Even though 86 per cent of women in Zimbabwe’s ‘communal lands’ and rural areas depend on agriculture for their livelihood, customary laws do not permit them to own land. Instead, they may farm only at the pleasure of their husbands or, in the case of single or divorced women, male relatives. Indeed, according to women’s rights groups, President Robert Mugabe believes that if women want land, they should get married.
The resettlement exercise in Zimbabwe – which seized productive farmland formerly owned by a few thousand whites – has further marginalized women, with only an estimated 12 per cent having benefited. As a consequence, Women and Land in Zimbabwe (WLZ) – a network committed to land rights for women – is actively lobbying for laws that give women equal rights and against laws allowing for discrimination.