Equal Inheritance Is Not Always Advantageous for Women: A Discussion on Gender, Customary Law, and Access to Land for Women in Rural Malawi


Tschirhart, Naomi, Lucky Kabanga, and Sue Nichols. 2018. “Equal Inheritance Is Not Always Advantageous for Women: A Discussion on Gender, Customary Law, and Access to Land for Women in Rural Malawi.” Working Paper 310, Gender, Development, and Globalization Program, Center for Gender in Global Context, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.

Authors: Naomi Tschirhart, Lucky Kabanga, Sue Nichols


Malawi has both matrilineal and patrilineal kinship systems. In Malawi's customary areas, women's access to land is closely related to kinship and residency. This paper examines the intersection of gender equality, the 2002 National Land Policy, and customary land inheritance practices as they relate to women's access to land in rural Malawi. Malawi's 2002 National Land Policy proposed equal inheritance of land for men and women. We conducted fieldwork with women and key informants to determine whether people wanted their children to be able to inherit equally. Respondents reported divided views on the desirability of equal inheritance, but all agreed that equal inheritance for women and men is not feasible in practice. Furthermore, based on inheritance norms in matrilineal communities, we suggest that equal inheritance is not always advantageous for women.

Topics: Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Land Tenure, Rights, Land Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Malawi

Year: 2018

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