African women land security crucial to eradicating poverty

Africa cannot eliminate poverty or achieve inclusive development without the participation of women, African Union Commission’s Rural Economy and Agriculture Commissioner, Ambassador Josefa L.C. Sacko, said.

She made the remark on Wednesday at the on-going 2019 Conference on Land Policy in Africa.Ambassador Sacko said for far too long, African women have contributed to the development of the continent without due recognition, adequate support and sufficient benefits.

“This is in part due to gender-based disparities in access to productive resources and opportunities such as land. As you know, land is not only a productive central asset for farming but also a foundational asset upon which economies are built,” she said.

“I can confidently state that women’s land tenure security is critical for their empowerment and for unlocking transformative social and economic benefits at the macro level in accordance with the AU Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 for the sustainable development goals.”

She spoke during a plenary session on Securing Land Tenure for Women and Other Marginalized Groups.

Inheritance remained an essential method of land acquisition for women even though inheritance laws and customs often favoured men over women, the Commissioner said.

“Women are less likely to be allocated land through community distribution or inheritance due to norms related to ancestral lands, and statutory legal frameworks may also be discriminatory or poorly drafted, including land law, family law, and civil law,” she said.

But His Royal Highness, Drani Stephen Izakare, Chief of the Madi people in Uganda and member of the Forum for African Traditional Authorities (FATA), said women already enjoyed land rights on the continent according to African culture and customs.

“The land already belongs to the women. We, as the traditional leaders, are there only to protect it for their use. Why should women – our mothers, sisters and daughters – ask for rights which are already theirs. We should invest in the women and support them so that they can support us in our duties to safeguard as custodians of the land for our people. Only then can we together and support Africa’s development,” said HRH Izakare.

Panelists agreed that conflicting and overlapping legal and regulatory frameworks and jurisdictions over land and resources were further excluding women and other vulnerable groups.

Corruption in land administration, they said, obstructed women’s access to land, markets and credit by imposing high informal or illegal costs for accessing land-related services. In extreme cases, corruption resulted in evictions.

They emphasized the need for collective responsibility by governments and experts in accelerating the gender-responsive implementation of the AU agenda on land.