Development Discourse: Entrenching the economic and political rights of women

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By Amos SAFO

Many advocates, gender activists, development agencies and civil society organisations have been making a strong case for the inclusion of women in high level politics and empowering them economically. A clear case is ongoing advocacy for political parties in Ghana to nominate women as the running mates of the former President John Dramani Mahama and Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia.

Last week John Mahama retained Prof Naana Opoku Agyeman as part of the affirmative action to give voice to women in politics. The electorate is now waiting for Dr. Bawumia to announce his running mate. So far, the discussions in the media space suggest that the Vice President may opt for a male candidate. But in politics anything can change. In the 2020 elections, John Mahama settled for Prof. Naana Opoku-Agyeman, the first female to become Vice Chancellor of a university in Ghana. Whether the female professor’s inclusion provided any gains for John Mahama’s bid to become president again remains debatable. However, there is enough evidence to demonstrate that when women are empowered political and economically, they become a voice for the vulnerable. Therefore, investing in agriculture and supporting women to thrive in agriculture value chain. This is an agenda for the African Union members to implement.

Land tenure system

Women’s land tenure security is essential for both their empowerment at a micro-level as agricultural producers in a household and at a macro-level for unlocking transformative social and economic benefits.

When the African Union adopted the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol) in 2003, the goal was to entrench the human, social, economic and political rights of women on the continent so that they can realize their full potential. Through the protocol, women are rightfully anchored as critical contributors to socio-economic transformation and the well-being of their communities. The AU Member States are obligated to develop policies, strategies and institutional mechanisms that create equitable opportunities for women, including within the land sector.

In 2009, the Heads of States and Government of the African Union adopted Assembly Declaration (Assembly/AU/Decl.1(XIII) Rev.1) on Land Issues and Challenges in Africa at the 13th Ordinary Session in Sirte, Libya, and established the Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA) as a major policy dialogue and information sharing event on the implementation of the AU Agenda on Land in Africa and identify solutions to these challenges.

In 2015, the AU Specialized Technical Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment (STC-ARDWE) adopted a recommendation aimed at facilitating women’s economic empowerment. Member States were called upon to develop policies, laws and other mechanisms that would move toward allocation of 30% of documented land to women.

The 4th technical committee (STC-ARDWE) further adopted the AU Land Governance Strategy as a Continental Strategy to guide AU Commission, Africa Land Policy Center, Regional Economic Communities, Member States and non-state actors to achieve the aspirations stated in the declaration on Land issues and Challenges in Africa.


The implementation of the AU Land Governance Strategy responds to the urgent need to address women’s limited access to reliable and predictable financial facilities and market structures which are vital for effective production in agriculture and secure food systems, women’s important role in intra-regional trade activities, either through formal trade or through informal and small-scale activities.  The Africa Union Women’s Decade (2010 to 2020) highlighted key achievements in agriculture, including expanding women’s access to markets; water; land, through the system of land certificates; subsidies and agricultural inputs.

AU unveiled a statue symbolizing commitment to the campaign to “Retire the Hoe to the Museum” in the Burkina-Faso town of Bobo-Dioulasso that symbolically marked the continental agenda of promoting agriculture mechanization among women to improve food production, trade in agriculture commodities and services and build momentum for the important promise of Agenda 2063.

Already, there are positive trends registered in Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda in narrowing the gender gap on women owning land and their participation in agricultural production. For example, in Tanzania 32% of women are landowners compared to 42% of men.  However, in Nigeria only 4% of women, compared to 23% of men own agricultural land. In Niger, 63% of men and 35% of women own agricultural land.  In countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’ Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, and Togo, less than one-fifth of women held land in 2021.

While there is progress in some countries with the explicit recognition of women’s equal rights, promotion of joint ownership and registration of land, enacting progressive laws of inheritance, protection of property rights for widows, much remains to be done. There is persistence of weak institutional capacities and knowledge gaps required for gender- responsive interventions to strengthen women’s land rights and tenure security.

Significance of research

An immediate area of focus in strengthening women’s land rights and tenure security is research. Research affirms that secure land tenure for women increases agricultural investment and ability to enter into agricultural contracts. Research has shown that women’s land tenure security is essential for both their empowerment at a micro-level as agricultural producers in a household and at a macro-level for unlocking transformative social and economic benefits.

Some studies focused on women’s access to land, law reform policies and strategies to guarantee access to land and enhancing the capacity of Member States to create an enabling policy, legal environment, gender-responsive land governance system accompanied by shifts in social and patriarchal attitudes and practices that limit women’s land rights.

Innovative digital technology

The 5th STC-ARDWE endorsed the African Union Digital Agriculture Strategy and its Implementation Plan 2024-2027 for adoption and called upon the RECS and Member States to establish regional digital initiatives, among which are the removal of barriers that hinder women’s and youths’ access to digital financial literacy. This initiative is believed to have the capacity to serve women’s land rights and their participation in agriculture better.

For instance, in Rwanda the initiative “Buy from Women’ has uplifted women as they engage in digital agriculture. The initiative is increasing access to markets by creating digitally enabled platforms that connect women to agribusiness information, financial instruments and markets for their products.

There are opportunities for investing in agricultural extension services to systematically deploy skills and knowledge amongst smallholder farmers, most of whom are women, utilizing technologies for preservation of agricultural products as well as integrating artificial intelligence to improve overall agro-processing and value addition in women’s farming activities, coupled with building strong partnerships in domestic and export markets as well as cross-border trade.

One of the main objectives of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is to “promote and attain sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development, gender equality and structural transformation of the State Parties.”


Edeme, J. 2024. “Intra-African trade provides an opportunity for inclusive economic growth.”

UN Africa Renewal

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