New challenges for women’s land rights in Africa

Second in a series of blog posts on the release of the 2019 Annual Trends and Outlook Report (ATOR) at the ReSAKSS Annual Conference in Lomé, Togo, Nov. 11-13. This year’s ATOR theme is “Gender Equality in Rural Africa: From Commitments to Outcomes.” Read the first post here

A new wave of gender-related land reforms has swept across Africa south of the Sahara in recent years. These reforms have incorporated innovative approaches to land administration, including legal provisions protecting women’s land rights, and efforts to minimize gender inequalities concerning land, housing, and property rights. In 2003, for instance, the African Union (AU) adopted the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, focusing on human, social, economic, and political rights – widely referred to as ‘the Maputo Protocol. In 2015, the AU Specialized Technical Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Water, and Environment adopted a recommendation aimed at facilitating women’s economic empowerment: That member states move toward allocation of 30% of land to women through legislative and other mechanisms. Various countries have also taken measures such as the explicit recognition of women’s equal rights and the prohibition of gender-based discrimination; promotion of joint ownership and registration of land; and laws on inheritance and property rights for widows and children.

Despite these encouraging moves, however, women’s land rights in Africa remain in a dire situation for two main reasons, explored in chapter 4 of the 2019 ATOR.

Photo Credit: Stephan Gladieu/World Bank