Government and civil society leaders from Ghana, Kenya and
Uganda have resolved to work together to protect a woman's right to property in Africa. Efam Dovi reports for the Voice of America that an advocacy organization is holding a seminar on this topic in Ghana's capital, Accra.
The Center on Housing Rights and Evictions says women in Africa are systematically denied ownership and inheritance rights because of deep-set traditions. Speaking at the seminar, the group's coordinator, Birte Scholz, says civil society in Africa needs to work to change policies that deny women the right to adequate housing.
She says "the most important thing is to find out what strategies are being employed to combat some of the violations that are going on, from disinheritance to domestic violence - domestic violence is a denial of the right to adequate housing, you are living in insecurity - to lack of housing, or lack of ability to obtain proper housing due to HIV/AIDS increasing."
Scholz says in the majority of African societies women's access to land
is determined by their relationships to men - as wife, daughter, mother,
sister or daughter in-law. She called for the elimination of traditions
that violate women's rights to own property.
Flavia Kyomukama is representing the National Forum for People
Living with HIV Networks and Associations in Uganda. At the seminar she said women living with AIDS are most often the victims of forced evictions.
Scholz says: "what has come up in Africa is that when women are found to be
HIV positive, husbands evict them from their homes. When husbands die,
the wives and the children are thrown out by the paternal relatives, and
they grab all the property. So, we feel we need to find a strategy to
protect people living with HIV, their housing rights, their shelter
rights, their property rights."
Scholz says in some African countries policies do exist to protect women against having property taken away from them, but those policies are not fully enforced.
Mayor Prisca Auma, of Kisumu, Kenya's third largest city, says it is
important to give women economic independence:
"when your husband dies, and they [husband's family] allow you to stay
within the family, you will plow that land, you will harvest from the
land, but you cannot put it into your own name, that is customary. But,
I think those are the laws that we want changed. We want the government
to help us change [them.]"
The Center on Housing Rights and Evictions says one third of the world's
women are homeless or live in inadequate housing. Seminar participants
say a majority of them are found in Africa.