16 May 2014

Malawi: 'Women Have No Land Rights'

Nsanje — Nsanje Kuchene Women Forum has said despite women being the major agricultural producers in the country, they remain largely absent at all levels of policy-making, project formulation and management of land.

The Forum's President, Mary Namalomba revealed that under Malawi's formal law, women and men have the right to own land, individually or jointly with others, and the Constitution prohibits gender discrimination.

"However, cultural biases often prevent women from enjoying equal access, control, and ownership of land despite being the major agricultural producers. In practice women do not have land rights because of socio-economic obstacles such as lack of education, and lack of resources to buy or lease land.

"This is the case with communities in Nsanje district where if a woman moves to her husband's village at the time of marriage, she often loses rights to use the household land in the event of divorce or death of her husband. Women are facing challenges with regard to issues of land ownership as culture gives men more power over property such as land," she noted.

The Kuchene Women Forum has since started engaging women in the district over the issue of land ownership so that they know how it is affecting their living.

"Women especially in the district have been facing a lot of challenges regarding land ownership. It is our wish as a forum to take the issue up to policy makers and even traditional leaders to find ways of addressing the problem.

"We are very sure that if we involve traditional leaders as the cultural custodians, then things will work positively towards addressing the challenges," she said.

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