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Young woman advocates for her right to land

Monday, October 17, 2016 - 10:05

Sharon Mayakayaka (34) of Nyanga District, east of Zimbabwe has experienced challenges of accessing, controlling and owning land in her home country. As a result, she has failed to effectively provide for her family of a husband and three children.

Being a youth has seemingly become an impediment acting against her. The other “perceived” hindrance is that she is a woman while another superficial deterrent is that she hails from rural Zimbabwe where land is communally owned and provides limited security to young women like her.

Sharon represents the millions of youths in Zimbabwe who have failed to prove their worth in life due to the denial of her constitutional right to own land and natural resources. Many youths in Zimbabwe have been left out of mainstream development initiatives because they do not own productive assets such as land among many others.  

The fact that she is a woman makes her even more vulnerable.  In Zimbabwe, women’s access, ownership and control of land is determined by men .The majority of Zimbabwe’s population live in customary tenure areas where land is governed by patriarchal systems. As a result, men are the primary land-holders, and women negotiate access to land through their male relations relying on fathers, brothers, husbands, uncles or male-dominated traditional authorities for land. Many of the women like Sharon in Zimbabwe have had first-hand experience of the unjust practices linked to unequal land rights, including forced evictions after the death of their husbands due to unfair inheritance practices.

The communal land which I currently use is written in my husband’s name. No relatives have threatened to take the land from us but you never know what people have in their minds, Sharon said.

She is among the 250 other women from across Africa who attended the #women2kilimanjaro convention in the town of Moshi in Arusha, Tanzania, between 14 and 16 October where Rural Women Assemblies (RWAs) were advocating for women’s rights to land and natural resources.

The #women2kilimanjaro programme 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.

I am participating in the #women2kilimanjaro initiative because I need land whose ownership is under my name so that I have security. My husband can keep the land currently in his name while I have my own, she said.

Sharon, a member of the RWA under Nyanga District, is currently undertaking a poultry management course at a polytechnic college in Manicaland. She said she pays tribute to the RWA, which has facilitated her to enrol at college. She is among the over 4000 other women who are members of the RWA trained by FACT Nyanga and other ActionAid partners in Zimbabwe.

Under the RWA, women are trained on various empowerment programmes which range from running income generating projects, concientisation on women’s rights and dealing with gender based violence.

Through RWA, I was encouraged to enrol in college to study farming as a business particularly focusing on poultry, said Sharon who currently runs a poultry project at her home.

“I have 100 broiler chickens which my husband is helping me look after while I am at college. I started college in June 2016 and will graduate in March 2016 with a certificate,” said Sharon who said she appreciated the support from her husband.