Women’s Strategies for Customary Land Access in Swaziland and Malawi: A Comparative Study


Rose, Laurel L. 2002. “Women’s Strategies for Customary Land Access in Swaziland and Malawi: A Comparative Study.” Africa Today 49 (2): 123-49.

Author: Laurel L. Rose


In most African countries, the land-access and use rights of rural populations have been undergoing considerable changes in recent years, primarily due to informal developments in customary land law at the village level and formal legislative changes in land law at the national level. This paper compares the informal developments, as concerns women's land access, that are occurring in one village of the patrilineal Swazi of Swaziland with those occurring in one village of the matrilineal Chewa of Malawi. In particular, it focuses on two case studies in which a Swazi woman and a Chewa woman resorted to strategies of manipulation, challenge, or change in order to acquire land. It argues that Swazi and Chewa women are similarly confronting evolving systems of customary land access, although individual women in each society are creatively responding to the rules of land access, according to personal and contextual factors.

Keywords: customary

Topics: Gender, Women, Rights, Land Rights Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Malawi, Swaziland

Year: 2002

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