Right to land still elusive for most rural women

By Tapiwa Machemedze

The right of women to own land has come under the spotlight in the wake of revelations that most of them are disadvantaged due to lack of knowledge on the dictates of the law

When Susan Darawanda’s husband died 5 years ago, her brother in law swooped in on the deceased’s estate, including communal land in Mariga area of Guruve.

Deprived of her inheritance and source of income, Darawanda and her three children were forced to relocate to Mudhindo growth point where she has struggled to set up a flea market business.

“When my husband passed away in 2015, his brothers came after about 6 months claiming land and household property. I managed to hold on to household property but went away from the land.”

While her right to land was protected under the Communal Land Act of 1983, lack of knowledge proved a stumbling block for the 35-year-old widow.

Chief Bepura of Guruve says most customary land disputes are often resolved when brought to the attention of traditional leaders.

“I have not encountered such problems to a large extent but they are there and happen particularly when a man dies and you hear the woman being told to go back to her home. In most cases, those problems are rectified because people won’t be knowing how the distribution of inheritance is done. It’s different from how things were done long back.”

Sandra Muzama who is the Projects Officer for Roots Africa believes access to information is key.

“Information happens to get slowly to the female population so I would urge the government and other stakeholders to advocate for women to get access to information around land tenure rights.”

While Zimbabwe’s constitution provides every citizen with the right to land, more still needs to be done to ensure that women’s right to land is not infringed upon.