Women and Inheritance of Ancestral Land
Inheritance: That which is or may be inherited; that which is derived by an heir from an ancestor or other person; a heritage; a possession passes by descent.
Heir: A person who obtains right or ownership to property upon death of an ancestor, where there is no will left by the ancestor.
Inheriting of ancestral land and wealth guarantees a productive livelihood for women and their children. Without this, many find themselves in a state of destitution. Women in Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and many other African countries lose the right to their homes, their land and property due to the awful discriminating laws and customs in Africa.
Human Rights Watch said property rights abuses in sub-Saharan Africa perpetuate women’s inequality, dooms development efforts, and undermine the fight against HIV/AIDS. The 51- page report titled Double Standards: Women’s Property Rights Violations in Kenya, examines the devastating impact of women’s property rights violations in Kenya, where the constitution condones discrimination in property matters.
More than 60 percent of Africa’s population live on land. Many African women work in agriculture and depend on cultivating of their land for survival. They also plant, harvest and prepare for consumption most of the food that comes from smallholdings. They grow food for household consumption as well as for local markets.
Once widowed women and their children are excluded from what was rightly theirs when their husbands or fathers were alive. Women do not own land independently because they have a weaker position and few exit options compared to men, and thus tend to endure harassment and abuse at home rather than risk homelessness and destitution.
It’s been shown that when women have access to wealth and assets it gives them a sense of belonging, economic, social and political empowerment. When women are empowered they add a positive impact on their children’s well-being and education. A study from Ghana finds that households where women have a higher share of asset ownership have better health and nutritional outcomes (Doss 2005).
No share of asset ownership leads to poverty. Poverty creates all sorts of problems; bad health because no money to buy medicine or not eating well if at all; Girls and women get into prostitution which leads to HIV and AIDS; Children are not able to go to school and if they do the boy child is often given first priority over the girl child. In this case the upbringing of our young people, the leaders of tomorrow will not be possible. Poverty also leads to crime, violence and child trafficking.
Poverty is bad for your health, your economy, your choices. Poverty is more proof that we shouldn’t stop fighting it. Empowering women through the inheritance of the land that is rightly theirs will save lives because poverty is a killer.
Though still very early days to judge on the outcomes, Statutory law reforms and changes in local practices are being targeted by governments and non-governmental organisations in many countries in order to safeguard the property inheritance of women and children. Definitely a step in the right direction but the long delays no thanks to bureaucracy which sometimes leads to corruption and also leads to the continuous lack of land laws that ‘favour’ women in most African countries, will continue to hinder on women’s ability to effectively realise their potential in society and will continue to affect the fight against poverty across Africa.