This blog was originally published on Land Portal.
By Godfrey Massay, Landesa Land Tenure Specialist
The Commission on the Status of Women convened its 65th Session (CSW65) from 15-26 March. The priority theme of the session is “women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” In this blog, I will highlight some of the international and regional commitments as well as Tanzania’s legal framework which seek to improve women’s participation in land governing bodies. Similarly, I will attempt to propose ways to improve women’s participation in land decision making bodies.
International and Regional Frameworks on Women’s Participation in Land Decision Making
The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) strongly encompasses equality and justice principles and promotes equitable tenure rights and access to land, fisheries and forests, for all women and men, youth and traditionally marginalized people. Moreover, effective participation of all members — men, women and youth — in decisions regarding their tenure systems is promoted through their local or traditional institutions, including in the case of collective tenure systems.
At the Africa regional level, the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa promotes strengthening the land rights of women through a variety of mechanisms, including the enactment of legislation that allows women to enforce documented claims to land within and outside marriage. This should come hand in hand with equal rights for women to inherit and bequeath land, co-ownership of registered land by spouses, and the promotion of women’s participation in land administration structures.
Moreover, the Guiding Principles on Large Scale Land Based Investments in Africa consists of six fundamental principles, one of which seeks to ensure large scale land-based investment (LSLBI) respect the land rights of women, recognize their voice, generate meaningful opportunities for women alongside men, and do not exacerbate the marginalization of women.
In October 2015, the AU Special Technical Committee on agriculture, water and environment recommended that Member States allocate at least 30% of land to women; improve land rights of women through legislative/other mechanisms, to give practical effect to the AU declaration on Land in which all African states committed to ensure equitable access to land for all land users and strengthen women’s land rights. A year later, rural women across the continent mobilized in an iconic movement to the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro with their charter containing fifteen demands on land rights. Relevant to the theme of this blog is their demand for “50% participation of women in decision-making bodies and implementation of land issues and matters (including in the valuation of land and payment of compensation for natural resources) so that they can speak and defend their land rights.” These demands were later endorsed by the African Union.
The Legal Framework in Tanzania
Tanzania has taken legislative steps to increase the number of women representations in decision-making bodies (including those related to land).
The Land Act, Act No. 4 of 1999, establishes the National Land Advisory Council, which have seven members three of whom are women appointed by the Minister (S. 17(1&2 and Regulation 3). The Village Land Act, Act No. 5 of 1999, establishes the village Adjudication Committee, which consist of not less than six nor more than nine persons, of whom not less than three persons are women (S. 53(1&2). Moreover, the Act also establishes the Village Land Council —a body responsible for dispute resolution which consist of not less than five nor more than seven persons, of which not less than two are women (S.60).
The Courts (Land Disputes Settlements) Act, Act No. 2 of 2002, establishes the Ward Tribunal which consist of not less than four nor more than eight members of whom three are women who are elected by Ward Committee (s. 10&11). In addition, the Land Use Planning Act, Act number 10 of 2007 establishes the National Land Use Planning Commission with at least three women as its members (S. 6(1&2).
The Government made a deliberate move to increase women’s participation in decision-making institutions at the local and national level. The move was accompanied by the amendment of the Local Government (Urban Authorities) Act of 1982. The amendments were made in 2000, which established affirmative action to mandate the participation of women at local government decision-making bodies. Just like in the Village Land Act, the law regulating the establishment and management of villages, districts and townships requires women to constitute one-third of the members of each District Council and one-fourth of the members of each township authority and village council.
Best practices which seek to improve women’s participation in land governance bodies
- Improving Women Participation through Village Bylaws. A model village level bylaw was developed in collaboration with CSOs, district officials and village leaders in Kisarawe District in Coast Region of Tanzania. The bylaw addresses the lacuna in the law by addressing the gender composition, timing and processes that lead to meaningful women participation in the Village Assembly (Kisambu, 2016).
- Localized guides on land-based investments. There are some other organizations have developed guides that are shaping actions on land and investment issues in many jurisdictions including Tanzania. Landesa recently developed country and context specific guidebooks for communities, investors and governments in Tanzania and in Ghana. Namati, another international land rights organization, developed community-investor negotiation guides. These guides underscore the importance and step by step process to ensure women participate in land decision making processes.
- Improving women participation through land rights champions. Trained volunteers have come out of land rights literacy programs spearheaded by CSOs working on land rights. These volunteers have turned out to be champions in their villages and have helped trained many community members, supported them in accessing land rights, monitored and reported land rights violations, and have helped increase women participation in land decision-making bodies (Massay, 2016; 2019).
- Improving women participation through land rights trainings. Since the 1999 land laws became operational in Tanzania, the Government and non-state actors including CSOs have provided land rights trainings. The trainings, among other things, highlights the provisions of the laws which shows compositions of women in land decision making bodies. As such, many decision-making bodies have been formed across the country and women have claimed their right to fill-in their positions. More trainings are needed to guarantee meaningful participation of women in such bodies.