Controlling Land They Call Their Own: Access and Women's Empowerment in Northern Tanzania

Citation:

Goldman, Mara J., Alicia Davis, and Jani Little. 2016. “Controlling Land They Call Their Own: Access and Women's Empowerment in Northern Tanzania.” The Journal of Peasant Studies 43 (4): 777-97.

Authors: Mara J. Goldman, Alicia Davis, Jani Little

Abstract:

Formal rights to land are often promoted as an essential part of empowering women, particularly in the Global South. We look at two grassroots non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on land rights and empowerment with Maasai communities in Northern Tanzania. Women involved with both NGOS attest to the power of land ownership for personal empowerment and transformations in gender relations. Yet very few have obtained land ownership titles. Drawing from Ribot and Peluso's theory of access, we argue that more than ownership rights to land, access – to land, knowledge, social relations and political processes – is leading to empowerment for these women, as well as helping to keep land within communities. We illustrate how the following are key to both empowerment processes and protecting community and women's land: (1) access to knowledge about legal rights, such as the right to own land; (2) access to customary forms of authority; and (3) access to a joint social identity – as women, as ‘indigenous people’ and as ‘Maasai'. Through this shared identity and access to knowledge and authority, women are strengthening their access to social relations (amongst themselves, with powerful political players and NGOs), and gaining strength through collective action to protect land rights.

Keywords: Property Rights, maasai, land, gender, women, tanzania, empowerment, access

Topics: Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, NGOs, Rights, Land Rights, Property Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Tanzania

Year: 2016

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