The impact of urban expansion into peri-urban communal areas on rural women’s land Rights: A case study of Seke Communal Area, Zimbabwe
Nyagwande, Fadzayi Abigail
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The author of this dissertation is a lawyer with a background of a rural upbringing and is very alive to the embeddedness of rural women’s lives in land for livelihoods and fosters a desire to improve their land rights. This has been her drive in exploring the impact of urban expansion into peri-urban communal areas on rural women’s land rights, which has occurred through multifaceted processes that have built upon the colonial legacy of discrimination against women in the administration and allocation of communal land through a customary law which favours men and land acquisitions that to date thrive on insecurity of land tenure in communal areas. These processes have ignored the Constitutional provisions which guide acquisition of land for developmental purposes, including compensation, participation and provisions which advance gender equality and non-discrimination and render void customary laws that discriminate against women thereby impacting on their rights including the right to food security and livelihood. Taking rural women’s lived realities in the wake of urban expansion processes as the guiding perspective and using complementary methodologies including the human rights, legal pluralism, grounded theory, sex and gender analysis, actors and structures and methods including interviews, observation and focus groups grounded in the same perspective, she effectively collects data which captures the impact of urban expansion from gendered lenses, to give special attention to the violations on rural women’s land rights which have occurred due to urban expansion. She excavates that while processes involved in urban expansion affects different categories of occupants in communal areas, rural women as a category tend to suffer disproportionately. This is due to their gendered position in the administration and allocation of communal land which has historically marginalised them from accessing land in their own right. Urban expansion comes into this already skewed access to land for rural women to introduce processes which further exacerbate rural women’s land rights. In order to improve rural women’s land rights, the author concludes by suggesting recommendations including the alignment of communal land laws with the constitution so as to modify the customary law allocation of communal land which discriminates against rural women, the favourable position of titling communal land to mitigate threats of expropriation of communal land by third parties including the State and agencies of the government and the need to jointly register women so that they are co-owners of land and property on equal footing with men.