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Land ownership: Women are eligible but reluctant

WOMEN are beginning to change their attitude towards land ownership.

They have realised that land is a key element in their life for residential, economic and investment purposes. The Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Election Manifesto and Zanzibar Development Vision 2020 clearly states the importance of land for economic investments while mentioning various groups eligible to benefit from these opportunities.

Though the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar has imposed about 10 land Acts and their implementations. However, land ownership for women on the Isles is discouragingly minimal as the majority of them don’t benefit from it. They don’t use it much in their economic activities such as agriculture and other forms of investment.

It is difficult to understand because land Acts have been very well explained. Women in Zanzibar don’t own even a piece of land for settlement, a situation that forces them to depend solely on their families.

To address it, leaders from a network dealing with land from four districts of Unguja held a meeting recently to discuss various means of sorting out challenges that bar Zanzibar women from getting title deed or any form of official possession.

The network’s Secretary from Unguja Central District Bahati Issa Suleiman noted many women have been motivated as they know clearly the importance title deeds as crucial element in their economic activities including agriculture, but bureaucracy in the government institutions that deal with land, has been their big hurdle.

Ms Suleiman proposed that the Zanzibar Land Commission should open its offices in the rural areas to enable more people including farmers to have easy access to services.

‘’Residents of Unguja Central district are requesting the government to bring commission’s services close to them so that they can process title deeds and processes in that allow them to own land legally,” she said.

In retrospect, the chairman of land network from Unguja North district, Jalali Juma Haji also noted bureaucracy as the biggest hurdle for women seeking land ownership on the Isles at the moment and wanted the institution engaged to change its modus operandi so as to avoid land cases.

He believes lack of knowledge on land laws and acts among the village or community heads(Sheha) has been among the challenges leading to the problem.

‘’The majority of women in Unguja north have been motivated to legally seek land ownership, but bureaucracy in the whole process of getting title deeds frustrates their ambition,” he said. Giving an example, a member of land network from Unguja North district, Kaumudu Iddi wondered why the land cases and ownership services are not shifted to Ganga where there is a court dealing with land disputes.

‘’We want the service brought at our region because there is a court dealing with land disputes at Gamba,” he stressed. Hawra Shamte, the women defending manager from Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA), whose organisation empowers women financially under Foundation Society (FCS), has said admitted to have discovered presence of alarming bureaucracy in Zanzibar which she says hinders women seeking land ownership legally.

She explains that people living in rural areas are deeply affected since they have to toil when seeking their land rights in towns far away from their villages. Therefore, she suggested authorities should ensure the services are brought closer to the people, the majority of them living in rural areas.

‘’We have conducted a broad research and found that majority of people, especially in rural areas urgently need title deeds of their farms, houses or investments, but they don’t get them easily. We believe by bringing the services close to them will help to minimise the problem,” she said.

The lawyer from the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) in Zanzibar, Mohamed Khamis said the time has come for all land laws and acts should be translated to make them easily understood by people of cores. He said laws and Acts are there for people to understand and apply them, but unfortunately most of them don’t know how to effectively apply them.

‘’In Zanzibar there are ten land acts explaining well about land tenure, ownership and promotion, the big problem facing people is that they don’t understand them because they are not easily translated to them,” he said.

He called upon all institutions that deal with land law and acts in Zanzibar to help people seeking title deeds other process of making them own pieces of land legally to sort out all cases quickly and reduce bureaucratic processes. Land cases should be solved quickly and timely and so the process to acquire land legally in the Isles.

‘’Bureaucracy has been one of the major reasons that hinder provision of title deeds to Zanzibari’s including women,” he said. Bungi resident Dawa Hassan from Unguja Central district, Dawa Hassan said he has been processing renewal of title deed for over three years without success.

He said he has given up after the office responsible didn’t offer the service he needed nor provided answers as to why it was being delayed. The senior officer in the Zanzibar Land Commission, admitted presence of several challenges in cases pertaining to land tenure, and that include people’s ignorance on land acts.

However, he added that some of the challenges are being sorted out. “We still courage people to come and apply for title deeds and other processes that will enable them own land legally. The previous challenges are being sorted out and registration is going on steadily,” he assured.

In a support for presence of land acts ignorance among the people, the Chairman of Law Amendment Commission, Justice Bakari Mshibe said the commission is in process to make amendments in some of the land acts to make them suit the present situation.

He added the amendments are vital since will enable the majority Zanzibaris to understand them and make good use of them. ‘’We have started educating people about the proper use of land including how to own it legally,” he further said.

TAMWA has discovered it through its women empowerment project sponsored by FCS that from 2016, there are 200 women reached and motivated to own land legally, but only three have managed to get it. It is saddening to see how bureaucracy has been a big thorn to the women in Zanzibar and that has made most of them miss various investment opportunities,” he concluded.

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Author: DAILY NEWS Reporter in Zanzibar

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