“Allowing women to have access to land is to allow them to be economically independent”, said Professor Alexis Manirakiza, Professor at the University of Burundi in Law Faculty, while presenting his study entitled “Equal access of Burundian women to land ownership”.
The CDE (Centre for Development and Enterprise Grate Lakes), a think tank working in Burundi to promote economic freedom as a solution to poverty within the framework of the “Why woman?” has published a new study on equal access to land ownership for Burundian women on Monday 25 July 2022 in Bujumbura.
The study carried out by Professor Alexis revolves around the equal access of Burundian women to land ownership: contribution to the development of legal strategies to fight against gender-based discrimination in access to land ownership in Burundi.
In his speech, CDE Director Aimable Manirakiza said that Burundian women face many obstacles that prevent them from escaping the precarious living conditions that characterise them in both rural and urban areas. In this case, it becomes difficult to make these women true actors of development and full citizens.
In Burundi, Professor Manirakiza continues, the issue of inheritance is the only important matter of Burundian property law that is not yet regulated by law in Burundi. In this case, it is custom that applies at court level so that women, girls and widows can recover their property rights or not.
According to the 2008 General Population and Housing Census (RGPH, 2008) and to World Bank statistics (WB, 2016): 90% of the Burundian population lives on subsistence agriculture. This figure rises to 95% in rural areas.
Professor Alexis believes that access to land ownership for women would increase their financial inclusion as it will be easy for them to obtain credit, by pledging their land as collateral, which is not yet the case
As of figures, Professor Manirakiza further states that the statistics of the Bank of the Republic of Burundi (BRB, 2015) show that the financial inclusion rate of women was 30.6%, 30.3%, 28.3% in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively while that of men represented 69.4%, 69.7% and 71.7% at the same period.
According to him, access to land ownership in favour of women leads to an integral development of the country, because he noted, “to develop women is to develop the whole society.
“Women are often victims of domestic violence, especially when they raise their voices against the squandering of assets needed to run the household. And given their economic dependence, they end up resigning themselves and taking the blows, hence allowing them to have access to land ownership would allow mutual respect between spouses”, said Professor Alexis.
According to him, all these reasons should normally convince the political authorities to put the proposal of the law on inheritance back on the legislative agenda. The problems they cite for entrenching the status quo (population growth, land dependency, land scarcity, land conflicts) should not be seen as insurmountable obstacles but rather as challenges to be met, and this is possible if there is a real political will, he continued.
He added that studies have shown that women who have access to land ownership contribute a greater proportion of family income than men (USAID, Honduras, Tanzania) and that “malnutrition is reduced by half when women have access to land ownership” (USAID, Nepal).
In a speech delivered shortly before the presentation of this research study, the Executive Director of CDE-Great Lakes Aimable Manirakiza said that like African women, Burundian women face many obstacles that prevent them from escaping the precarious living conditions that characterise them in both rural and urban areas. In these conditions, he added, it becomes difficult to make these women true actors of development and full citizens.
In Burundi, he continued, the issue of inheritance is the only important matter of Burundian property law that is not yet governed by Burundian law. In this case, it is custom that applies at the court level so that women, girls and widows can recover their property rights or not.
This challenge remains a headache for the Burundian lawyer because applying legally acceptable solutions, according to the international legal instruments that Burundi has ratified and according to the Burundian Constitution, implies a real legal revolution at the level of the courts, he noted.
He also thanked the government of Burundi for declaring, through the Head of State, Evariste Ndayishimiye, that girls and boys should inherit equally without discrimination and before the law. According to Manirakiza, this is a revolution in property rights.
He said that inheriting and owning property without discrimination through a legal decision by courts and tribunals in Burundi provides powerful legal incentives that help allocate economic resources and legally empower owners to improve their lives by making decisions on the use of land and capturing all the income streams that flow from it.
Out of 80.2% of land owners, only 17.7% are women
For Professor Alexis Manirakiza who presented the study, there is persistent gender-based discrimination in access to land ownership in Burundi. For him, this discrimination is an established fact. According to figures (RGPH, 2008), out of 80.2% of land owners, 62.5% are men and only 17.7% are women.
Professor Manirakiza finds that there is a need for sensitization of all stakeholders, including women, judges, and others. The government must also respect the international instruments it has ratified as far access to land is concerned.