“I have been married to my husband for the last 23 years and I have got five children. We live on a 13 acre piece of land where our house sits. I grow maize for both domestic consumption and commercial purposes. The most unfortunate aspect is that I don’t have a right to at least to co-own the 13 acre piece of land with my husband. Even after 23 years of marriage, I do not feel free to use this land. I always feel that it will be one day when he will decide to stop me from using this land, and then chase me. I do not have security of tenure.” Says Nyakabiito Ateenyi from one of the villages in Miirya sub County, Masindi district in Uganda.
Land is an important resource in Uganda and it is a basis of income, sustenance and identity for majority of Ugandans including the women.
Agriculture dominates the country’s economy and accounts for 80% of export earnings and 80% employment. 87% Ugandans of 35 millions reside in rural areas where by 85% of these are involved in subsistence agriculture. (According to UBOS; National census, 2014). 90% of rural women, including Ateenyi are employed by agriculture. These women produce at least 80% of food crops we have in our markets.
There are deep-seated beliefs and culture in many places in Uganda, including Miirya that regard women as property. These beliefs and practices make it all the more difficult for women to claim land as property themselves. Even where laws have changed, these mindsets often remain. Across all tenure regimes there are uphill battles to change these mindsets; of (mostly male) clan heads to allocate land to women in customary tenure, of families and husbands disinheriting women and girls, or of government institutions not prioritizing affirmative programmes to support women access to land administration services. Women’s own lack of confidence or knowledge around (of) their rights can often be another key hindrance.
Weak laws/ lack of implementation. The Land Act of 1998 is good but has also got loop holes. This Act does not properly bring out administration of land under the customary tenure system. This hinders women’s control, access and usage of land. Low access, control and usage of this land significantly obstructs women access to financial assets including credit, savings thus increasing the likelihood of falling into or remaining into poverty but also reduce on land and gender related violence.
How can we help women to demand for their rights?
- Fellow men, leaders at all levels; We need to join these women, mobilize them and advocate for a change of unfavorable policies, practices, attitudes, behavior on land, in order to ensure that women access land, use and then have control over it. We can begin by campaigning for women rights on land through raising awareness, mobilization, and legal literacy, legal redress, filing for claims and so on. Studies conducted by Action Aid indicate that secure land rights empower women and build their collective agency.
- As people, we need to change our attitude land ownership and protection. Protection of an individual’s land starts with oneself.
- Corruption during land transaction must stop.
- There should be traditional systematic demarcation of land in around Miirya. This calls for plantation of land markers.
- Men should be encouraged to co-own property together with their women.
- Spousal consent during land sale/ buying is vital.
- Continuous empowerment for the Area Land Committees, recorders and the District Land Board about their roles and responsibilities since they play a key role in land administration.
- Put in place and strengthen Dispute Handling strategy to reduce on land conflicts in communities. Women should also be involved in this Dispute handling model.
- Revive the sub county courts and these will be helpful in ensuring that they resolve land conflicts at local level
- There is need for proper land use planning and management beginning at family, village, parish level, Sub County up to district, regional and country levels.
The last but not least, all right on land should go hand in hand with responsibilities.