WOMEN’S ACCESS TO LAND CRITICAL FOR AFRICA’S ECONOMIC GROWTH
10 May 2016, Midrand, South Africa – Access to land for agriculture is central to Africans’ livelihood. However, the male bias in land ownership prevents women from participating in agricultural activities, excluding them from Africa’s largest economic sector.
H.E Hon. Dr Bernadette Lahai, Fourth Vice President of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) said it is important that the debates about land tenure move away from mere rhetoric, to practical implementation through the amendments of laws at country level.
This was a message echoed by several women MP’s at the plenary sitting, when H.E Hon. Hasna Houmed Bilil, Chairperson of the PAP’s Permanent Committee on Gender, Family, Youth and People with Disability, reported on strengthening women’s rights to land access.
In March 2015, PAP committees held a capacity-building workshop, focussing on the Maputo Protocol that aimed to equip parliamentarians to effectively lobby and oversee the rights of women in their national parliaments.
“The Pan-African Parliament has a critical role to play in ensuring that the Protocol’s legislative measures is adopted. It is incumbent for the committees, which have the mandates of issues relating to women, to ensure the implementation of the provisions of the Protocol,” said H.E Bilil.
The workshop sensitised and capacitated attendees on their legislative mandate to influence women’s access to land and highlight the relationship between land ownership and economic development.
It further illustrated to parliamentarians the tools available to exercise oversight and supervision in the PAP and within national governments to domesticate and monitor progress in the implementation of Articles 15, 19 and 21 of the Protocol.
It put in place report-back mechanisms to the plenary for an effective oversight of women’s rights implementation.
The workshop acknowledged the diversity of contexts within which women negotiate access to land, ranging from religion, national laws, inheritance and patriarchal structures. It is evident that women’s land access depends on their marital status and that parliamentarians need to consider these complex contextual factors in law making. Although men control most of the land in the communities, they should be mobilised as partners of women, not adversaries.
Workshop participants shared country best practices from Mozambique, Rwanda and the Gambia to help parliamentarians with the ratification and implementation of the Maputo Protocol.
The report concluded that parliamentarians acknowledged the need for domestication of the Protocol in member states, coupled with a focus on laws, traditions and cultures that can speed women’s access to land.
“It is time for us as members of the PAP and as countries in Africa to take responsibility in terms of our legislative powers. Legislative instruments in various countries limit the access of women to land. We need to sensitise the parliaments, and ask the ministers to facilitate greater access to women. We need to strengthen the succession rights and ensure that draft legislation be put in place in terms of family rights to eliminate the obstacles in terms of the Maputo Protocol,” H.E Bilil concluded her report.