In November 2013, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted a groundbreaking resolution on women’s right to land and other productive resources. With this resolution, the African Commission urged States “to fully comply with their obligations and commitments to ensure, protect and promote women’s right to land and property” and encouraged them “to repeal discriminatory laws and adopt legislative measures to sanction customary practices that limit or have a negative impact on women’s access to, use of and control over land and other productive resources.” The Commission also called on States “to organise sustained public sensitisation, information and education campaigns for community and religious leaders in order to transform socio-cultural patterns of conduct that deprive women of their security of enjoyment of and equal access to property, land and adequate housing” as well as “to undertake land and agrarian reforms to ensure equal treatment for women in rural development, land distribution and social housing projects.”
The resolution further urged States to:
i) provide legal protection to women against forced evictions and dispossession of land for use by public and private actors;
ii) ensure widows’ right to inheritance, including the right to inherit the movable and immovable property of their husbands, as well as their right, irrespective of the matrimonial regime, to continue to live in the matrimonial house;
iii) ensure access to public justice services for underprivileged women by providing effective remedies for violations of their right to land and property, and free legal assistance in order to ensure compensation and the restitution of land;
iv) ensure that financial and microcredit institutions integrate the specific needs of women into their policies and practices, including access to credit and income-generating activities, especially for poor women and women heads of households;
v) integrate into national HIV/AIDS control strategies, as well as farming and land policies, women’s right to land and property;
vi) put in place special measures to protect the property rights of women with disabilities; and
vii) allocate specific resources to investment programmes that support and strengthen initiatives by rural women, in particular small-scale farmers.
Mayra Gomez, Co-Executive Director of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, noted that “The Global Initiative has worked with its partners in a concerted effort to achieve this goal and we are quite happy with this result. The challenge now, however, is for all of us to use this resolution in our advocacy for women’s substantive equality in Africa and elsewhere, as well as to continually highlight the important link between human rights and access to, control over and use of land generally.” She added that “The Global Initiative worked closely with Initiative for Gender Equality in Development – Africa, ActionAid – Burundi, FIDA – Kenya, and others to make this resolution a reality.”
With the adoption of this resolution, women’s right to land and other productive resources has clearly been established as a component of both the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). The Commission also made clear that “women’s access to, control over and use of land and productive resources contribute[s] to promoting gender equality and constitute[s] a solid basis for improving women’s social, political and economic status.”
The full resolution can be accessed HERE.