Forward to female land ownership in Liberia

News - 2020-11-05
In Liberia, like in most parts of the world, land is an important determinant of one’s heritage and dignity, without which self-determination and peaceful coexistence are threatened. Land serves as a livelihood asset and it forms an integral part of indigenous religions. It is a source of social, political, and economic powers and identities at personal, household and community level.
Liberia land conference

Before the 2018 Land Rights Act, the law did not recognize women’s rights to land, although women constitute 80 per cent of the agricultural labor. Previous land law allowed communities to collectively own land, but since decision making in communities traditionally only involve men, women were left out and remained landless. For example, unmarried women had no way to access land or own their own house.

The new law has therefore been described as nothing less of a revolution for women. However, the dissemination of the law is weak and most women in rural communities are unaware of the existing law and they are still being marginalized in land related matters. Flemming Nielsen, ForumCiv Manager Liberia, points out how a win for women is a win for all.

The fear that men may lose control and dominance of land if women have access to land is clearly eliminated when one sees the great opportunities for sustainable development that can be achieved if men and women work together in land administration and land governance. 

In short, supporting civil society to organize is how ForumCiv contributes to development and in Liberia that means supporting women’s power over land. Recently a conference was held that brought together nearly 200 participants. Among the participants policy makers, media practitioners and civil society institutions were included, but most importantly, the conference was attended by rural women from ten out of fifteen counties.

The conference provided a platform for the voices of rural women to be heard and knowledge on the Land Rights Act of 2018 to increase. It also enabled the women to network and share experiences so to influence and contribute to the national agenda of Women Rights.

By the end of the third day, Secretary General of the National Rural Women Mrs. Deddeh Kanmoh said upon finalizing a declaration:

 Today, we speak to our fathers, we speak to our brothers, and we speak to our husbands, who still think that we are not candidates to inherit family land, or community land; we speak to our chiefs and elders who think that we only have rights to access and use land, but not to claim ownership.

She then went on to call on Government and President of Liberia, to make budgetary allocations for the Liberia Land Authority to effectively and without delay implement the Land Rights Law.

Kebeh Monger; National Rural Women President said that knowledge gained during the conference on the right to land ownership and how to claim and protect that right is crucial. She went on to say:

It never occurred to most of us, if not all of us that we would have had this opportunity to know that we too have rights like men have, and that we make up the Land Rights puzzle in our families, our communities, and country Liberia

The work of the rural women has only just begun. Next step will be to strategize around how best to roll out advocacy to make the resolution that was drawn out of the conference a reality. ForumCiv is proud to be associated with the strives towards gender justice that the women are leading and will continue to walk along their side.

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