Members of Parliament want equitable access to land

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BLURB: As demands for land become more strident across SADC, the region's MPs say it is time to wake up, smell the coffee and ensure access to this inelastic resource for all citizens especially women, the majority of whom work it but do not own it.

Luanda, Angola - A veteran South African lawmaker has challenged SADC Member Parliament to support legislative frameworks that promote women's access to and ownership of land.

Lawmaker Rosalia Morotua made the call through a motion moved during the 43 rd Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum which took place here last week.

In the motion, moved on her behalf by fellow South African Member of Parliament (MP), Siphosezwe Masango, Morotua enjoined SADC Member Parliaments to debate the gendered dimension of land ownership and agricultural industrialization in their respective countries.

Additionally, she encouraged the SADC PF to engage the SADC Secretariat to determine progress toward advancing women's access to land in the agricultural sector in keeping with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

 

"The limited sex-disaggregated data for land ownership in the SADC Region shows that men own most of the region's land," she said.

Tanzanian MP Esther Masi seconded Morotua's motion.

"Women in most of the SADC Member States simply do not own land resources, yet are the ones that produce food and feed our nations," Masi said and added that in Tanzania, it was estimated that women produced about 80% of the food.

Malawi MP Patricia Kainga said the SADC Gender Protocol barometer of 2017 attributes the poor access to land by women to stringent trade facilities that most women are unable to qualify for and customary practices that prevent women from inheriting the land.

"This region has a task to protect our women in land ownership and credit facilities," she said.

Zambian lawmaker Professor Kandu Luo said many rural women were suffering due to lack of access to land. She called for mechanization of agriculture to ease the burden on women who work on the land.

"The whole issue of tilling the land with hoes is really something that we should be looking at and mechanization of agriculture activities is extremely important," Luo said.

An MP from Seychelles, Wavel Ramkalawan, said SADC Member States could learn something from his country about the land issue.

"As a Parliament and as a people, we have identified this issue and we have passed the necessary laws to do away with discrimination. Today, women and men in the Seychelles have equal access to land. Women can inherit land and there are no issues," he said.

He encouraged national parliaments to resolve the land question at national level.

"Bring those motions on; fight those injustices and through that, women will get their proper place in society," Ramkalawan said.

Zambian MP Elizabeth Phiri urged SADC Member States to protect the rights of mainly disadvantaged women and girls. She said many widows were getting a raw deal.

"When a man dies, relatives of this man come and get everything from the woman. Other tribes think giving birth to a girl-child is a curse; they would rather have boys through out," Phiri said.

She urged MPs to hold their governments accountable with respect to the domestication and implementation of relevant protocols such as the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

Botswana MP Duma Boko suggested that MPs use legislation to promote equitable access to land.

"Land is an inelastic resource. If someone holds tracts and tracts of land, rendering such land available only to himself and his family, is there a way we can free up some of that land?"

He warned that the writing was on the wall and enjoined his fellow lawmakers to wake up and smell the coffee.

"This is the question that bedevils South Africa, it bedeviled Zimbabwe with all the difficulty that it brought, and it now seems to bedevil the womenfolk," Boko said.

He cautioned against assuming that men were the only ones denying women access to land and called for a hard look at customary law and other factors.

"Under customary law, what are the rules that apply for the devolution and succession of land? In a lot of instances when you say the relatives of the man come and take the land, you may actually be talking about the mother of the man who has died. So, it is another woman grabbing land from a daughter-in-law. It must not appear as if all the time it is the men."

South African MP Shaik Emmam argued that land ownership bestows dignity on people and urged governments to help citizens acquire it.

"I want to encourage all SADC Member States to at least provide serviced land to every family, particularly women," he said.

Lesotho MP Tsepang Mosena said land was key in the quest for self-determination by nations and socio economic development of all people. She recalled land was at the top of the list of grievances when many SADC Member States waged liberation struggles.

"The guns have since fallen silent in many parts of Africa. However, demands for equitable access to land are growing more and more strident. Indeed, in many of our Member States, equitable land distribution remains an unfinished, emotive business," she said.

Mosena said she was aware that some SADC Member States had begun taking steps to "right this historical injustice" but challenged them to be more transparent about it.

"While I congratulate them, I would like to seize the opportunity to challenge (them) to generate and openly distribute disaggregated data showing how all citizens - regardless of gender or sex - are benefiting from land redistribution because I am fully persuaded that in many of our Member States, land ownership patterns remain skewed in favour of the male gender."

She said very little land was in the hands of women and girls "yet they make the majority in many our Member States and bear a disproportionate burden of providing care to the sick, broke and busted".

She attributed women's low access to land to their lower income earning capabilities due to a plethora of that include lower educational access and attainment, patriarchy and patriarchal lineage propped up by deeply entrenched beliefs about inheritance and succession.

"Strange as it might sound in the 21st century, we still have Member States in which the girl child cannot inherit her father's land ahead of or alongside her male siblings."

Mosena argued that lack of access to land results in exclusion from life changing opportunities and increases women and girls' vulnerability to exploitation, poverty, HIV infection and unmet sexual and reproductive sexual rights.

"A woman who cannot access land may be forced to become a subordinate appendage of the man who owns and controls land as well as what it produces. In such a relationship, this woman has little or no say in many issues including her own reproductive rights. As representatives of the people, we can surely change this situation," she said.

She said there was justification for legislative intervention to level up land redistribution in many SADC Member States.

"I support legislated affirmative action to address gender disparities in land ownership. Ideally, our local and traditional authorities should be required to allocate or reserve a certain minimum quota of land for our female citizens to change the prevailing embarrassing situation," she said.

-Story and pictures: SADC PF

Ends. /

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