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WOLAR Project shines

In collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa (NIZA), Actionaid Malawi launched the Women and Land Rights (WOLAR) Project in June 2009. The project was aimed at promoting women’s empowerment by enhancing women’s access to, ownership of, and control over land 

Although the pilot WOLAR project was implemented for two years, this project is a perfect example of how determination to tackle a sensitive developmental topic affecting women can bear dividends with one important step—taking action.

The WOLAR project has brought optimism that the progressive fulfillment of women’s land rights is possible in Malawi. This project targeted rural women farmers and focused on five result areas which were mobilizing women farmers, awareness raising, mobilizing political support, strengthening land tenure security and building capacity of women farmers.

Through REFLECT circles, women farmers were made aware of their land rights, gained reading and counting skills and were empowered to challenge discriminatory practices in access to, control over and ownership of land.  

“In 2004, I was divorced by my husband. When I returned to my natal home, I was denied land for cultivation. They told me I had no power to own land. But the introduction of the WOLAR project has enabled me to own and control land through the chief” said one of the women farmers.  

In its key results areas, WOLAR managed to provide knowledge, skills, support and confidence for the women to effectively challenge land issues. Women’s farmer associations, men, chiefs and the wider community were also mobilised and made aware of women’s land rights. 

Now we are being recognized in better decision making positions within our communities and even in the district because we have acquired reading and writing skills, and have learnt about child spacing, HIV and AIDS, gender based violence, and land rights” 

All in all, WOLAR project has attested to the fact that it is possible for rigid cultures to be positively shaped, so that through ownership and control of land, women can also be equal participants in development.