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Rumphi women fight for land rights

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Women in Rumphi have teamed up to challenge the patriarchal legal and cultural traditions in their bid to claim their rights to own land.

Women Rights Coordinator for Chikulamayembe Women’s Forum, Mary Gondwe, said in an interview over the weekend that the patriarchal land ownership system means women are dependent on men to access land.

The development, she said, has proved problematic in case of uncertainties such as death and divorce and has been the main cause of poverty among female-headed households.

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“Our culture has been at the centre of discrimination against women, especially when it comes to issue of property ownership and land rights. As at now, women can access land but they don’t own it. So we are taking traditional leaders to task since they are custodians of culture deliberately to reverse the trends and perceptions,” Gondwe said.

Gondwe expressed surprise as to why government, through Parliament, is failing to ratify all the necessary pieces of legislation with an aim of eliminating inequalities surrounding issues of land.

“With the new laws that were passed in Parliament, there is a danger that all pieces of land will be registered by men because women have no control over assets. This is the time for us to rise up and deal with this deep-seated problem which is retrogressive to national development,” she added.

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Commenting on other functions of the forum, Gondwe said they aim at alleviating all sorts of abuse that women and children suffer in society by ensuring their economic empowerment.

Asked on what would be their next move on the matter as traditional leaders, Principal Group Village Headman (GVH) Mwendapadera said they are sensitising one another to the need to uphold women’s land rights.

“The women’s concerns are valid. Need I say that apart from the traditions, women have been in the closet for long? It’s only now that they have started to speak out on matters that concern them. We are glad and we will work on the issues,” he pledged.

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