An ethical assessment of the impact of inequitable land ownership patterns on women’s economic and social rights: a case study of Mumbwa district
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The study ethically assessed the impact of inequitable land ownership patterns on women’s economic and social rights in Mumbwa district. Despite more women than men being dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, the majority of women in Zambia do not own land due to inequitable land ownership patterns. The problem is that while it is generally known that inequitable land ownership limits women’s access to livelihoods, it is not clear how much this affects their access to economic and social rights. Thus, the specific objectives of the study were: to investigate the current state of land ownership between men and women in Zambia; to establish factors that contribute to the existing land ownership patterns; and to ethically assess the impact of existing land ownership patterns on women’s economic and social rights in Mumbwa district. A case study research design was employed using a qualitative methodology with an ethical component. With a sample size of 78, primary data was collected through in-depth interviews with 37 community members, 4 head persons, 1 government representative and 1 representative from a local Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called Women for Change. Four focus group discussions with 35 community members in addition to observations were also used to collect primary data. Secondary data was collected by reviewing books, journals, articles and internet-based materials. Community members and traditional leaders were selected using simple random sampling while representatives from government and NGO were purposively selected based on possession of knowledge about land ownership in the area. Content analysis was used to analyse data followed by an ethical evaluation of the study findings. The study found that there is inequality in land ownership between men and women. Land is mostly owned by the men who also exercise greater control over its use. The existing unequal land ownership patterns were attributed to five main factors which are power imbalances, culture, land allocation practices, suppression of women and allocation of labour. Unequal land ownership impacts negatively on women and on their ability to earn enough to meet their family basic needs. Consequently, it negatively affects their ability to have adequate food and facilitate their children’s access to education. An ethical evaluation of the findings was guided by rights theory and the ethics of care. As regards rights theory, there was discrimination of women on the basis of gender and marital status. It was observed that such a violation on women’s rights should not be tolerated as Zambia is a State Party to many international commitments that affirm equal rights to land. Using ethics of care, it was observed that land ownership for women is critical to promoting their well-being as care-givers. Compromising women’s land rights not only affects them but also affects children and the aged who are mostly under their care. Among others, recommendations were made that government should conduct ethical awareness raising on equal land ownership rights, should introduce legislation to promote joint land ownership and should effectively enforce statutory law to guarantee equal enjoyment of land ownership rights between men and women under customary land.
University of Zambia