Inequitable Distribution of Land Hinders Gender Equality Progress, Civil Society Tells Parliament

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Women farmers plow their fields in Gnoungouya Village, Guinea (World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr)

In a passionate appeal to the Pan-African Parliament Committee on Gender, the Civil Society Engagement on the Legal Framework of the Draft Model Law on Gender Equality highlighted the critical importance of women’s access to land in achieving full gender equality. The ongoing discussions, taking place in Lusaka, Zambia, have brought to light the glaring issue of inequitable distribution and ownership of land, particularly affecting African women.

Under the Maputo Protocol, a protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, African countries acknowledge the right to an equitable sharing of joint property derived from a marriage between men and women. However, the reality on the ground falls short of this commitment, with women still facing numerous obstacles in securing their land rights.

Civil Society Engagement on the Draft Model Law on Gender Equality. Image courtesy of PAP Media

Civil Society representatives emphasized the transformative power of land rights for women. By granting women secure rights to land, it reduces their reliance on male partners and relatives, enhances their influence within households, and improves their access to extension services and credit. Importantly, increased tenure security also instills confidence in women, motivating them to engage in land and agricultural investments and join producer organizations. Integrating women’s land rights into national land and gender policies can lead to significant improvements in human well-being, promote economic empowerment, and generate more productive agricultural systems.

However, members of the Civil Society from the Southern African Region drew attention to the unfortunate reality that the realization of women’s land rights often remains confined to action plans and policies that are rarely implemented. They pointed out that this failure stems from a lack of genuine political commitment and the persistence of patriarchal values within African societies.

The Civil Society representatives stressed the urgent need for concrete action to address this systemic issue. They called on African governments to demonstrate true political will in implementing and enforcing gender-sensitive land reforms that prioritize women’s rights. Efforts should focus on dismantling patriarchal norms, ensuring equitable access to land, and providing the necessary support systems for women’s land ownership and management.

It is imperative that African nations take proactive steps to bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality, ensuring that women’s land rights are not mere aspirations but tangible rights accessible to all. The equitable distribution and ownership of land to African women is not only crucial for achieving gender equality but also for fostering economic growth, food security, and sustainable development across the continent.

As the discussions continue, civil society organizations remain steadfast in their commitment to advocating for women’s land rights and pushing for meaningful change. The empowerment of African women through land ownership is not only a matter of justice and equality; it is a vital step toward a more inclusive and prosperous Africa for all.

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