By Gift E. Jonah
Rivers State women are asking for a review of the land systems in communities to give women access to own land to aid them in adequately contributing to home-building and societal advancement.
The demand was part of the outcome of a one-day dialogue by community women organized by Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center, Port Harcourt on Thursday March 5, 2020.
The women drawn from communities in Onelga Local Government Area including Erema, Okwuzi, Egbema, examined the way women access land in the communities and suggested how to improve that.
The women explained that though women play key roles in sustaining the family they are prevented from optimal economic pursuit because they do not own lands as only men and sons are entitled to land inheritance.
According to the women, they can only lease land or be assigned a portion by the family for farming but they cannot cut the bush ,only clear; they do the planting and when it is harvest time, they use proceeds to feed the family.
“Men own land, women don’t inherit land. If you were given land by your father when he dies it will be taken away. Widows do not own land.
“Men share land; land is possessed by men and given to women to farm. Women don’t cut bush, women clear bush. Women don’t partake in owning land only clear and cultivate but women are not the real owner of such portion of land. Women are only known during planting season (cultivation),” the women lamented.
According to them, widows suffer more as land is hardly shared to them for family since land allocation is to only males in the communities.
“Widows do not partake in land sharing since their husband is no more alive and some of the communities especially in Egbema/Erema women don’t go to the bush and cut, it is their husbands that do that when they are alive. The men go to the bush and cut, brush it and set fire before the woman can go for planting”. Mrs. Ngozi Azuma, a woman leader in Erema Community explained.
It was also stressed that women are not regarded; that anything that belongs to man, woman has no access.
Mrs. Mgbenwa Peace, a woman coordinator from Okwuzi community also added that in Egbema/Onelga women are the one planting, like corn, vegetables, Cassava and when harvested the produce is used in taking care of the children, feeding, clothing and some sold to send the children to school. But the land women are farming on to get money they don’t take part in sharing.Also widows are neglected in some families, while other families remember them but will only give them a bad area that are rejected to farm on . Even those women that are married living with their husbands, some of them will share the land and sell it while their wives will go to pay for land somewhere else.
Welcoming the women, executive director of Kebetkache noted that women lack a voice in community governance. She said Kebetkache deemed it very important to convene women in some of the communities in Rivers State to address some issues on access to land in Okwuzi Community to enable women share their experiences on how they are being treated.
Emem thanked the women for coming out to share their experiences on access to land in their communities to enable government do what is necessary for women to gain access to land in their various communities, and improve practices around women and land in their communities.
“Women are not included in the community meetings, women are not taking part in land sharing, Decisions are taken only by men; women are not permitted to sit in the community meeting”.
She called for continued advocacy to effect a change in attitude towards women and land.
The Kebetkache boss noted that is a taboo for women to tell their husband to share properties (women don’t have that right); that women farm on those lands so it is important they have access for empowerment so they can take care of their children.
She explained that most times men think business while women think of family. “Even farm produce are sold to take care of the family. Women should begin to think big so that men will place more value on us”, she advised.
Emem Okon urged women to begin to see things differently, learn how to negotiate, move from subsistent farming to mechanized farming.“Let us be innovative in our farming methods.
“Let us re-examine how we engage with the land. Women see it as their role/responsibility, we don’t think of creating economic value on it. Let us begin to change your mind set – turn your farming into business to generate income”.