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Investigating women's land rights.



The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) recently published a study which examines the position of widows in Namibia's north-central regions and calls for an aggressive information campaign to educate land right holders about their rights and to end property grabbing which continues to affect widows in these regions.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The 40-page report: Protection for Women in Namibia's Communal Land Communal land: The term communal land in Zimbabwe refers to certain rural areas within Zimbabwe. Communal lands were formerly called Tribal Trust Lands (TTL's). Subsistence farming and small scale commercial farming are the principal economic activities in communal lands,  Reform Act: Is it Working? by Wolfgang Werner is jointly published by the Land, Environment and Development Project and the Gender Advocacy and Research Project of the LAC. It investigates women's land rights in the four north-central regions of the country, namely Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena and Oshikoto.

Customary land Customary land is land that is not registered land and is only owned by kastom. This arrangement predates the colonial alienation of land in much of human society.

Common ownership is one form of customary land ownership.
 rights of widows in these regions appear to be much more secure now than at the time of Independence, thanks to the revision of some of the customary laws in the area combined with the impact of the Communal Land Reform Act.

More awareness needed

However, the report noted that the majority of customary land right holders appear to be unaware of their rights in terms of the Communal Land Reform Act, and hence cannot claim these rights. According to according to
prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

3.
 Werner, "awareness of the roles and functions of Communal Land Boards appears to be equally poor. For as long as land right holders are unaware of their rights, customary laws, particularly with regard to gender, are likely to take precedence The order in which an expression is processed. Mathematical precedence is normally:

1. unary + and - signs
2. exponentiation
3. multiplication and division
4.
 over statutory law. To the extent that this happens, the social structures that relegate rel·e·gate  
tr.v. rel·e·gat·ed, rel·e·gat·ing, rel·e·gates
1. To assign to an obscure place, position, or condition.

2. To assign to a particular class or category; classify. See Synonyms at commit.
 women to a subordinate position are likely to remain in place."

A major problem is that, despite their improved land tenure land tenure: see tenure, in law.  rights, widows remain vulnerable to losing important household and agricultural assets to relatives of their deceased husbands through the practice of "property-grabbing", which is justified by reference to matrilineal mat·ri·lin·e·al
adj.
Relating to, based on, or tracing ancestral descent through the maternal line.
 inheritance practices. "This practice leaves many widows without the means necessary to cultivate their land, and sometimes even without adequate shelter," Werner says.

The way forward

The study makes the following key recommendations:

* government and NGOs should work together on an information campaign to popularise Verb 1. popularise - cater to popular taste to make popular and present to the general public; bring into general or common use; "They popularized coffee in Washington State"; "Relativity Theory was vulgarized by these authors"  the provisions of the Communal Land Reform Act, combined with community-based discussions of gender equity and the status of women

* local communities and Traditional Authorities should develop guidelines to prevent property grabbing, by means of a consultative process which will give new rules widespread legitimacy.

* where relatives of a deceased husband lay claim to household assets to the detriment of widows and their dependants, the claim should be negotiated in the presence of Traditional Leaders or a forum chosen by local communities

* government should provide more financial and technical support to Traditional Authorities and Communal Land Boards, to facilitate effective administration of the Communal Land Reform Act

* officials in the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement Re`set´tle`ment   

n. 1. Act of settling again, or state of being settled again; as, the resettlement of lees s>.
The resettlement of my discomposed soul.
- Norris.
 should be trained on gender issues

* the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry should review the extension and support services support services Psychology Non-health care-related ancillary services–eg, transportation, financial aid, support groups, homemaker services, respite services, and other services  aimed at small-scale communal farmers, to ensure that women have full access to services such as seeds, fertilisers, credit and market access.

A redistribution of roles

The study noted that the redistribution of land or land rights will not be sufficient on their own to achieve gender equality; there must also be a redistribution of socio-economic roles and responsibilities between women and men.

"Land and property rights are not an end in themselves, but a means for a better livelihood for women and their families."
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Title Annotation:WOMEN AND COMMUNAL LAND
Author:Hubbard, Dianne
Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:6NAMI
Date:Jun 1, 2008
Words:557
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