As observed in many countries, women’s access to land in Burundi is hampered by customary practices. ZOA, VNG and MiPAREC are scaling up a gender-sensitive approach to strengthening women’s rights to land. Experiences from the past prove that sensitization and awareness raising are for a meaningful and successful outcome for women. But there are also many challenges and pitfalls when it comes to working on a topic as women’s land rights. LAND-at-scale interviewed Servillien Minani (M&E Officer) and Filbert Leone (Program Manager) at ZOA Burundi, to learn more about their gender-sensitive approach.
- How do women’s land rights play a role in the Amahoro @ Scale project, and what is ZOA’s approach to securing women’s land rights?
“Women’s land rights play an important role in the Amahoro @ Scale project. It aims to build trust between married couples, encourages joint investments in land between couples and aims to increase women’s awareness of their land rights. Practically, women’s land rights play a role in many of the on-the-ground activities, namely:
- Raising awareness of women's land rights at all levels (administrative, population and judges)
- Protection of married women's land interests (Registration of property in the name of the couple (husband and wife) for legally married couples)
- Registration of the IGISEKE "usufruct" right of the married woman on the parents’ property.
- Advocate for making the jurisprudence kept at the Supreme Court level accessible (decentralize the document),
- Organize community debates on women's land rights,
- Training of judges and lawyers on women's land rights to harmonize judgments.
- Training of members of community structures in charge of mediating land conflicts on women's land rights."
- Women’s land rights is not a new topic for you to be working on. What are the lessons learned from your previous experiences and how are they integrated in the current Amahoro @ Scale project?
“ZOA has been working on women’s land rights globally for many years, Burundi included. Some of the lessons we’ve learned from past experiences are that raising awareness is important. Following such activities, we see that women are awakened and claim their land rights according to law and custom. We see that in such instances, women are consulted during the decision-making process on the management of properties at the household level, for example in the case of a sale of a mortgage of a property. In those cases, the woman must give her agreement.
We will integrate those lessons in the Amahoro @ Scale project. For example, we will encourage women to participate massively in awareness raising sessions on women’s land rights. We will target sensitization approaches that promote women’s participation, and advocate to make case law accessible. Moreover, we will bring administrative staff, judges, lawyers, land agents of the SFC (local land registration service) to understand women’s land rights and sensitize men on women’s land rights through training workshops.”
- What are the challenges and pitfalls to look out for when addressing women’s land rights in an intervention such as Amahoro @ Scale?
“One of the challenges of working on women’s land rights in Burundi relates to inheritance practices. Firstly, Burundi does not have an equitable inheritance law, and the vast majority of the population cannot read or write, which makes it difficult to consult land documents. For us, this is a challenging topic to work on. The implementation of the law on inheritance is a thorny issue that calls for politics itself. The Burundian government does not want us to touch this issue. Therefore, advocacy requires caution to avoid being called a destroyer of Burundian society.
Finally, it is a challenge to sustain and scale up of approaches that require intensive work with individuals and the community. We aim to ensure this by training community structures and administrative staff through our project, train judges and lawyers, set up community structures through which sensitization activities can be done; and finally, we will continue with our advocacy efforts on women’s land rights at the community level, and with national actors involved in land issues.”
The Amahoro @ Scale project is part of the LAND-at-scale program. LAND-at-scale is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and managed by the Netherlands Enterprise and Development Agency (RVO). Read more about LAND-at-scale here or sign up for our quarterly newsletter.