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News & Events Matrilineal Ownership, Patrilineal Access And Control: The Zambian Land Story.
Matrilineal Ownership, Patrilineal Access And Control: The Zambian Land Story.
Matrilineal Ownership, Patrilineal Access And Control: The Zambian Land Story.

Just like many African countries, a majority of Zambian tribes follow a matrilineal system, that is, an affinity system in which descent is derived through maternal instead of paternal lines which essentially means children are recognised by the names or family of their mothers. This does not only affect decent but also involves the inheritance of titles and property including land through the female line. One might ask why women have less access and control of land in Zambia when land and property is inherited through maternal lines.


Despite this many women do not have right to and control to land due to social and gender norms which sabotage women’s decision-making power, key word - POWER. 


Matriachy. A form of social organization in which women are the leaders, hold positions of power in roles of political leadership, social privilege, moral authority, and control of the property. In article dubbed ‘Museum Of Women: How Zambia Inherited Patriarchy From Colonialism’ (Sharma, 2019), Historian And Cultural Activist, Mulenga Kapwepwe said, pre-colonial Zambia was 80 percent matrilineal and matriarchal until British colonizers and Christian missionaries changed this.


Unfortunately, The patriarchal biased system continued after the colonial period, men who have authority over household resources, including land, left women out of decision  making spaces which in turn took away their power.


This is seen beyond the domestic set up, in customary systems chiefs, indunas and village headpersons, usually men, allocate land to men. In the civic space or urban areas where land is allocated by local authorities such as councils, women have continued to get the short end of the stick due to the requirements needed in order for one to qualify and maintain ownership of a piece of land.


Granted, a number of organisations and civic leaders, internationally and locally, have been working with the government to reform some policies and regulations that impede women from ownership of such a necessary commodity. In addition to that the Zambian government has continuously shown commitment to ensuring that every Zambian including women has access and ownership to land with the necessary legal documents to protect them ie title deeds.


This however,  does not take away from the fact that without proper education and empowerment,  the power that was once robbed from women will be the number one barrier to seeing a change in society's attitude towards women's land rights. It has proven to not be enough for a woman to just have a legal document that she doesn't understand.


This begs the question,  is enough being done to put the POWER back into women's hands?