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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora