‘Empower women on land rights’

‘Empower women on land rights’

MASERU – LOCAL Government Minister Habofanoe Lehana says there is need for gender-sensitive policies that give women and men equal rights ownership and control of land.
Lehana was speaking at a workshop organised by Habitat for Humanity Lesotho, an aid organisation, last Wednesday.
He said putting women at par with men is not optional for Lesotho because it signed Sustainable Development Goals, SADC Protocol, UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and African Union Charter.

“In order for them to participate in equal footing women need to have equal control of the factors of production like land,” Lehana said.
“Lesotho has a unique position with high literacy levels and women are more educated than men. There is need to harness the potential of women’s contribution to the economy of Lesotho.”
Lehana said “we need to have gender sensitive policies to ensure that this happens”.

He said although the Land Act of 2010 and the Legal Capacity of Married Person’s Act say women and men have equal rights to land women are still marginalised.
“The 2010 Land Act provides for equal acquisition of land for men and women and consolidation of customary and statutory land management systems into single lease based tenure.”
“The transition of this consolidation while opening up opportunities could also post threats to some land right holders.”

He said Lesotho is fortunate to have state and non-state actors pushing for women’s rights to own land but there is need to consolidate the efforts of all stakeholders.
He said the stakeholders should focus on consolidation of existing laws and regulations as well as mobilising and organising women to assert their rights.
The stakeholders, the minister said, should also raise awareness on land rights and promote policies that empower women.
Habitat for Humanity Lesotho engaged a consultant to assess Lesotho’s gender equality in land governance.

The consultant, Gaynor Paradza, used the Gender Evaluation Criteria (GEC) methodology to assess the status of women’s access to land and property rights.
The GEC assessment is an index that assesses whether the laws and policies are responsive to the needs of both women and men and to promote gender-responsive land governance.
It collects consistent data on differentiated impacts of land laws and policies on women and men and is used to ensure gender responsiveness of land governance and policy.
The aim of the study is to enable evaluation in terms of advocacy work in order to inform policies.

Various stakeholders including FIDA, Lesotho Land Administration Authority (LAA), Bureau of Statistics and others took part in the partnership workshop with the consultant.
The workshop saw the presentation of a draft report on research that was carried out to assess the status of women’s land and property rights in Lesotho.
Its aim was to generate a baseline, assess the status of the country and provide a framework for advocacy work on women’s land rights in the country.

Lesotho’s baseline on women’s access to land stipulates that women need secure access and control of land, that is, women need land as a source of identity.
This implies that secure access to land will provide women with a legal right to the use and control of property and the opportunity to be full citizens with rights and responsibilities, the ability to qualify for land and acquire municipal services and infrastructure, a social and economic base from which to consolidate and improve their livelihoods.
It also offers women the opportunity to invest in their property with greater assurance that they will enjoy any return on that investment and the option to use their ownership rights as collateral for business or investment purposes.

The workshop heard that single women who are divorced, widowed or abandoned by their husbands are among the households with highest incidence of poverty and land tenure insecurity.
They also heard that patriarchy and male dominated gender norms and stereotypes perception of women as minors dominate.
Paradza noted that the impact of policy and legislative changes on women’s land tenure increases women representation in the land allocation structures and some local authorities allocate land to men and women on an equal basis.

He said there is persistence of male dominated land governance structures and gender-based norms.
“There is women’s reluctance to claim land in their own right,” Paradza said.
“A positive response is that some local authorities are encouraging joint registration of allocated land and there are increased reports of inheritance disputes and widows supported in inheritance disputes.”

“On the other hand there is gender based violence and lack of pro-poor land delivery systems and bottlenecks in statutory processes and institutions.”
He said inheritance is increasingly becoming an important source of land for women because about 70 percent of the land is held by men.
“Women are more likely to inherit land and property on the death of a male spouse if they are proactive, have family support, empowered and are aware of the statutory rights to inherit property and land,” he said.

Tokase Mphutlane

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