New Land law to promote welfare, dignity of Malawi women -LandNet

LandNet, a non governmental organization (NGO) affiliated in  issues of land governance, has hailed government for the enactment of Land Act, a Law it observed will  safeguard and promote the welfare and dignity  of women and other marginalized members of the society.

Mlaka: Landnet Malawi chief says new Land Law recognizes and safeguards the  Right to land by all

The observation was made    by National Coordinator for LandNet, Emmanuel Mlaka,  during awareness meeting on new Land Laws and good land governance frame works  organized by  UNFAO-LandNet, held at Tovwirane Multipurpose Hall at Mzimba Boma.

The meeting which drew selected district executive committee (DEC) members, councilors and other stakeholders, was held to deepen understanding of the provisions of the Land Act which have generated serious misunderstanding and mixed reactions in some  sections of the society.

Mlaka said the new Land Law recognizes and safeguards the  Right to land by all, including  disadvantaged groups, such as widows, divorced women, unmarried women and orphaned children, who were previously deprived of land, under oppressive customary land governance system.

Mlaka described land as a major  treasure  in generating  resource which help in alleviating poverty in all households, including those headed by women and  children.

The Coordinator argued that household food security, which is key in keeping  poverty away , is always achieved by availability of land, for settlement, crop and livestock production, adding that  denying women land is equal to plunging  the women themselves and children  into perpetual unproductively and  poverty.

“This law is important as, besides restoring dignity to women,  it will  empower the group to use their share of land to produce food and  generate other resources which will promote their household income status and render them self reliant,” said Mlaka, the land governance specialist.

Meanwhile, civil society organization s (CSOs)in Mzimba have thrown their weight behind LandNet in appreciating  the anticipated positive impact of  the  new Law  on the welfare of women and children.

Mzimba CSOs  Chair person, Texon Amadu said in Human Rights programming, the Rights of women are always given spotlight since they are vulnerable to abuse by their men counterparts based on chauvinism.

“As CSOs in Mzimba, we look at the new Law as a right weapon to fight oppression on women especially in land allocation, which has always been tilted towards men,” said Amadu.

Amadu, who is also Chair for Mzimba District Education Net work (MZIDEN), however, advised proponents championing application of the Law to tread carefully to avoid breaking society specific cultural norms and traditions regarding land management.

Amadu  strongly  appealed to LandNet and other land governance affiliated NGOs to revisit certain provisions in the Law which  are crashing with cultural norms which create resistance for people to own the  piece of Legislature.

Said Amadu, “ The Law is good in terms of promoting women’s Right to land. It will dignify women who previously were landless. What is required is to work out on concerns raised in some  sections of the society and to intensify awareness for people’s deeper understanding  on the Law,”

But during the meeting, Councilor for  Perekezi Ward, Andrew Tembo ,swore that no amount of awareness will drive people of Mzimba into yielding to land legislature  which has a provision that gives space to  women  to own land.

Tembo  said it is  traditionally unacceptable for a woman to possess land  in  a cultural  setting  where  the wife lives at the husband’s home

“She is staying with me at my home. Why should she possess land? What about when marriage breaks away? This in not realistic,” bust controversial councilor Tembo.

A Ngoni Cultural grouping, known as Mzimba Heritage Association (MZIHA) has also expressed reservation with some provisions in the Law and seems not ready to apply this Law in its cultural setting.

The Land Bill was passed into Land Act in June 2016  by Parliament and it is  awaiting  formulation of clear guidelines for its implementation, according to Mlaka.

But an Official from district commissioner’s office, Frank Mfune told the gathering that government policies will always be implemented regardless of concerns in some quarters in the  communities.

“As for this Law, what is required for its smooth implementation  is  rapid awareness to wipe out wide spread misunderstanding,” said Mfune.

The bone of  contention in Ngoni land is the legislative provision by the new Land Law  which vividly states   that some one has a Right  to own land, including women, which is culturally strange, and, as if this is not enough, the  land custodian has to pull audacity  to register it, in her/his name, with the government.

The new Land Law  provides land administration system with   clear guidelines in land  allocation and re-allocation, which leaves no party aggrieved.

In customary land administration, land allocation used to favour  certain individual wielding  specific status in the community , according to  one small holder farmer who lost part of his land on the accusation that he had no capacity to cultivate the whole land every agriculture season.

Helpless land custodians used to be snatched land at will by local leaders over trivia, with those accused of witchcraft  and facing unconditional eviction from  villages, being the worst victims of customary land governance.

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