In Malawi, women’s land rights are mostly governed by customary laws, which are unwritten and constantly not in line with the human rights order.
In both patrilineal and matrilineal areas, the patriarchal nature of customary law breeds countless negative practices that obstruct women from realizing and enjoying their full land rights. In addition, men dominate in selling and use of agricultural proceeds despite the massive contributions women make in providing agricultural labour. Due to this, most women in Malawi have remained poor and entirely dependent on men.
Therefore, to support poor women farmers in acquiring ownership and control over land and their agricultural proceeds ActionAid Malawi has continued to implement the WOLAR project.
Women’s Land Rights (WOLAR) Project is a multi-national initiative currently being implemented with financial assistance from the Dutch Government through Netherland Institute for Southern Africa (NIZA). The project’s goal is to promote women’s economic independence and security by empowering vulnerable women to claim and demand their land rights.
Women Land Rights in Machinga is being implemented by grassroots women aimed at assisting poor women farmers from TA Ngokwe, Nyambi, Liwonde and Nkula to acquire or strengthen land ownership and control over this precious and enabling resource. This is successfully being achieved through ActionAid’s partner the Coalition of Women Farmers (COWFA).
“At the beginning of the project ActionAid mobilized traditional chiefs and briefed them on the project. Using evidenced gathered during the baseline survey, the chiefs were informed of the challenges being faced by women on ownership of land and control of proceedS," explains William Jali, WOLAR Community Resource Person in Traditional Authority Nyambi’s area.
We asked them on the possibility of changing some customs that violate women’s rights and most were in agreement with us, and they agreed to play a role in ensuring that women have land and control of proceeds.
The women have been mobilized through civic education, Stakeholders’ and circle meeting lessons. Through the circles, the women are provided with skills for their enhanced confidence for them to effectively challenge discriminatory practices in the process of accessing, owning and controlling over these resources. The project also seeks to link women to stakeholders for enhanced collaboration and networking with women farmers on various development aspects in Machinga and beyond.
Read about how Adson Maureen turned her life around by fighting for her land rights.