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Sierra Leone News: Sierra Leone women demand customary land rights

Participants and facilitators

Participants were selected from three project pilot communities in Bombali, Bo and Kono Districts while the others were selected from key civil society organisations involved in women’s land rights in the Western Area of Freetown. This was supplemented with key inputs from development partners and government.
Access to land is crucial to boosting productivity, alleviating poverty, eradicating hunger and addressing gender inequalities. Inadequate access to land and insecure land tenure are factors behind rural poverty, gender inequalities, violence and human rights abuses. Worldwide, women are mostly disadvantaged with regards to land.
The overall objective of the training was to strengthen the capacity of women to better understand and advocate for their land and property rights in their local communities, increase their knowledge and awareness on global and national policies, principles and practices such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT), National Land Policy and existing legal frameworks for securing land and property rights.
The workshop also identified measures to support gender equality when working with customary institutions and described how to develop institutional capacity for gender-equitable land tenure governance and enhanced the skills of women to negotiate and advocate for gender equitable customary and statutory land laws.
At the end of the workshop, participants understand and will advocate for their land and property rights, have increased knowledge and awareness of the VGGT, the National Land
Policy and other existing legal frameworks for securing land and property rights, measures to support gender equity when working with customary institutions identified and documented and enhanced skills for negotiation and advocacy for gender equitable customary and statutory land laws among women.
The FAO Representative in Sierra Leone, Nyabenyi T. Tipo asserted that the training of trainers’ workshop is another milestone for the country as women account for over 50% of the population.
She also revealed that land is a vital and topical issue in the country and worldwide as it is central to all other aspects of life revealing that agriculture is the largest employer in the country with women contributing over 70% to agricultural production but lamented that they have limited or no rights to land.
According to Tipo, since Sierra Leone is largely dependent on agriculture, the training was designed to equip participants with the skills and tools required to sensitize their communities about perceptions, traditional and cultural beliefs that inhibit women’s access to land and property and how to over them.
The Representative of the Irish Aid in Sierra Leone, Mary O’Neill, disclosed that her organisation is anticipating the successful implementation of the Land Policy. She observed that the lands of vulnerable women can be seized but she assured their commitment to gender equality and women’s access to land.
O’Neill further reiterated the need for reforms in the land policy as well as the tools, resources, time and commitment to promote land rights and hoped that participants, as change agents, will use the knowledge and skills gained during the workshop to sensitize their respective communities thus translating words into action.
In his PowerPoint presentation, “Mainstreaming Gender and Land Rights in the Framework of Development”, Rexford Ahene, FAO Land Policy and Administration Specialist enlightened that the vision of the National Land Policy for Sierra Leone is to have an effective land tenure and governance system in the country, provide clearly defined ownership forms and rights, ensure land tenure security as well as effective and transparent land administration and management systems.
He continued that the policy is to ensure access to land for all citizens without any form of discrimination and stimulate responsible investment for Sierra Leone’s continued development revealing that important changes are happening in the land tenure governance landscape in the country as a result of the dialogue created by the VGGT and articulated that the implementation process is fostering and promoting these changes.
Other topics discussed during the technical sessions included Progress on the Implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in Sierra Leone by Samuel Mabikke, FAO Land Tenure/Natural Resources Officer, Rights and Gender in Sierra Leone by IsataMahoi, National Gender and Land Rights Trainer, Land Rights in the Constitution; Land Policy and Legal Framework; Customary Tenure Governance and Gender; Property Rights and Gender in Sierra Leone; Property Rights in Marriage and Family; Land Governance Institutions and Dispute Resolution Mechanisms and Agency Skills and Strategies for Advocating for Women’s Land Rights all by Isata Mahoi and Rexford Ahene respectively.
By Saidu Bah
Friday May 25, 2018.

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