This article was originally published in the print edition of The Guardian Tanzania on October 21, 2023.
By Khadija Juma Mrisho, Land Tenure Specialist
Land is foundational to livelihood for most of the world’s population, including women who make up to 400 million of people working in agriculture. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60% of women work in agriculture. Tanzania’s Integrated Labour Force Survey indicates that 60.4% of women work in agriculture. Thus, women need secure land rights to peacefully engage and make investments in agriculture.
While women have legal rights to secure land rights as equal as men and protection against discrimination based on gender at national, regional, and international frameworks, women continue to face barriers not only on accessing land but also on making decisions regarding products of their labour. Male counterparts, particularly spouses, sell farm produce without engaging female spouses leaving them with no food or income to sustain the families regardless of their labour force.
Catherine from Iringa shares: “I rented a rice farm for myself though there are other farms I cultivate with my husband. Surprisingly, he and my mother-in law were not happy about it. The rice produced was stolen and sold while still at the farm. I later learnt that my husband was the one who stole and sold the rice without engaging me and he fled to another town leaving me with no food, or income to cater for the children who are schooling…”
Given the role that women play in producing food and their engagement in agriculture in Tanzania, this may mean tackling the discrimination based on gender that is often perpetrated by patriarchy and customary norms and practices enshrined in most communities. This should be paramount to ensure women also make decisions regarding the farm produce as well. Again, women should not be regarded as free labour for family farms with no capacity to make decisions on what happens to the produce that came out of the farms.
The Stand for Her Land campaign (S4HL) is closing the implementation gap for women’s land rights by addressing norms and practices that discriminate against women. Ahead of International Rural Women’s Day on 15th October 2023, the S4HL Tanzania Coalition in collaboration with the Ministry of Community Development, Gender, Women and Special Group organized a Rural Women Forum at Olevolos Village, Arumeru District in Arusha. A space for rural women to learn about land rights, women’s role on land governance, climate action leadership, and food security. Also, a space for rural women from across the country to share their real-life stories on issues relating to women’s land rights. Catherine and many other women shared their powerful stories on their struggles and claims for land rights at the forum.
Doris from Morogoro shared: “after receiving awareness and capacity training from S4HL partner, PELUM Tanzania, on the importance of taking part in decision making process regarding farm produce I discussed this with my family, we now make decision together on how to use our farm produce. This has increased our farm productivity.”
The S4HL is also raising awareness that women’s land rights are beyond the right to access, control and own to include the right to make decisions on how farm produce could be used to sustain livelihood and economic growth for oneself, family, and the community at large. There is need to stir a shift on how women are viewed when it comes to asserting their land rights and decision-making role at the family level because that is the foundation of gender equality and justice. A norm shift at family and community level means a shift at country, regional and global level.
Khadija Mrisho is the Lead of Stand for Her Land Campaign in Tanzania.