and instead of being honest you dare steal from a man just like!” I teased her. We had never met before but we soon struck some friendship that made us feel comfortable with each other.
“That is how to get money from mean men like you. If I had asked you for just 500/- for a cup of tea, you wouldn’t give me; I could tell that from your face. So the only way out was to raise the fare,” she said. I laughed heartedly. How could she tell that I am a mean person when she had never met me before!
As she manoeuvred the machine in the thick road traffic on Friday morning, I learned quite a few things about her. She was not hired to drive the motorcycle but it was hers; she owned it. And she had a story to tell as why it is important for women to own property, whether it is a vehicle, a house or a piece of land.
“Yes, it is mine; don’t mind how I got but I did not steal money from anyone. I have been driving this tricycle for two years now and these two years have been the best part of my life,” she explained.
Elizabeth had previously hired a young man to drive the motorcycle and bring her money on daily basis. “I got some money but the tricycle was heavily damaged. The young man was very reckless and I think he made more money than what he gave me,” she said.
She hired another driver, a young man also, but things became worse. “I terminated his service. That was after one year and the vehicle was dilapidated,” she said. It was at this time that she decided she would drive the tricycle and conduct business herself instead of letting other people do it for her. The first thing she did was to take a loan from a bank that would enable her undertake heavy repairs on the tricycle. She managed to borrow 600,000/-.
While the tricycle was being repaired she registered to a driving school where she obtained a driving licence after two months. “I have been on the road for two years now and I don’t regret having made this decision. I have gained confidence in everything that I do. I have been relieved of the pressure in life because don’t have to worry about what might happen to my property any more. My husband is also happy because he doesn’t have to worry about some expenses for the family, I can handle them,” she said. “What I have learned is that when a woman owns property and is free to use it in the manner she wishes, she gains confidence and life becomes easy for the whole family,” she added.
The experience that Elizabeth has gone through was also reflected at forum on Women and Land Issues held in Dodoma on March 7 this year. The forum drew more than 100 women from across the country who shared experience about owning land and other property, and the freedom to use such property for their benefit and that of their families.
The forum was organized by Tanzania Land Alliance (TALA) in collaboration with Haki Ardhi, Landesa, Care International and Tanzania Natural Resources Forum as part of celebrations to commemorate the International World Women’s Day.
Several women gave testimony about how their lives changed once they were able to own and use property, citing numerous benefits that flowed beyond the successful family and trickled down to other women who had been denied the right to own and use land. In some cases, the spill-over effect of the benefits eventually helped to scale up efforts to ensure that women enjoy the right to own land and other property.
Through owning and using land women have been able to raise incomes in their families and thus reduce poverty while others cite confidence and participation in decision making processes as outcomes of realizing the right to own property and use it. Still others acknowledged the right to own land and other property as a symbol of status and respect in the community. Generally, women have recorded milestones in the fight for the right to own land and other property.
“I own one hectare of land ad I have acquired a Customary Certificate of Right of Occupancy (CCRO) for it. From the farm I have been able to produce all the food that the family needs. I have also secured a bank loan which I have used to start production of animal feeds. Now I feel secure because the land provides for our needs and animal feeds business helps us raise the family income,” Explained Euphemia Ufuo Swai, a widow from Ngarenanyuki in Arusha region.
She said that women should stand up and fight for the right to own land and other property without having to wait for men to help them.
Angelista Pinda from Iringa had problems with her marriage and separated from her husband. She left to start a new life, leaving behind land and other property. She started cooking and selling food on market days and used the money to buy a small plot of land and acquired a CCRO for it. As the business on market days grew, she built a small house for herself, thereby cutting expenses for rent. To raise her income she has now bought a motorcycle and hired a young man to drive it, besides initiating other income generating activities.
“When a woman owns a piece of land which she is free to use, her life changes but she must be prepared to work very hard. A successful woman is not vulnerable to gender violence because she can fight against oppression and suppression by men and eventually win the respect and trust of the community in which she lives,” explained Ms Pinda.
“Women, we should not be a burden to others. We can live on our own without having to depend on men but this is only possible if we own land and acquire CCROs. We can then be free to use it in a manner that will change our lives socially and economically, she added”
A publication by the World Economic Forum (WEF)released on January 11, 2017, says that women own less than 20 percent of the world’s land. However a survey conducted by FAO in 34 developing nations revealed that women own only 10 percent of the world’s land.
“This is staggering if you consider that half of the world’s population is women. More than 400million of them farm and produce the majority of the world’s food supply,” reads part of the publication.
“For women, land and property ownership marks the end of economic uncertainty and vulnerability, and has potential impact on the entire community,” the paper adds.
According to WEF women invest 90 percent of their income in their immediate families and when they own their property, they have more power over household decisions, food security is enhanced and prospects are greatly improved for their children and future generations.
A feature published in the World Bank Blogs on October 15, 2018 says that gender equality is central to ongoing global efforts to reduce extreme poverty and improve livelihoods for all.
“An important part of gender equality is ensuring women‘s equal access to – and secure rights to- land and properties. Strengthening women’s land tenure security improves their rights and their dignity. Importantly, improving women’s access to and control over resources also has a positive effect on a range of development goals, including poverty reduction and economic growth,” reads part of the feature.
The government of Tanzania acknowledges the special importance of land to women because they feed families and sustain the economy at family level, “But they can only do this if they own land and use it freely,” said Land Commissioner Mary Makondo during the Women and Land Forum.
She stressed the need for women to own land, highlighting the fact that the government has put in place various legislations to ensure that women realize this right.
A review of the current lad policy is being undertaken with the view to include text that clearly spell out the right for women to own land and measures that should be taken to make sure that this right is realised. However she noted that women should be educated on the right to own land and more awareness campaigns should be conducted to make them understand the importance of land for their economic and social advancement since many of them are not aware of this right.
“Ten years from now, all land would be surveyed, demarcated and mapped so that title deeds are issued; women must be in the forefront in ensuring that they get these certificates. But in order to acquire land and be given the certificate of occupancy it is important that women obtain National IDs to ensure that no land is given to foreigners. Acquiring an ID takes a long process so you better start now,” she said, adding that the opportunity for women to own land goes hand in hand with other responsibility including acquisition of National IDs. “Women must be prepared to exploit these opportunities.”
Many women in rural areas now own land through CCROs. With these certificates, women have been able to access loans from banks and other financial institutions and have thus improved their lives and reducing poverty in the families.
Through Land Tenure Support Programme (LTSP) the government has surveyed and demarcated land and issued CCROs to some villagers in Kilombero, Ulanga and Malinyi districts in Morogoro Region.
“At least 40 percent of the surveyed and demarcated land in the districts is owned by the women,” she said. She challenged women who have secured CCROs to apply for loans from banks and other financial institutions so that they can engage in different economic activities including agriculture.
Many countries in the world have recorded success in putting in place legal frameworks that protect women to use, manage, own and inherit land. However the situation on the ground shows that women are often unable to realize their rights to own and use land for their survival. There are cases when women themselves have struggled successfully to attain equal access to land and improve tenure security; these efforts need support so that the gains are sustained.