to come up with new commitments to better speed up the process of ensuring that women and men have equal space to own land and ensure that the right of women to own land is upheld and protected,” said Landesa Tanzania Country Director Godfrey Massay. He was speaking on the sidelines of the Training of Trainers workshop for Land Rights Monitors under the Stand for Her Land programme conducted in Morogoro recently. Among other things, the Land Rights Monitors are trained in basic land laws, policies and land administration as well as Women’s land rights and responsible land investments. Their duty is to help other women appreciate their right to own land, resolve land disputes in their areas and help to reduce cultural barriers that prohibit women from owning land and other property.

The theme for this year, (Innovation and technology for gender equality), challenges stakeholders to use technology to promote gender equality in land ownership. By using modern technology government should put in place more land use plans particularly in the rural areas, and speed up issuance of CCROs to women so that they may have proof of ownership and that ownership is secure. “In this way we can reduce the gender gap in the ownership of land and other property between men and women. In order to achieve this goal Landesa is working with government, local and international NGOs, CBOs, rural women groups and development partners to create awareness of the need for women and girls to own land and provide them with secure tenure. The Stand for Her Land Programme seeks to realize this goal,” explains Landesa Director.

Besides promoting women’s rights to own land, IWD should also serve as a platform to chart out strategies towards achieving gender equality in ownership of land and other property and highlighting benefits that a family may enjoy when a woman owns land legally. “Over the years, the slogans, themes and commitments have ended at IWD celebrations but I think we have to take these further and translate them into action so that there is evidence of increased awareness, education and more women actually owning land legally.  IWD is a call to action for every woman to demand the right to own land. This action should go hand in hand with education which should also target girls, to raise awareness on the importance of owning land and protecting that ownership so that it becomes a game changer in the lives of women,” says Sarah Fulgence, a land rights monitor from Utete in Rufiji District.

Some women have the view that IWD should be an opportunity for campaigners to muster support from NGOs, CBOs, government and individuals in promoting women’s ownership of land and protect that ownership. They argue that when women are assured of ownership and realize that their ownership is protected, they become free to use their land to make it more productive for the benefit of their families. They also acquire peace of mind and engage in other income generating activities, thereby acquiring a new status and respect from the community.

Still others think that it is a platform through which campaigners of gender equality can send the message far and wide, thus reaching more women who could otherwise not be contacted. There are many ways to spread information and various organisations have their own strategies of promoting gender equality in land ownership but IWD provides one platform for the whole world and that platform is used to relay the same information to global citizens. It is also a chance to review strategies that have been employed to promote women’s land ownership and to make decisions whether there is need to change those strategies so as to reach more people and create a bigger impact.

“Special in this year’s IWD message is the use of technology and innovation to promote gender equality. With particular emphasis on gender equality in land ownership, I suggest that the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development, and District Councils should strive to speed up land surveys so that many women can own land within a short time. I think it is also important for women to be issued CCROs as proof and security of that ownership,” says Joyce Nganyule, a Land Rights Monitor from Kibaigwa in Kongwa District.

Other than that IWD should be used to educate women on their right to own land and other property and how that ownership can help them to lift themselves out of poverty. Many women in the rural areas lack information and thus fail to take informed decisions and actions. Some women who own land do not know how to use it in order to improve their lives with the result that there is no evidence of improvement after being issued with CCROs. There are also cases where women have given their CCORs to their husbands and wanting to have nothing to do with them. While celebrations are conducted in various places, the focus should be in villages where many women need to be educated not only on the importance of owning land but also on how to use it as a means to change lives.

Anna Marwa works with PELUM Tanzania as Gender and Women Empowerment Officer. PELUM is a member of the NGO coalition that implements the Stand for Her Land Programme. She says that IWD serves to remind women of the success and failures they have experienced in the struggle for gender equality. More importantly, it reminds them to step up efforts to demand the right to own land and protect that ownership through secure tenure. “Innovation and technology should enable government to speed up implementation of land use plans and issuance of CCROs particularly to women so that their land may not only be protected but also they may use it for economic gain. Subsequently through technology more women should be able to own land within a short time as technology would make land surveys and implementation of land use plans fast and easy. It will also scale up efforts towards closing the gender gap in ownership of land and property in general,” she explains.

There is evidence to show that recent years have seen some significant progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment in ownership of land and other property. However a lot remains to be done, including reaching out to more women in the rural areas who have limited access to information on their right to own land and use it for economic emancipation. There is also a need for government and district councils to remove cultural obstacles and financial exclusion through legal and other relevant reforms. There is ample evidence to show that families with more gender equality in land ownership have better economy and live in harmony rather than those in which the land ownership gap is still big.