Date: 4th June 2012
First Ever National Conference on Women’s Rights to Land in Sierra Leone
COOPI, Oxfam, FAWE & SLYEO supported by UNDP are hosting the first ever national conference on women’s rights to property and land in Sierra Leone between the 6th- 8th June 2012 at the YWCA. The conference will bring together 100 community women from the North, South, East and West of Sierra Leone and 60 other participants representing policy makers, traditional leaders, civil society & NGOs. Two women’s land rights activists from Zambia and Kenya will be speaking at the conference, sharing their experience of positive work to empower women from other parts of Africa. The conference will provide a space for participants to develop new approaches to address the denial of women’s rights to property, and land, and will also provide a platform for community women leaders to share their knowledge on the reality of women’s experiences on these issues.
Whilst women constitute 60 – 80 per cent of the agriculture workforce in Sierra Leone, a large majority do not have full access or control of property or land. The Devolution of Estates Act 2007 only provides rights to private individual property, meaning many rural women living and working on family, chieftaincy or community property are not protected. Additionally, customary practices which prevail in almost all rural communities define women as the property of men, meaning they are unable to own property or land. The difficulty women face to gain economic independence leaves them vulnerable to abusive and sometimes violent situations. In the case of divorce or abandonment women can lose all access to either the land they have been farming, or the house where they and their children have been living.
Roisin Cavanagh, from COOPI, stated: ‘This conference is very important as land is an important economic resource in the country and whilst women are undertaking the majority of agriculture work, many of them have no rights to own the land. As we all know, women often use their income from farming to pay for their children’s school fees, medicine and clothes – if they lose access to the land they farm, they cannot pay for these essential life requirements. Whilst traditions are really important, it is time that we really think about whether traditional laws and practices should impede the development of villages, towns and the country as a whole. Also, with the fast rate of land acquisition for foreign direct investment, it is now, more important than ever, to consider the issues that are particular to women in relation to land.’
The national conference will be the start of the national campaign on women’s rights to land that will take place between June and October 2012.
Please note the conference is by invitation only.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.