Married women in Botswana can now own land alongside their husbands, the country’s president has said, following an amendment to the 2015 Land Policy. President Mokgweetsi Masisi also said at a virtual briefing that the new land policy will protect widows and orphans who act as heads of households.
“The Botswana Land Policy 2015 was discriminatory against married women and did not give them equal treatment with men, and I am happy to report that this discriminatory sub-section has since been repealed,” Masisi said.
“Each [B]otswana will be eligible for allocation of one residential plot at an area of their choice within the country, on both state land and tribal land,” he added.
He also encouraged “Local and Land Authorities as well as Non-Governmental Organisations to step up campaigns to educate women and orphans about their legally protected rights and offer them legal support to successfully claim their legitimate land right.”
The 2015 Land Policy prohibited wives from owning lands if their men already had some. However, unmarried women were eligible for land rights but the policy left many widows and single mothers without land rights.
Women’s rights groups applauded the amendment as a step in the right direction, adding that it will allow women in marriages to be independent.
“This amendment will allow women to be independent in marriages, and also have rights to land as any other person. We applaud this move,” women rights activist Tunah Moalosi was quoted by Reuters.
According to the World Bank, women encounter a host of obstacles to owning land in 40 percent of countries as a result of skewed inheritance rights or restricted authority over assets.
According to Landesa, a global land rights organization, although the majority of Africa and Asian farmers are women, only 15 percent of global land is own by women.
A number of reforms have been instituted in several African countries to make women own land, however, the process has been slow. In 2003, the Ethiopian government introduced the land title certification to recognize the land rights of both men and women.
The Rwandan genocide in 1994 also resulted in many households being headed by women but the patriarchal inheritance system and discrimination against women meant that women had limited access to land despite assuming more responsibility. Reforms were introduced to recognize equal land access for both men and women.