Full citation: Ikdahl, I et al., "Human Rights, Formalisation and Women’s Land Rights in Southern and Eastern Africa", 57 STUDIES IN WOMEN'S LAW, (University of Oslo, Norway 2005).

Human Rights, Formalisation and Women's Land Rights in Southern and Eastern Africa

Abstract: Land is a vital resource for rural livelihoods. How far has land reform advanced in Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya? These are societies where, among the indigenous population, men have had primary land rights and women secondary derivative rights. How effectively has gender equality been implemented in their land reform policies? What problems need to be resolved, what are the forces resisting change and what remains to be done? This report from the University of Oslo and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences was commissioned by the Norwegian Agency of Development Cooperation. It adopted the human rights based approach (HRBA), to spell out a human rights framework for gender-equal and non-discriminatory land reform/formalisation processes. In traditional African societies there was no individual ownership of land. Unwritten customary law dispensed by male elders favoured men and discriminated against women. This affected rights to use of land, inheritance and the sharing of property following divorce. New Constitutions and statutory legislation have begun to change socio-legal and economic conditions for land users. A key issue in development policies, recognised by both neo-liberal approaches and the HRBA, is to establish, clarify and formalise land rights. The aim is to promote tenure security, land production and sustainable rural livelihoods, ensuring gender equality.