Insecure land rights for women are a long-standing injustice that drives women and their communities into poverty
October 2-6, members of the International Land Coalition (ILC) gathered at the MSTCDC Centre in Arumeru district, Arusha, Tanzania, for a Women's Land Rights learning exchange and training on gender transformative approaches to securing women's land rights.
The ILC Africa communications team spoke with a few participants whose experiences were exceptional and worth learning from.
Mecca Kamanga, a 34-year-old Malawian woman, works as a program manager for the Women's Legal Resources Centre (WOLREC). Mecca shared experiences of how she has been making the case for women’s land rights for the past years.
I have overseen several projects for the past five years all of which promote women's tenure security. One of the projects I manage aims to secure women's access to land by addressing the existing disparity in land ownership between men and women in Malawi
“I have overseen several projects for the past five years all of which promote women's tenure security. One of the projects I manage aims to secure women's access to land by addressing the existing disparity in land ownership between men and women in Malawi.” She says.
The projects allowed Mecca to interact with communities where she conducted advocacy on land rights for women and changed the perspective of customary land ownership.
Interestingly, in Malawi, over 70% of the land is administered under customary laws as documented by USAID, which poses a pressing challenge to land tenure systems.
Her advocacy efforts in the Makanjira community in Malawi have resulted in more women, including traditional chiefs, purchasing and owning land, thereby improving the village's well-being.
She attributes her accomplishments to some actions she undertook such as training community land activists, holding sensitization campaigns with community stakeholders, and involving traditional leaders in intervention efforts.
WOLREC is a member of the Malawi National Land Coalition (NLC), an ILC land governance platform that promotes a multi-sectoral approach to dealing with the country's major land governance issues.
Mecca’s experiences were similar to those of Kabissa Issoyotou Confort, the Coordinator of Network of Women and Development of the Savannah Region (REFED/S) in North Togo.
In Togo's Savanna region, where Kabissa is from, 52% of the female population is the poorest, with a female illiteracy rate of 76%, as several factors continue to impede women's access to and ownership of land.
To help fight this, Kabissa has lobbied for concerted efforts from other organizations, the media, and CSOs to amplify her voice for greater impact.
In each community, we established a permanent round table framework for dialogue on land tenure. Each framework defines its land management in favor of women
"In each community, we established a permanent round table framework for dialogue on land tenure. Each framework defines its land management in favor of women," she says, adding that "we also formed groups of women leaders who are para-jurists in their localities to keep the momentum going."
The five-day learning exchange, organized by the International Land Coalition (ILC), Tanzania's National Land Coalition (NLC), and IFRI/CIFOR, offered participants an opportunity to visit, learn, and exchange with Masaai pastoralist women in the Kitumbeine and Longido regions of northern Tanzania.
As participants plan to adapt the shared experience as good practices and use them to advance women's land rights in countries, the learning exchanges will inform ILC's sessions on women's land rights at COP27.