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Rural woman wins land battle where women’s rights are contested

Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 11:53

For Barbra Saunyama (58) of Nyanga District in Manicaland Province, east of Zimbabwe, participating in the #women2killimanjaro 2016 women’s land rights campaign not only gave her an opportunity to learn from others, but allowed her to project her voice even louder than ever before.

A widow, who gave birth to three children who were all girls, but now adults, Barbra was not an envy of many society members who believed that female children were second class citizens.

My husband died in 1996 when my oldest daughter was in secondary school. The other two were in primary school. I saw the wreath of my brother in law who said I should vacate my homestead and go back to my parents because I did not have a male child who was supposed to inherit my husband’s land.

A farmer who currently produces potatoes, beans and vegetables from the then “disputed” rural land, Barbra said she was not shaken by her late husband’s brother threat to take her land. He said he wanted to convert her land into paddocks while she and her “girl” children vacate the property.

Asked what really gave her strength to contest the brother in law head on despite coming from an environment where women are generally supposed to be submissive to men, Barbra owes her wisdom to the trainings she has received from Family AIDS Caring Trust (FACT) Nyanga, an ActionAid partner operating in her area.

Barbra is among the over 4000 other women who are members of the Rural Women Assembly (RWA) trained by FACT Nyanga and other ActionAid partners in Zimbabwe. They have received training on women’s rights to land and natural resources inheritance laws, income generating activities, the importance of women standing up for their rights as well as working hard for their families irrespective of the presence of a husband or not in their lives.

Barbra is the chairperson of the RWA in Nyanga District.

She said she went and reported her brother in law to the chief in her area. “I did not report him secretly, but I told him openly that I was going to see the chief. He never bothered me again because he was afraid of the chief.  He never thought I would report him.”

I am now the spectacle of my community as I have managed to single handedly educate all my three girls. The first one is a teacher, the second one is a nurse and the last born is at university studying business management, said the proud mother.

Barbra is one of the three RWA members from Zimbabwe supported by ActionAid who participating in the #women2kilimanjaro initiative which is campaigning for women’s rights to land and natural resources. She participated in a caravan of the #women2kilimanjaro from Nyanga, Zimbabwe then to Zambia, Malawi and finally to Arusha Tanzania where she and other thousands of women are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise their voices up in the battle for women’s land rights.

The Kilimanjaro Initiative is a rural women’s mobilisation from across Africa towards an iconic moment at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro in October 2016. This initiative aims to enhance the recognition of rural women as leaders and agents of change in society and create space for them to be able to participate in decision making processes about land and natural resources. With access to and control over land and natural resources as an entry point, three regional caravans departed simultaneously  from from the South, East and West, culminating in a mass African rural women’s assembly and a symbolic ascent by a delegation of women from 14 to 16 October 2016.