Land is not for sale to Women
Even though laws in Sierra Leone allows foreign investors to own and lease land, native Sierra Leonean women can not.Women's land ownership rights in Africa, in Sierra Leone outdated government policies and tribal customs often deny women's rights to own land.
Land in Sierra Leone is characterized by a dual tenure system that dates as far back as the colonial era the British Crown Colony is known as Freetown was established in 1808 and the later claim over the native populations land was named the Protectorate in 1896.
The British instituted the freehold and leasehold tenure system in and around the capital of Freetown. Freehold or fee simple tenure is the legal right to own a piece of property without any limitations on its use. The leasehold tenure system is when land may be leased or rented by its owner to another party.
Land is not for Women in West Africa’s Sierra Leone
Upon acquiring the native Sierra Leone Protectorate land, land laws were based on the customs and traditions of those territories. They were unwritten and land disputes were subject to informal mediation. In modern societies, Freehold or fee simple tenure is the most common form of land ownership but not in Sierra Leone and not for women.
There are unwritten laws and land disputes were subject to informal mediation in Sierra Leone. In the Western Area Rural and the Western Area Urban districts, the Sierra Leone population grew from 195,023 in 1960 to 1,500,234 in 2015. A surge in population meant an increase in the demand for land, which in turn put pressure that exposed the need for improved technology for land ownership for women.
Land matters for women in Sierra Leone who suffer economic and political disempowerment.
Land matters are by far the most common in the local courts, but many are not heard, women in some regions are not allowed to bring suit over land disputes to court in Sierra Leone. These matters range from the encroachment on public lands to land grabbing and suspicious land transactions by people and foreign companies.
In many Sierra Leone provinces, customary law largely applies, and this can lead to conflict. There have been numerous disputes between neighboring chiefdoms, based on disagreements as to where neighboring plots of land begin and end. The lack of exact land measurements means that local landowners often do not know the true size of the lands they own.
Throughout Sierra Leone women tend to work the land without any legal land titles.
Boundary markers such as trees and bodies of water are used but these provide a rough estimate and, due to environmental activity can become unreliable. Two-thirds of Sierra Leone population is involved in survival agriculture, from farm to plate and African food recipes tend to be simple dishes. Farmers, most of whom are women, operate in an informal and risky system without any legal titles to their lands.
In 2009, in the aftermath of the country’s second civil war, the government of Sierra Leone began the process to modernize its land tenure system, putting policies in place so that each parcel of land would be registered by technology for accurate land ownership.
On February 1, 2014, the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests were launched in Sierra Leone.
In the provinces where customary law still largely applies, and women have little or no right to ownership or inheritance, the challenge to change ways of thinking to a fairer more equitable system has been a colossal issue.
With a high percentage of women involved in farming, increasing land ownership for women has been an important focus during awareness raising on the Voluntary Guidelines in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone women land ownership quotes
“It was a taboo here for a woman to inherit or purchase land, or even rent a house in her own name, stand for a political position or speak in men’s meetings.” - Sayon Mansaray, social worker and former teacher in rural Koinadugu Sierra Leone
Karol Boudreaux, Chief Program Officer with the land rights group, Landesa, “For women, land truly is a gateway right – without it, efforts to improve the basic rights and well-being of all women will continue to be hampered.”
“Secure land rights are essential for women’s economic empowerment and creating incentives for investment, providing an asset that can be leveraged for agriculture or business development, and offering a solid foundation for financial stability,” said Anna Wellenstein, Director, Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, World Bank.
|Women land owners in Sierra Leone Africa|