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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid