Women’s rights activists in Botswana are applauding the government’s decision to allow wives to own land alongside her husband. Women’s groups say the action allows women to be independent in marriages and also have the same rights to land as any other person

On Thursday, President Mokgweetsi Masisi amended a 2015 Land Policy which stopped wives from owning land if their husbands already owned property.

“The Botswana Land Policy 2015 was discriminatory against married women and did not give them equal treatment with men, and I am happy to report that this discriminatory sub-section has since been repealed,” the president said at a virtual briefing.

“This amendment will allow women to be independent in marriages, and also have rights to land as any other person. We applaud this move,” women rights activist Tunah Moalosi was quoted by Reuters.

Under the old policy, only unmarried women or the wives of men who did not already own land were eligible for land rights. The discrimination left millions of married women, widows and single mothers without access to the land where they live and work.

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Women face a host of barriers to owning land – be it through skewed inheritance rights or restricted authority over assets – in 40% of countries, World Bank research shows.

According to Landesa, a global land rights organization, although the majority of Africa and Asian farmers are women, only 15 percent of global land is own by women.

A number of reforms have been instituted in several African countries to make women own land, however, the process has been slow. In 2003, the Ethiopian government introduced the land title certification to recognize the land rights of both men and women.

The Rwandan genocide in 1994 also resulted in many households being headed by women but the patriarchal inheritance system and discrimination against women meant that women had limited access to land despite assuming more responsibility. Reforms were introduced to recognize equal land access for both men and women.

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