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Southern African rural women speak out against patriarchal land ownership!

Over 150 rural women from across Southern Africa, mostly members of the Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA) organised a public meeting as part of the People’s Summit organised by SAPSN (Southern African People’s Solidarity Network) in Windhoek from the 16-17 August.

There were speakers from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Ghana, Madagascar, South Africa and Swaziland. All of them told similar stories. Land ownership remained largely in the hands of men. It was the traditional authorities that determined who got land!

As the Swaziland sister exclaimed, “In Swaziland we work the land, we produce the food and feed families, but it’s the husbands, the fathers and the sons who own the land.” This was a refrain that was repeated by tens of women who share the stories.

The public meeting discussed the challenges rural women face and made the following statement:

Women are the growers and toilers of food, they are the producers of livelihoods and mostly responsible for house-hold food security.  Yet, women have no rights over land under customary law.

  • Customary land distribution patterns that predicate women’s access to land upon their relationship with a man, be it a husband, brother or father.
  • Customary inheritance patterns dispossesses woman upon the death of their husbands.
  • Women do not benefit yet there is widespread “elite land capture” some of it is through the illegal fencing of communal land such as in Namibia.
  • There is on-going land dispossession and land grabs through mining companies; agricultural MNCs grab land for cost crops; land and oceans are grabbed for rich tourists, yet the SADC governments turn a blind eye.
  • Land is grabbed and our environment is destroyed by extractivism. Our governments do not control foreign companies that simply dig-up and ship out our wealth.
  • The lack of access to land for agriculture creates dependency, food insecurity and poverty.
  • The role of traditional leaders in the region is destructive and undermines women’s land rights in the name culture.
  • Capitalist patriarchal land ownership pattern are evident and increasingly we see a greater concentration of land in the hands of foreign interests.

As the RWA we demand:

  • Re-instatement of the SADC tribunal.
  • Women’s land rights and land control in their own right.
  • Free movement of citizens in the regions.
  • End to corruption in the region especially the corruption of state officials/ government officials especially in land allocation and land grabs.
  • A faster pace to land reform and redistribution
  • End to land grabs by MNCs
  • Enactment of progressive legislation in relation to the growing ecological crisis as we cannot demand land without water.
  • Recognition of woman as producers. Facilitate access to water, inputs , finance and technology.
  • Women’s representation in all decision-making bodies.
  • The Right to Say No to developments, MNCS dispossessions, and our control of our bodies.

As RWA we are committing to the following  actions:

  • Mobilise women to challenge to challenge the lack of land – mobilise towards the different land conferences (Namibia, South Africa, Zambia etc) to put women’s access to land in the centre of the policy.
  • Build, grow and Consolidate social movements in the region to challenge the development policies that further impoverish its citizens.
  • Organise a region popular, women’s summit on land.

17th August 2018

To read the full statement click here

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