The complex relationship between law, land rights and customary practices is increasingly recognized as foundational to formulating successful development policies. Similarly, the essential role of women’s economic participation to development and the current trend of gender discriminatory land and inheritance customary practices have prompted domestic civil society organizations in developing countries to use statutory provisions guaranteeing gender equality to improve women’s land tenure security.
Premised on women’s need for secure land rights to enable their economic participation, this research focused on women who were most vulnerable to dispossession under customary law – divorcees and widows. By targeting two countries with progressive legislation articulating gender equality both generally and with respect to land, Mozambique and Tanzania, surveys administered to women and community leaders identified current land practices and attitudes, and knowledge of formal land law. Within each country, surveys were conducted in rural communities which generally apply customary norms in distributing land following divorce or the death of a husband. The overall intention was to determine whether and how laws enshrining gender equality with respect to land are more effectively applied and enforced when combined with legal empowerment programs comprising education and the provision of legal services.
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