Posted on September, 08 2020

“For women in rural areas, it’s one thing to own land and it’s another to have control over the land. The structures in place especially customary systems are an obstacle. The Certificate of Customary Right of Occupancy (CCRO) has empower women and secured their rights.’’
Increasing women access to and control of rural land in Ruvuma Landscape (RLS) is one of the most significant steps that could be taken toward enhancing rural livelihoods and natural resources management. It is also among the most challenging process. However, fifteen years ago, a young girl at small-highway village of Sauti Moja in Tunduru District, had a dream to own land.
“I grew up in a family of six children and we lived as an extended family. From an early age I learth through observation on how land owned and managed. I saw women working on and taking care of the land, when I was old enough, I joined them. I can’t recall if I knew a woman who owned land back then. I was certain land was owned by men and ownership is passed on to the male in the families. My father would buy, sell, and give away land in the manner that pleased him. I never heard him consult my mother and this was typical practice in my community. ’’ recalls Khadija Omary, Village Natural Resources Committee (VNRC) Member recalls.
“I never imagined if one day I will inherit land from my family and I did not want to. Whenever I thought of inherited land for me as a woman, I envisioned petty and endless fights. Therefore, I promised myself  to acquire my  own land apart from the family land because I knew my life and livelihood depends on land’’ she added.
Having come to term with the fact she may never inherit the land from her family, Khadija began saving to buy land. Little did she know that owning personal land also comes with a hefty price influenced by her community’s socio-cultural aspects.
“When I became pregnant with my first daughter, I knew my time has come. I bought a small piece of land and constructed a single room and began life as a single mother. After 2 year I added another child, a son and last another daughter. By then I was familiar with my neighbors and they knew of my marital status. After a while, I began to experience invasion on my land. I would wake up to a neighbor staring a garden on my land, the other day another neighbor would cut my cashew nut tree.  It became a constant state of argument over my land boundaries and I felt harassed. After thinking my challenges through, I realized I was the only neighbor without a traditional family setup. I had no man in my house and was not married! Just when I thought I had gotten away reality strike, women owning land are as vulnerable as those with no land.” said Khadija as she cuddles her youngest daughter.
In quest to find a permanent solution the mother of three involved village leaders who intervened in vain. The misunderstandings over land continued. At the time Khadija was dealing with her neighbors, WWF Leading the Change Programme was introducing a customary land tenure initiative in her Village. The initiative was implemented by MJUMITA in collaboration with the Tunduru District Council as an incentive to the Village ongoing forest programme.
“The day I received my certificate from the Tunduru District Commissioner (DC) ,I was the happiest woman in the Village! I went home with a feeling of a new beginning. To date, I have never argued with my neighbors over land boundaries. When you lack legal right over land, you are extremely susceptible to losing control over it. Obtaining the CCRO means legal rights are secured. I am positive that in the near future, many women will own land because of the CCRO and I will buy more land too, Inshallah!.” states Khadida as she looks at her plot.
Speaking on the impact of LtC programme, Khadija said
“The initiative has built our capacity as a community, we have learned a lot about land right, gender and good governance. For women in particular, it was a mind unfolding exercise. Institutional capacity was also strengthened through establishment of the office responsible for Land issues. For the first time we have a place to voice out our land issues and get CCROs at Village level. LtC Programme has, and will continue changing many lives. My daughters will have access to land, I will give them because I have rights over my land.”
Khadija holding her land ownership certificate
© Diana Shuma