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The Minister of State in charge of Public Procurement, Sarah Adwoa Safo, has told world leaders to do their best to let their respective countries affirm women’s right to property, to ensure their economic autonomy.
“Effective access to ownership of property contributes to economic autonomy for women, which in turn enhances the bargaining power of women in households and socio-political spaces. If women’s voice in and access to decision making must change, then our respective countries must affirm women’s rights to property”, she noted.
Adwoa Safo, who is also the deputy Majority Leader of Ghana’s Parliament, made this observation when addressing a forum of world leaders on property rights, especially the predicaments of women to access to property in Iceland.
Commenting further on the issue, she said recognition and the application of property rights, which gives exclusive rights to any individual to acquire and to determine to use property, has been undermined and tilted towards the most powerful in society.
According to her, it is sad to note that women own only an estimated 1-2 per cent of all titled land worldwide, which, in addition to other real properties, represents about 75 per cent of a nation’s overall wealth.
In rural Ghana, for instance, she said despite women’s enormous contribution towards the agricultural sector, producing about 50 per cent to 70 per cent of the food crop within the sector, they earn less than 10 per cent of its incomes and have very limited access to land.
“Admittedly, predicaments of women’s access to property continue to persist because just as with distribution of all resources, rules, norms, and customs for allocation are developed through various institutions in society – families, communities, states, the legal system, and economic markets, which are discriminatory. For example, women’s inability to directly inherit land in both patrilineal and matrilineal systems excludes women from the economic benefits of ownership and secure tenure”, she underscored.
She added, “Although these statutory laws exist, property ownership and inheritance are regulated in practice by customary laws. The customary laws have greater influence than statutory laws.
“Some of these customary laws effectively deprive women of property rights, particularly land and housing rights both in their natal and marital clans. Customary laws, commonly based on traditionally conceived gender distinctions, give men greater rights than women over property.
“For every 10 units of land in Ghana, nearly eight units are controlled by traditional leaders and family heads. The remaining two units are controlled by the state, although there is a negligible proportion of the land which is controlled by individuals who have acquired them through the customary freehold.
“Thus, for any individual in Ghana, and indeed for rural women, who want to acquire land for any purpose, the significance of traditional rulers and family heads cannot be overlooked. Whilst the fraternity of traditional leaders and family heads is male dominated and potentially biased against the interests of women, the threat is generally pronounced in patrilineal societies in Ghana,” she added.
According to her, although attempts are being made to address the challenges inherent in Ghana’s patrilineal system, the situation continues to persist because of cultural norms and values as the practices are handed down from one generation to the other by oral history.
These underlying challenges, Safo noted, require reforms, especially in the country’s land registrations and tilting, removing constraints facing women’s access to economic opportunities and public education on the importance of granting unfettered property rights to women.
“The process of creating a new or reformed land titling system is a massive undertaking. The land title registration aims at providing certainty to land titles and to render dealings in land safe, simple, cheap, devoid of fraud and require minimum litigation.
“This serves to provide tenure security to various types of landholders. Despite the huge investments, land titling and registration programme usually have relegated gender issues and in many early cases have focused on individualization of rights such as registering ownership only in the name of the head of the family to the exclusion of women, who previously had access at least through customary use rights,” she revealed.
Source: The Finder