The issue of women’s land rights is one of the human rights issues that is not given enough attention; however, about 50% to 60% of rural women in Ghana constitutes the labour force within the agricultural sector, yet only 10% earn income and only 8% own land.
The limited land ownership and rights has led to limited access to productive resources.
It is on this backdrop that 500 rural women from 22 African countries made history at Mt. Kilimanjaro on the occasion of International Rural Women’s Day celebrated on the 15th of October, 2016 by boldly declaring their land rights.
Out of the 500 rural women who converged at the foot of Kilimanjaro, 29 of them hiked to the top to declare African rural women’s land rights and upon their return, the heroes and the rest proclaimed a 15 Charter of Demands.
The Charter has since been presented to the African Union which will subsequently work with the national governments for actualization of those demands at country level.
The question one may ask is why Mt. Kilimanjaro? It is the highest mountain in Africa which symbolises the challenges and the victory of women thereof: It is tough to climb, but after climbing, the individual feels motivated and satisfied to have achieved something worth celebrating.
Thus Mt. Kilimanjaro symbolizes the challenges of the rural women, and also the starting point to spread their message throughout Africa. From the highest point to the lowest point of Africa.
Enough evidence exists to attest that the African Union and National governments, have undertaken a number of initiatives in advancing women’s land rights.
These includes: the enactment of a number of legal frameworks and guidelines on land policies at Regional and National levels.
These guidelines provided road map in ensuring the land sector environment functions in its proper role in ensuring economic growth, poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability particularly strengthening women’s land rights.
Also the African Union Land Policy Initiative (LPI) has set a target for national government to achieve 30% registered land for women by 2025.
In Ghana, the government have championed and implemented the Land Administration project over the past 10 years, with women’s land rights forming a key priority area of this project.
The Constitution and other laws such as the Intestate Succession Law, 1985, Head of Family Accountability Law, 1985, Customary Marriage and Divorce Law, 1985 all reiterates equality of all persons before the law and the protection of the rights of citizens to own property.
Although many countries have signed on to this commitment and developed a number of land policies in conformity with the AU framework and guidelines, there are still significant evidence suggesting that the rights of vulnerable groups, including women are not fully protected, when it comes to access and use of land as a factor of production.
A range of economic, social and cultural factors have been identified to have stood in the way of the law.
The African Union and national governments have failed to provide enough pragmatic steps, in ensuring the actualization of policy interventions, they spearheaded leading to high evidence of both income and gender inequality gaps around land.
Rural women capitalised on the Kilimanjaro Initiative to spill out their frustrations and setbacks on their land rights.
This campaign was first conceived at a meeting of rural women and civil society organizations in 2012, held in Dares Salaam, Tanzania led by Civil Societies organizations.
In November 2014, in a meeting in Addis Ababa, NGOS resolved on the urgent need to involve the rural women to run with the idea. The campaign aims at creating space for rural women to be able to participate in decision making processes on issues pertinent to them.
The key objectives of the campaign is to strengthen the agency and movement of rural women in claiming and defending their land and natural resource rights in Africa; to engender political will amongst national governments, donors and regional institutions to implement an all-inclusive African women’s charter.
Some of the key provisions in the Charter of Demands, highlighted for prioritisation by the Ghanaian Government and land sector stakeholders include:
• Sensitization of leaders (Traditional, community, religious and land sector actors) youth, people with disabilities, and women on land laws and policies
• Women empowerment by enabling them to access their land rights, technology and financial resources to improve their livelihood
• Ban harmful and oppressive cultural practices that undermine women’s rights including those that prohibit women to inherit land and other resources
• Women and communities must have a say in which investors and companies invest in their communities. The investors must be obligated to provide information about the impact of their investment (sustainability- economic, environment, health, social and infrastructure)
• Enact inheritance laws to safeguard women’s land rights wherever it is not existing
• Translate and simplify land policies and laws into accessible local languages
On the occasion of the International Women’s Day celebrations, with its theme “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50:50 by 2030”, it is important we reflect on what this means to rural women, particularly their land rights.
WiLDAF wishes to use this opportunity to draw on the outcomes of the Kilimanjaro Initiative, and to call on government and land sector stakeholders to endorse this initiative by Civil Society Organisations and rally their support behind rural women in championing their cause by endorsing the Charter of Demands and work towards its effective implementation and actualisations of the campaign objectives. This when taken into consideration will go a long way in advancing women’s land rights in Ghana.
Lois Aduamoah – Addo
Programme Officer, Women in Agriculture