Communal Land Tenure Security for Widows in the Eenhana Constituency of the Ohangwena Region, Namibia

Citation:

Nakanyete, Ndapwea F., Romie V. Nghitevelekwa, Mark M. Matsa, John Mendelsohn, Selma Lendelvo, and Fanuel Shikale. 2020. “Communal Land Tenure Security for Widows in the Eenhana Constituency of the Ohangwena Region, Namibia.” Journal of International Women's Studies 21 (1): 131–47.

Authors: Ndapewa Fenny Nakanyete, Romie Vonkie Nghitevelekwa, Mark M. Matsa, John Mendelsohn, Selma Lendelvo, Fanuel Shikale

Abstract:

Namibia is characterized by a history of discriminatory customary practices against women with regards to access to land, rights over land, and security of land tenure. Since independence in 1990, the country has adopted policies and legislative frameworks to bring about gender equality in all spheres of life, including the transformation of land tenure rights. These policies and acts give effect to the constitutional provisions that accord both men and women equal opportunities for access to land, rights over land and security of tenure. Widows are a particularly singled-out social group for legal protection, land security and rights to land enjoyed during their spouses’ lifetimes, and are granted protection, at least on paper, from discriminatory practices such as unlawful land evictions. This article evaluates and analyses the current status of land tenure security for widows in the Eenhana Constituency of the Ohangwena Region in Namibia. The study employed both quantitative and qualitative methods through questionnaires, interviews and focus group discussions with widows, as well as key informant interviews with Communal Land Board representatives, members of the traditional authorities, as well as the Ministry of Land Reform’s regional office officials. Through this case study, the findings establish that even though Namibia acclaims progressive policies and legislative frameworks on gender equality, there are still pockets of discrimination against widows where they continue to be at risk of losing their land rights in some of Namibia’s communal areas. Addressing the land tenure insecurities and a guarantee of legal land rights for widows is key to reducing vulnerabilities within female-headed households in the communal areas. Traditional authorities remain a key governance structure in communal areas, particularly in relation to access to land, and land rights inheritance issues, amongst others. Similarly, the Communal Land Boards are statutory institutions mandated to ensure implementation of the provisions of the Communal Land Reform Act of 2002, including the protection of land rights for widows. The study therefore recommends three main measures: the removal of all forms of discriminatory customary practices against widows; continued awareness-raising initiatives on the rights of widows; and full implementation of legal provisions for the protection of widows’ land rights and security of tenure.

Keywords: widows, communal land, security, land tenure, land rights, inheritance, rural area, Namibia

Topics: Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Post-Conflict Governance, Intersectionality, Land Tenure, Rights, Land Rights, Security Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Namibia

Year: 2020

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