Impact of land rights on womens empowerment


In most African states, adult females ‘s rights to resources are lessened by the interaction between imposts and traditions of different nature that are coexisting in a model of legal pluralism. The intent of this paper is to supply an overview of current thought on gender and land rights in Africa and particularly Cameroon. As such, it will cover with the justifications for bettering adult females ‘s land and belongings rights, and dwell on the extremely unjust nature of gendered land rights in many parts. It is assumed that the participants are cognizant of gendered unfairness with respect to land and belongings rights, and that they portion the basic development end of equal rights to belongings, land, and the resources related to land ( other natural resources every bit good as productive resources such as recognition ) .

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Womans are in deceasing demand of entree and rights to natural resources such as land, H2O, recognition. As a effect, there is demand for development organisations to concentrate on this countries and seek to turn to these issues. This is because if adult females have entree to resources particularly land, it will travel a long manner to cut down poorness as they will better maximise the land. Having entree to resources will besides travel a long manner to authorise adult females non merely economically but besides socially, culturally and politically.


Today, land rights and land term of office have been the subject of treatment in most international development bureaus. This is because of the fact that there is a gender dimension in it. Most imposts and traditions hinder adult females ‘s land ownership rights since heritage is largely by male line of descent. It is a call for concern because land is really of import in Sub-Saharan Africa but it is frequently disregarded how cherished the resource is to adult females. Womans have a batch of utilizations with land but ironically they have merely user rights and non ownership rights.

Harmonizing to Agarwal ( 1994 ) , the public assistance, efficiency and empowerment statements are out to warrant adult females ‘s rights to land and it covers both these dimensions, indicating to the interconnection between the stuff every bit good as the ideological in people ‘s lives. For illustration, harmonizing to her it influences entree to other productive resources, such as recognition, and sometimes H2O rights, croping rights, and other entitlements, entree to set down can foster supply security against absolute poorness, as there is a direct nexus between adult females ‘s entree to productive factors and poorness decrease. It can lend to a more efficient allotment of resources in footings of land usage precedences, allotment of labour, choice of harvests. Finally, it can supply adult females with the capacity to dispute male subjugation and domestic force which is the societal facet of adult females ‘s land rights and this is straight linked to empowerment per Se.

There is a batch of perplexity created on the land by the manner in which a right is defined, and the ways in which such rights are really exercised. This is because of the debut of private belongings in African which brought a batch of confusion on the land. The being of legal pluralism in Africa is another call for concern. The fact that land in the beginning was jointly owned and so all of a sudden there came the thought of private belongings meant that some people were left at the disadvantage terminal of the ladder. These were adult females because harmonizing to many traditions, adult females can non have land but frequently have user rights. Besides due to the fact that they have no collaterals to purchase land and label it as theirs.

Legislation in support of adult females ‘s fiscal liberty is non really strong in Cameroon, frequently because of the at odds legal systems and imposts ( legal pluralism ) . The jurisprudence itself does non know apart against adult females, it remains impersonal but socio-cultural patterns continue to curtail adult females ‘s entree to land. Legally, any individual may separately or jointly get land rights, every bit long as a land rubric that designates such belongings rights is obtained. However, under most imposts adult females are considered homeless and hence unfit to ain land, which by its very nature is fixed. Womans need to get married from one household to another and sometimes from one state to another, as such owning land is considered non suit for their state of affairs as land is considered a fixed belongings while adult females move about like wonderers.

Furthermore, the Civil Code and the Commercial Code fall short of meeting or acknowledging adult females ‘s rights of ownership and entree to belongings other than land. The belongings rights of adult females are particularly limited since hubbies manage the community belongings and besides administer any personal belongings owned by their married womans with no duty to obtain consent when doing determinations. Wifes are besides sometimes at a disadvantage before the customary tribunals in that they must supply grounds of their part to connubial assets.

Cameroon ‘s Constitution upholds the rule of gender equality but ironically, adult females are frequently discriminated upon. However, the state has a complex legal system consisting a mix of Napoleonic Code and common jurisprudence, every bit good as customary and written jurisprudence ( legal pluralism ) . This construction is frequently an obstruction to gender equality. Local traditions besides remain really strong, and have negative effects on the state of affairs of Cameroonian adult females. To day of the month, the state has no legal definition of favoritism and some points of civil jurisprudence remain deleterious and impersonal against adult females. Gender equality is merely on paper as in existent pattern, adult females are frequently at the deprived terminal of the ladder.

Cameroon ‘s national tribunals affirm the rule of gender equality with regard to inheritance rights but adult females are non allowed to ain land harmonizing to how many imposts and traditions stipulate. Customary patterns such as levirate ( which forces adult females to get married a adult male from the household of a asleep hubby ) travel against adult females ‘s right to inherit. In the absence of a will, the extent to which adult females may inherit from their hubbies is usually governed by traditional jurisprudence and imposts that vary between cultural groups and sometimes strongly determined by the hubbies brothers. In many traditional societies, for illustration, usage gives superior authorization and benefits to male over female inheritors.

All the above factors which impede adult females ‘s rights to ain belongings are a call for concern. This is because adult females ‘s entree to factors of production such as land, credits and engineering has a direct nexus with poorness decrease in Africa. For development attempts to win there is demand to seek and accommodate both customary and statutory Torahs in favour of adult females. Legislation need non be gender impersonal, the constructions that subordinate adult females and label them as Mobile and can non have land which is fixed demands to be revived.


Land rights in Africa are critical, particularly for adult females who depend on land for their supports. In Cameroon, like most of Africa, over 80 per cent of the population depends on agribusiness as the footing of their income and endurance. The load of farming falls forthrightly on rural adult females. They therefore have a hazard in the inquiry of land usage and disposal. Yet female agriculture in Cameroon is rather unstable with the increasing commercialisation of land by work forces, sometimes without the cognition of adult females, and with the devastation of nutrient harvests by domestic animate beings. Feminist groups are progressively ambitious adult females ‘s deficiency of direct entree to the land. What they own is the nutrient harvests on the land, non the land itself, which is the belongings of work forces ( Goheen 1991 ) .

In about all Cameroonian societies, land is traditionally considered as a common heritage, that is, as a physical, cultural, corporate infinite inherited from the ascendants.

It is a community resource infinite transmitted from coevals to coevals that is managed by the community ‘s legitimate representatives. This direction ensures the societal reproduction of the group both in footings of individuality and endurance. As communal land, it has a cosmogonic relevancy. Land in traditional society is non, purely talking, ordinary belongings that can be appropriated or commercialized. Today, the debut of private belongings did non come without its ain jobs. This affected adult females particularly as most traditions consider adult females movable while land is fixed ; they are hence non allowed to ain land.

Today, adult females own hardly any land and are frequently overlooked in development undertakings. In the Cameroonian context, it is the adult female who exploits the land most for agriculture and other agricultural activities ( Goheen 1991 ) . The attempts of these adult females are to run into up with supports. Despite their parts towards supports, they are non allowed to ain land. It is with the above image that this paper tends to reason that adult females if granted ownership rights instead than user rights to land, they are able to better pull off the land for sustainability and it will travel a long manner to better upon supports in societies since adult females are frequently responsible for supplying for their households.

Object, range and methodological analysis

This paper tries to reexamine recent developments refering adult females ‘s rights to set down following their parts to supports in Cameroon. It besides tries to research the intersection of land with issues of poorness in Cameroon. The paper will therefore focal point on adult females ‘s rights to land and how their entree to land can better upon supports in Cameroon. It aims to advance a better apprehension of what works where, what does non and why in bettering adult females ‘s entree and ownership rights to land ; and of what practical restraints need to be addressed in order for jurisprudence reform to ensue in positive alteration. Considerable attempts have been made to better adult females ‘s legal position at the international degree particularly with respects to ownership rights to land and other natural resources. The existent image on the land differs ; this shows that there is a spread between the Torahs on paper and execution. Custom and tradition dramas an of import function in this spread that exists. There is therefore the demand to happen agencies and seek to accommodate the two systems of statute law and usage so that they can break work in favour of adult females and society at big.

Given the importance of customary regulations in determining adult females ‘s entitlements in many developing state contexts, the paper pays attending to the manner in which adult females ‘s place is affected by the interaction between statutory and customary jurisprudence and how alterations brought about by the debut of statutory jurisprudence affected adult females ‘s land rights. The paper will analyze the linkages between jurisprudence and existent pattern, in making so it will seek to follow a historical position to see how the debut of private belongings affected the rights of adult females and as such comparison it to the pre-colonial times. In many developing states and particularly Cameroon, norms regulating adult females ‘s legal position have witnessed major developments towards a more positive dimension though normally sometimes adult females as alternatively left worse off than earlier. The major job lies in the in existent infinite that exists between theory and existent pattern.

The paper will concentrate on Cameroon as its instance survey. Subsequently, a instance survey will be provided to contract down the range of the paper, either by concentrating on a peculiar cultural group in Cameroon or a peculiar establishment that works on issues related to adult females ‘s land rights in Cameroon.

The methodological analysis of this survey is chiefly desk reappraisal of relevant literature. Due to clip, it is non possible to detect what is taking topographic point on the field, or to speak neither with some adult females who face jobs with respects to ownership of land. Information used in the survey resulted fundamentally from audience of the cyberspace, information delivered through personal communicating, and besides from publications on the same topic.


Land traditionally was considered a common heritage in pre-colonial Africa, as a physical, cultural, corporate infinite inherited from ascendants. It was a community resource infinite transmitted from one coevals to another and was managed by the community ‘s legitimate representatives. This ensured the societal reproduction of the group both in footings of individuality and endurance. As a communal land, it had a cosmogonic relevancy and as a resource infinite, land was non purely talking ordinary belongings that could be appropriated or commercialized. In both judicial and agrarian footings, land was identified with the line of descent or small town community to be used or managed without needfully been owned. In this sense, ownership was different from civil heritage and was dependent on the community and non cosmopolitan solidarity. Land used to be cipher ‘s belongings but a common belongings that was treated as shared wealth ( Barrier 1997, Le Roy 1991 ) . Today, the economic motivation behind land ownership has brought approximately many jobs and it has affected the vulnerable groups within society. Today, household inheritors prefer to sell land than give it to state a widow who farms it for the benefit of all in society.

Women ‘s land ownership is capable to their hubby ‘s blessing. Womans have small or no belongings rights in customary jurisprudence. Legal position of adult females under household jurisprudence

confer minority position ( heritage, sequence, hubby ‘s permission required for concern enrollment, bank history.

Land Rights and Women in Cameroon

Cameroonian adult females like in other parts of Africa are frequently regarded as the keepers of the environment due to their kid bearing function. They tend to bring forth and fix nutrient for the family every bit good as exchange cognition about natural resource direction. Despite this alone function, many adult females are prevented from having land and alternatively must derive entree through male relations.

Widows traditionally do non inherit land from their hubbies, but are allowed to stay on the land until decease or remarriage as such holding merely user rights and non ownership rights. Over the past decennary, this societal safety cyberspace has windswept as male inheritors tend to sell the land, go forthing widows landless. Thus the economic motivation has created tonss of jobs with respects to adult females ‘s ownership rights. Since adult females most frequently do non hold collaterals, they are restricted in that they can non purchase land.

However, research has found that beef uping adult females ‘s rights to belongings and other assets has a positive consequence on agricultural productiveness, family public assistance, and adult females ‘s decision-making power ( authorization ) .

Land Rights and Poverty

It has been widely proved by many surveies that bettering on adult females ‘s rights to productive resources will travel a long manner to cut down poorness within societies and besides empower adult females in their ain being. Despite all these surveies, most of the statute laws adopted by authoritiess frequently remain on paper than pattern. Most vulnerable and marginalized rural groups in Cameroon frequently lack entree to land and they are largely adult females. Guaranting their rights to even little secret plans of land can supply a basic degree of nutrient security and service as collateral for recognition.

For those hapless with land, weak and insecure rights undermine inducements to put in the land and utilize it in a sustainable mode. The hapless in Africa rely to a great extent on common resources, such as woods and grazing lands, which may merely be secured by beef uping community belongings rights, non single. Womans do non have lands but are allowed to harvest any piece of their hubby ‘s land every bit long as they stay married. Once they get divorced or their hubbies die, they are left landless and it affects individual headed families.

Harmonizing to Panda ( 2002 ) , plus control can further give adult females greater dickering power within families and can besides assist protect against the hazard of domestic force where most adult females in Africa are ever victims. Research in Kerala, India, found that 49 per centum of adult females with no belongings reported physical force compared to merely 7 per centum of adult females who did ain belongings

Womans who own belongings or otherwise command other assets are in a better place to better their lives and header in times of crisis such as struggles of domestic force. This position has been supported by Agarwal ( 2002 ) , where harmonizing to her, having their place and land, adult females straight gain from such benefits as usage of the land and higher incomes every bit good as holding a unafraid topographic point to populate. This is the public assistance, efficiency, and authorization attack where by adult females having land will get down by supplying nutrient for the household from its returns, adult females can hold dickering power within the family and in the long tally empower adult females. The fact that they can have land will do them hold a say in the family determinations and as such will be able to take portion in determinations within the society at big.

Again Chadha ( 1992 ) , come in with his consequences from his research where he farther found out that persons who own land generate much higher rural non-farm net incomes from self employment than people without land. Women besides can utilize a house or land as collateral for recognition during a fiscal crisis or to put in a little concern or other income-generating venture. Using land as collateral for recognition goes a long manner to authorise adult female as research has frequently proven that when adult females generate income the family is better off than that where adult females are entirely dependent on their hubbies.


The predomination of patriarchate in jurisprudence, policy, and pattern ensures that the land has proprietors but that they are non adult females. For jurisprudence and policy to act upon gender dealingss in the term of office kingdom, there is demand to deconstruct, reconstruct, and reconceptualize customary jurisprudence impressions around the issues of entree, control, and ownership. The position should be to step in at points that make the most difference for adult females. There is demand for advanced and even extremist attacks. In finding term of office to set down, rights should be earned or deduced from an entity ‘s relationship to the land. Rights should be anchored on usage and subjected to greater public good occupant in the trust territory over land for descendants. Given adult females ‘s functions in land direction and farming, such an attack will place them as venue for rights ‘ grants and therefore turn to the skewed gender and land dealingss under customary jurisprudence that have been farther deep-seated by statutory Torahs.

A focal point entirely on the spread that exists between theory and pattern in the jurisprudence is non plenty harmonizing to my position. What is of import is for societies to see how they can make in bridging the spread between the traditional construct of land term of office and the imported construct of private belongings. This is responsible for the spread that frequently exists between the customary and legal jurisprudence. The construct of private belongings has gone a long manner to disempowered certain vulnerable groups like adult females where most imposts forbid them from having land.

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