By Josephine Tembo,

Women’s land rights and gender justice in land governance are fundamental pillars in the promotion and protection of women’s human rights in all parts of the world. They are a key determinant of women’s empowerment and have profound implications on women’s ability to enjoy in practice civil, political, social, and economic rights, as well as to escape poverty and social exclusion.

In recent years, countries around the world have adopted and strengthened laws that support women’s land rights, creating a foundation for greater gender equality.

In 2017, Zambia introduced a policy that women should be allocated 50% of land and should be given the opportunity to own land without being subjected to harsh conditions, which is in line with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development, ratified by the Zambian government.

Cecilia Kangwa, a resident of Zamtan area in Kitwe District of the Copperbelt Province, whose land details were recently captured under the Systematic Land Titling Program being conducted by Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources in partnership with Medici Land Governance, shared how she was able to convince her husband to invest in land properties instead of buying a car:

I remember having a heated argument with my husband as he wanted to buy a car and I wanted us to build some shops. He was not happy with how strong I stood my ground with my suggestion which made him split the money in half in order to meet what each of us wanted.

It took me courage to convince him on how investing in land would generate income for us to eventually be able to buy a car. With the money he gave me, I built some shops which he now appreciates, and he is grateful that I stood my ground in a respectful and developmental manner.

As women, mostly we feel oppressed by men, which hinders us from even suggesting developmental ideas in most homes and community gathering. Luckily in our home, we make decisions together with my husband. At times we do not agree on one thing, but at least I contribute to most decisions we make.

Zambia Land Alliance Policy Advocacy and Communications Officer Jesinta Kunda explained that a gender approach to land rights can enable shifts in gender power relations and assure that all people, regardless of sex, benefit from and are empowered by development policies and practices to improve people’s rights to land.

“Women need to be able to bring out land conversations and discuss the issue with their partner or family members.”

She added that women’s ownership of property extends their capabilities, expands their negotiating power, and enhances their ability to address vulnerability. It is also serving as a critical factor of social protection against gender-based violence.

Women’s right to land and property is central to women’s economic empowerment, as land is a base for food production and income generation, collateral for credit, and a means of holding savings for the future.