A HISTORY OF DIMINISHING RETURNS: THE PARADOX OF WOMEN’S CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS IN SMALL SCALE IRRIGATION SCHEME REFORMS IN MATRILINEAL SOCIETIES IN SOUTHERN MALAWI
Liwewe, Oilivia Margaret Mchaju
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This dissertation examines how, through Malawi’s uncritical implementation of 2 major international irrigation projects (supported at different times by both the West and the East), local and international patriarchal interests have merged (inadvertently or otherwise) and are destroying a vital part of the fabric of the country’s customary life. That delicate fabric is held together by the special stewardship of women over land, successfully managed by them for centuries in matrilineal societies, Malawi’s most common form of customary family life. Based on a wide range of data collected using several interactive gender-focused methodologies (especially the Women’s Law Approach) the writer exposes the male bias inherent in ‘man’- made Human Rights law (contained in various HR instruments some of which are binding on Malawi) which is blind to and destructive of women’s matrilineal customary law land rights. She finally suggests urgent legal and other reforms to restore Malawian women to their rightful place at the heart of their communities in order to prevent their country’s continued slide into enslavement by international forces.
Malawi Land Policy