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03/2017. Implication of Commoditization and privatization of land on women’s land rights

BY MARILYN KABALERE, Advocacy Officer

The discovery of natural resources such as gold, cobalt, oil and gas and the increasing desire for greater agriculture production and productivity have increased the demand for land as a key factor of production. Land is now viewed as a commodity and faces stiff competition from foreign and domestic investors who want it for  investment and communities who depend on it as a source of their livelihood.

The rise of land based investments in Uganda has also resulted into land scarcity through legal and illegal (land grabbing) means. Land is being leased to foreign investors for up to 99 years. Investors’ right of access to land have been recognized and protected at the cost of people’s land rights especially women, majority of whom do not have the capacity to defend their rights.

Current Land governance Vs Women’s land rights

The current state of land governance in Uganda and the move to privatize and commoditize land could have far reaching implications on women’s land rights. This is especially true given the fact that only 10% of registered land in Uganda is owned by women. In cases where registered land is owned by both women and men, women are often reported to be left out during compensations.

Violation of women’s right to land causes major livelihood implications for all involved especially children, the elderly and men as well. Women bear the brunt of fending for their families in terms of food and housing a role that is majorly made possible by their access to land.

What needs to be done?

In order to effectively support women’s access to land,

  • There is need to make the investment, land and related legal frameworks more coherent to issues of women rights and gender equality for women’s economic empowerment.
  • The Government of Uganda needs to utilize the UN guiding principles on Business and Human rights and the AU guidelines on Large scale land based investments and to include a requirement in the country’s legal frameworks to community consultations to be undertaken before the award of land for investment to an investor. 
  • There is need to enhance the capacity of community women to be able to defend their land rights and to effectively participate in and influence community-investor-government consultations
  • Government needs to take deliberate steps towards meeting human rights obligations i.e. to fulfill, protect and respect citizens’ human rights.

In addition government needs to adhere to some of the rural women’s demands in the chatter made during the Kilimanjaro initiative. The demands include:

  • Avoiding land based investments which forcefully displace rural communities, particularly women and children.
  • Women and communities must have a say on who and what kind of investment and the type of companies investing in their communities. The investor must be obliged to provide information about the impacts of their investment (sustainability-economic, environmental, health, social, and infrastructural).
  • Investments on land should be done in partnership with communities, governments, and investors-jobs; development projects (water, roads, schools, hospitals, etc).

Further still as we ask government to observe these demands that were made by rural women across Africa lets seek for knowledge on land rights at personal, family and community level to guard ourselves against hungry investors that have increased their demand for land. 

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