Research Finds Women’s Land rights Limited

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Practices such as early marriage and marginalisation of women and girl children in inheritance of property have been found to be factors undermining women’s access to land and housing.

A research on Women’s Access to Land and Housing has found that negotiations for land and housing in Lesotho are done under increasingly difficult conditions and that the patriarchy driven social norms, stereotypes and persistence of male dominated land governance structures in Lesotho perpetuate the perception of women as minors.

During the launch of the research report by Habitat for Humanity in Lesotho at Mpilo Hotel in Maseru on Tuesday (26/03/2019), the National Director of Habitat for Humanity in Lesotho ‘Mathabo Makuta revealed that men had been found to be the cause of women’s deprivation of inheritance of houses and fields. Makuta said outdated traditions and customs played a big role in undermining the rights of women despite efforts made by the government to treat everyone equal before the law.

She said there were progressive policies and legal instruments which were in place to enhance the status of women but these were being undermined by lack of political will and lack of resources, also adding that the lack of awareness among women about their rights was a stumbling block to fighting for their rights to land and housing that is why her organisation was advocating for women and children’s rights on inheritance.

She further alleged that corruption played a major role in alienating women from their rights as men paid bribes to chiefs. “Corruption by those with power who are usually men have the negative impact of increasing the price that women and the poor must pay to gain access to productive resources including land, housing and dispute resolution mechanisms,” she pointed out also stating that the research found evidence where widows and victims of gender-based violence were disenfranchised because of corruption.

“In some cases, chiefs were also undermining women and orphan’s land rights demanding bribes from women who wanted land and or an affidavit to take to court. The officials either ignored the woman’s interests or delayed their intervention until the affected women gave up their claims to land and housing,” she added citing a 1992 case whereby a woman stopped pursuing a case after the family of her husband took away her house and bricks claiming that she was not the rightful heir.

The research had also noted that women who rented houses had no security of tenure and that most women working in factories could not afford to buy land or build their own houses because of low salaries. She added that women were also reluctant to register land in their names for fear of victimization by spouses.

She however noted that the Government of Lesotho through the department of Housing was providing incentives to encourage procurement of housing and land on terms that are affordable to women and the poor in Lesotho.

 “Policy makers should continue to provide incentives for provision of low cost housing at a larger scale. Again, implementation of the housing policy should provide a framework to achieve an increased delivery of affordable housing,” she said, also emphasising the need for a multi-sectoral approach in land delivery as it would be better placed to explore innovations to deliver secure land tenure to women in Lesotho. “This includes working in partnership and investing in the upscaling of some of the approaches that have been highlighted in the report,” she added.

According to Makuta, various initiatives by diverse stakeholders had revealed that there was a need for a platform to advance women’s land tenure security in the country.

As Habitat for Humanity, she stated, they had built 143 houses which benefited the poorest of the poor in various areas around Maseru while Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) provided 471 houses to people affected by construction of dams at Mohale and Bokong.

Practices such as early marriage and marginalisation of women and girl children in inheritance of property have been found to be factors undermining women’s access to land and housing.

A research on Women’s Access to Land and Housing has found that negotiations for land and housing in Lesotho are done under increasingly difficult conditions and that the patriarchy driven social norms, stereotypes and persistence of male dominated land governance structures in Lesotho perpetuate the perception of women as minors.

During the launch of the research report by Habitat for Humanity in Lesotho at Mpilo Hotel in Maseru on Tuesday (26/03/2019), the National Director of Habitat for Humanity in Lesotho ‘Mathabo Makuta revealed that men had been found to be the cause of women’s deprivation of inheritance of houses and fields. Makuta said outdated traditions and customs played a big role in undermining the rights of women despite efforts made by the government to treat everyone equal before the law.

She said there were progressive policies and legal instruments which were in place to enhance the status of women but these were being undermined by lack of political will and lack of resources, also adding that the lack of awareness among women about their rights was a stumbling block to fighting for their rights to land and housing that is why her organisation was advocating for women and children’s rights on inheritance.

She further alleged that corruption played a major role in alienating women from their rights as men paid bribes to chiefs. “Corruption by those with power who are usually men have the negative impact of increasing the price that women and the poor must pay to gain access to productive resources including land, housing and dispute resolution mechanisms,” she pointed out also stating that the research found evidence where widows and victims of gender-based violence were disenfranchised because of corruption.

“In some cases, chiefs were also undermining women and orphan’s land rights demanding bribes from women who wanted land and or an affidavit to take to court. The officials either ignored the woman’s interests or delayed their intervention until the affected women gave up their claims to land and housing,” she added citing a 1992 case whereby a woman stopped pursuing a case after the family of her husband took away her house and bricks claiming that she was not the rightful heir.

The research had also noted that women who rented houses had no security of tenure and that most women working in factories could not afford to buy land or build their own houses because of low salaries. She added that women were also reluctant to register land in their names for fear of victimization by spouses.

She however noted that the Government of Lesotho through the department of Housing was providing incentives to encourage procurement of housing and land on terms that are affordable to women and the poor in Lesotho.

 “Policy makers should continue to provide incentives for provision of low cost housing at a larger scale. Again, implementation of the housing policy should provide a framework to achieve an increased delivery of affordable housing,” she said, also emphasising the need for a multi-sectoral approach in land delivery as it would be better placed to explore innovations to deliver secure land tenure to women in Lesotho. “This includes working in partnership and investing in the upscaling of some of the approaches that have been highlighted in the report,” she added.

According to Makuta, various initiatives by diverse stakeholders had revealed that there was a need for a platform to advance women’s land tenure security in the country.

As Habitat for Humanity, she stated, they had built 143 houses which benefited the poorest of the poor in various areas around Maseru while Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) provided 471 houses to people affected by construction of dams at Mohale and Bokong.

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