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Botswana: women gets equal access to land ownership as their male counterparts

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Following an amendment to a Botswana land act, women can now be equal landowners alongside their husbands.

In a long-awaited decision made by the government, a wife in Botswana can now own land alongside her husband. President Mokgweetsi Masisi said on Thursday- a move welcomed by women rights groups.

The 2015 Land Policy stopped wives from owning land if their husbands already had some, however the advent of the new bill empowers the woman, widow and orphan included.

“This amendment will allow women to be independent in marriages, and also have rights to land as any other person. We applaud this move,” said women rights activist Tunah Moalosi.

A World bank research shows that women have faced a lot of barriers to owning land – be it through inheritance rights or restricted authority over assets – in 40% of countries.

Besides having most African and Asian farmers being women, only about 15% of global farmland is owned by women, according to Landesa, a global land rights organisation, with experts predicting increased inequality due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The now revised Land Policy in Botswana gives everyone an equal opportunity to a residential plot in a place of their choice, on both state and tribal land.

Previously, only unmarried women or the wives of men who did not already own land were eligible for land rights. The discrimination left millions of married women, widows and single mothers without access to the land where they live and work.

“The Botswana Land Policy 2015 was discriminatory against married women and did not give them equal treatment with men, and I am happy to report that this discriminatory sub-section has since been repealed,” Masisi said at a virtual briefing.

The government allots deeds for land on which people have a legitimate claim but no legal rights, seeking to regularizes a chaotic ownership system.

According to a government audit announced in parliament last month, 53% of the 620,660 people on the government land allocation waiting list are women. The average waiting period for land is between 10 and 30 years, it said.

President Masisi said the new policy would also protect widows and orphans heading households.

Liberty Pazvakawambwa SADC News

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