Women’s Land Rights in Malawi, Zambia and Swaziland

While in most African countries women’s land rights are enshrined in the laws and policies, women remain at a disadvantaged with respect to equitable access and control over land due to poor implementation and enforcement of the laws coupled with ignorance of the provisions of the law by women. Women still lack decision-making power. This has been worsened by the rush for large-scale land acquisitions by foreign companies, investment funds and governments, as well as domestic inves­tors in Africa. In as much as it is commonly known that women are more vulnerable when it comes to land changes, case studies and reports show that more competition for land has immediate impact on women’s land tenure system and food security in a situation where women’s access, control and ownership of land  remains a challenge in Africa.

In addition, women have not been adequately involved in the land compensation, eviction and negotiations processes. The lack of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) during pre- eviction and compensation processes, has also been found to increase gender based discrimination and violence against women. There is a growing fear that the new wave of investment will do more harm than good if the issue of land acquisition is not addressed. It is noted that current debates are lacking deeper analysis of the gendered implications of this recent phenomenon

Results from comparative analysis of legal and institutional frameworks and actual practices associated with large scale land acquisition  indicate that land grabbing is not only driven by private sector but a supply driven process in which governments are playing an active role. This has meant that customary rights are seldom adequately protected in the context of land negotiations despite widespread legal recognition of these rights. This thus raises among others the issue of the implication of vulnerability for those whose lives depend on land, especially women.

In light of the above, AMwA with support from the Commonwealth Foundation commissioned a three year project to build a vibrant women’s movement advocating for women’s land rights in the new wave of land acquisition; The project sought to strengthen women’s’ leadership capacities on economic rights, specifically on women’s land rights with emphasis on feminist research, advocacy, movement building and documentation of women’s lived experiences. The ultimate goal is to amplify women’s collective voices to be able to take part in decision-making processes and enhance feminist perspectives on secure and equitable land rights.