Credit: ©Wendy Tanner. Women farmers carrying wood.


AUGUST 2011. The collaborative efforts of women’s right groups in Tanzania provide an inspiring case study of the potential for civil society to significantly influence new legislation and improve gender equity.  In the 1990s, Tanzanian women’s NGOs capitalized on the opportunity presented by the revision of the country’s land laws to advocate successfully for the inclusion of gender-sensitive provisions in the newly-adopted legislation. 

 

With the support of scholars and advocates from the broader land movement, women’s rights groups began to challenge the inadequate consideration of gender issues during the policy consultations. These organizations did not always agree on the priorities and strategies to pursue. However, they formed loose coalitions and strategically leveraged the comparative strengths and advantages of their members to effectively engage in the land law reform process and raise awareness of women’s land rights.

Several women’s rights groups formed the Gender Land Task Force (GLTF), which effectively targeted policy makers and consequently ensured the inclusion of gender-sensitive provisions in the Land Act and Village Land Act. Both Acts accord women equal rights with men with respect to access, use, and administration of land.

The GLTF’s efforts also included mobilizing communities and raising awareness of the issues. Coalition members tailored messages and employed a variety of strategies, including organizing training workshops, land symposiums, drama performances, and media programs, to reach and influence different target audiences.

Significant work is still needed to ensure that women are able to exercise their hard-won land rights.  Despite the gender-responsive provisions of Tanzania’s framework land laws, many rural women have not benefited, as they are either unaware of their land rights or unable to pursue legal action due to the high costs involved.

While significant obstacles to gender equity remain, the instrumental role of women’s rights groups in the land reform process has gained them recognition as valuable actors. Women’s groups continue to advocate for women’s land rights by calling for broader legal reform to address the gender bias in inheritance systems and family laws. 

Tanzania

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