African Women's Movements and Struggles over Land


Robin Turner

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Publication Date

January 2020

Publication Title

The Palgrave Handbook of African Women's Studies

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Access to land and other property is crucial to the livelihoods of women across the African continent. Women need land for residence, to grow crops and raise livestock, and to operate businesses and to secure access to and control over property which can provide them with a degree of stability in otherwise precarious and uncertain times. This chapter reviews contemporary women’s struggles for land and property rights in Africa. Drawing from country-focused, regional, and continental analyses, it addresses collective efforts by women’s and land rights movements to increase women’s access to and control over property through policy advocacy, litigation, and education; discusses the barriers to gender-equitable land and property rights reforms; and suggests that women property claimants may be propelling a shift toward more gender equitable property norms and practices in many places. The chapter concludes that supportive public policies and social institutional changes are both necessary to ensure that women have access to and control over the property necessary to their livelihoods. It further highlights the need for more research on the property struggles of differently situated African women such as those without children, those living in informal settlements, and those who are queer or trans, as well as on the counter-mobilization against women’s property rights movements.