News / Africa

Sierra Leone's Women Face Land Rights Challenges

Women prepare rice to sell at an Agricultural Business Center in the community called Mile 91, Sierra Leone, Feb. 19, 2013. (N. deVries/VOA)Women prepare rice to sell at an Agricultural Business Center in the community called Mile 91, Sierra Leone, Feb. 19, 2013. (N. deVries/VOA)
x
Women prepare rice to sell at an Agricultural Business Center in the community called Mile 91, Sierra Leone, Feb. 19, 2013. (N. deVries/VOA)
Women prepare rice to sell at an Agricultural Business Center in the community called Mile 91, Sierra Leone, Feb. 19, 2013. (N. deVries/VOA)
In Sierra Leone, about 80 percent of the people working in the agricultural sector are women. They face huge challenges when it comes to land rights, however, which leads to more poverty for them and their children. Measures are being taken, though, to empower women in rural areas.

Abibatu Sankoh monitors a machine at the farming business where she works in the community called Mile 91, in a northern part of Sierra Leone. The machine is used to remove the husk and bran layers to produce a white kernel that is free of impurities.

She said the machine has saved her a lot time and labor, and she can sell rice faster. She said this has helped people in the area to find work and support themselves. She also said that she is better able to feed her six children and pay for their school fees.

Her community has benefited from a joint program between the Ministry of Agriculture and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to create agricultural business centers - known as ABCs - across the country. These centers teach farmers marketing and recordkeeping skills.   

David Mwesigwa, one of the implementation managers of the program, said women have been given authoritative roles at the business centers.  

"We had a target of 25 percent of the board members of ABC's that had to be occupied by women. And, we've seen many are treasurers because of their trust of handling money," said Mwesigwa. "Many are secretaries because of their knowledge in terms of writing and keeping records. Those positions are very key."

Although women here are gaining ground in agricultural-based businesses, they still face huge issues when it comes to land rights.

The independent Italian humanitarian organization Cooperazione Internazionale [COOPI] says the right to land is almost non-existent for women.  

Roisin Cavanaugh, a manager with the group, said the law and local practice often are different.  

"The government brought in a piece of legislation called the Devolution of Estate Act 2007, which was supposed to give women increased rights to land and protect them. But they only have rights to inherit the property of the husband, if the husband out rightly owns the property. If that property is family property then there's nothing the Devolution of Estate Act says about women's right to family property," said Cavanaugh.

Sierra Leone’s 1991 constitution states that all persons are equal under the law, “unless customary law says otherwise.” And, "otherwise" is the issue. In rural areas, paramount chiefs are in charge of communities and land, and they allocate it to men. There are no inheritance rights for women and they can be kicked off the land if their husband dies - leaving them with no job and no home.

Cavanaugh said women have a hard time making a case to change the system because of their lack of education. That is why she said her organization is working on teaching women to read on a country where half the women are illiterate.

"It's very difficult for women to advocate on behalf of themselves when they don't even know the documents they are putting their thumbprint to, when they could be signing their rights away to land. So, we are trying to get women to a functional level of literacy," said Cavanaugh.

COOPI also has worked to educate women on their rights and how to appeal to get land back that was taken from them.

Cavanaugh said 120 cases have come through COOPI and probably half have resulted in women getting their land back or compensation.

You May Like

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid