More than a thousand women converged at Msasa Primary school just outside Shurugwi for the 5th Annual Rural Women Assembly Meeting under the Women and Land in Zimbabwe (WLZ) where they exchanged information and discussed issues affecting them.
The meeting saw women from some of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries being represented which include South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Namibia, supported by several local and regional Non-Governmental Organisation into women’s rights and advocacy.
Key issues discussed during the two day meeting included calls for increased land ownership, inheritance clarities and lobbying for laws that protect women’s rights to land ownership.
Speaking after the meeting, WLZ National Coordinator Thandiwe Chidavarume said women are the backbone of the Zimbabwean economy but are not recognised for their contribution.
In the agricultural sector, she said, women contribute about 70 to 80 percent of total agricultural labour in the country but have no access to resources they require to be effective in their farming; more so don’t directly own the land but have access to it as appendages of man.
“The land they toil on mostly belong to man and they have access through any relations with man, it could be a husband, son, uncle or other means.
“In terms of access, yes we have a constitution that is talking about equality in terms of land distribution but in terms of implementation we are still lagging behind,” said Chidavarume.
She said those manning institutions that are supposed to be giving land to women are taking advantage of women’s ignorance on their right to access land.
Women and Land in Zimbabwe is an organisation formed in 1998 as a land lobby group at the hype of calls for land reform in the country and fought for a 20 percent stake for women in the spoils, a lobby Chidavarume says they regret as the figure could have been set higher.
“We are regretting that as an organisation we should have lobbied for a 55 percent stake or so, because we form the backbone of agriculture as women,” she said.
She however said compared to world trends on women land ownership, Zimbabwe is far better as the Global Analysis shows that only 5 percent of women own land in the world and Zimbabwean statistics show that 18 percent of women own land in the A1 programme with 12 percent in the commercial A2.
Chidavarume said such national meetings for the organisation have been done since 2014 but this year’s meeting was the best with speakers well-articulated.
Zimbabwe Gender Commission representative at the meeting, Commissioner Victor Nkiwane concurred with Chidavarume that women, despite protection by the law on land, they are still being sidelined.
He said as a commission they are in full support of promoting gender rights and their constitutional mandate is to align and promote gender issues with the law of the land.
“As a commission one of the major objectives we are constitutionally enshrined is to investigate any violation of gender rights and as a commission we have a right to investigate, to recommend prosecution if necessary and also to recommend remedial actions where needed,” commissioner Nkiwane said.
Government departments were represented with issues raised to be taken up with the relevant ministries.
Ministry of Lands, Ministry of Gender and Ministry of Mines, are some of the government departments among others.
Continued conflicts between farming and mining rights were highlighted during the meeting in which the women called for aggressive advocacy to lobby for the harmonization of land and mining laws which are in disharmony.
Targeted is the Mines and Minerals Act which has left most farmers in quandary in their own land.
Other organisations represented included Culture Fund, Osisa, HiVOs, Urgent Action Fund, NPA, LED, AWDF, We Effect, Troicare, Diakonia, Action Aid Zimbabwe, Womankind and several others; Chiefs were also present.