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Orientation training workshop for traditional leaders in Mzimba (Malawi)

On 23rd and 24th August 2018 the workshop for traditional leaders of the Traditional Authority Daniel Gausi took place in Mzimba. For two days, 60 traditional leaders were introduced to the new land law in Malawi. The workshop was financed by KAS and carried out in cooperation with the organisation partners Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) and LandNet Malawi. The workshop was also accompanied by Mzimba Community Radio.

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1. Objective(s) of the activity

The training for traditional leaders in Mzimba was aimed to ensuring that traditional authorities increasingly consider the codified law and strengthen the position of women in issues of land use and land ownership. It was intended to cover key stages of the land law reform process in Malawi and how the new land law supports women’s land ownership rights.

1.1 Subject matter of measure/Theme of the activity

The ‘Orientation training workshop for traditional leaders in Mzimba’ on the legal (statutory) instruments supporting women’s land rights in Malawi was a third workshop in Mzimba targeting the lower two tiers, namely Group Village Heads and Village Heads.

1.2 Significance within overall project context

The workshop was significant as traditional leaders directly deal with issues of land allocation at the community level. As power bearers and primary authority, they are a strategic target in customary land allocation and resolution of land disputes.

1.3    Intended outcome

The intended outcome was to ensure that future actions of traditional leaders are within the codified law as protectors of women’s rights. It was anticipated that the training will result in a significant number of trained traditional leaders who will settle disputes according to the codified law and allocate land to women in their own right.

2. Implementation

2.1 Actors financing and organising the event

The workshop was fully financed by KAS. For event organisation, KAS collaborated with the Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM), while LandNet Malawi land governance expert Mr. Emmanuel Mlaka was the workshop facilitator. The Mzimba Community Radio recorded workshop proceedings and interviewed participants. The KAS Coordinator Dr. Samson Lembani provided facilitation and logistical support.

2.2 Target group and actual participants

The workshop was conducted for two full days: 23-24 August 2018. Of the 60 participants who attended, 16 were female. They all came from Sub-Traditional Authority Daniel Gausi in Mzimba Central,. Mzimba district is strategic as the prevalent patriarchal society does not recognise the women’s land rights. Women have access to land and land-use rights through their spouse.

2.3 Sequence of activities and/or content summary

The training content was mainly delivered through interactive plenary discussions. Participants were free to ask questions and make contributions as each topic was being delivered. The workshop mainly covered the following topics:

a) The National Context – Land Matters in Malawi.

This topic was particularly relevant in enlightening the participants on the causative issues for the land law review. It presented the current state land pressure due to competing interests on land including fast growing population, land-based investments such as mining, agriculture and forestry, urban growth, etc., against an inelastic supply of land.

b) Historical background of land law review.

This topic illustrated how the present land law and policy in Malawi is traced through the formal declarations of British colonial authority over Central Africa and how the natives lost ownership and control of land under the ambit of certificates of claim and the fiction that all land was vested in the British Monarch. The session zeroed in on processes the country has gone through to reform the land sector resulting in the enactment of new legislations in 2016.

c) Summary of key changes in the new land related laws.

This session oriented participants on the new land law-especially the Customary Land Act and the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act. The new land law provides equal opportunities and has specific provisions aimed at protecting women and children from land dispossession as well as provisions that allow the participation in land administration through democratically elected and gender-balanced customary land committees.

d) Gender inclusive provisions in the new land law.

The discussion sensitized participants on several gender related provisions and their implications.
•  The Customary Land Act (2016) protects women where it provides that “A surrender under this section which has, or for which it is reasonable to deduce that its purpose or effect is to deprive, or place impediment in the way of a woman from occupying land which she would, but for that surrender of land, be entitled to occupy under Customary Law or otherwise shall not be a valid surrender”.
•  It also offers remedy to the woman, in the event that the husband surrenders his land with a view of either selling it and abandon the wife or giving it to his family members excluding the wife.

3. Assessment

3.1 Monitoring

Three tools were used to monitor level of achievement of the objectives of the activity:

a) Case Studies. In discussion groups on the first day, participants were asked to recount about a case study on women land rights from their communities which occurred before the new land law and analyze how the matter was processed as well as the outcome. These cases were re-discussed after learning about women land rights in the new land law. The aim was to assess the level of comparative understanding in the changes brought about by the new law and the impact on the land rights especially for vulnerable women.

b) Panel Discussion. During the last session on the second day, a 25-minutes session was devoted to a panel discussion to test the level of intake by the participants. The panel comprised the ADC Chair, a GVH and a female member of the ADC. The rest of the participants asked random questions on women’s land rights while the panel responded in line with the new Customary Land Act (2016).

c) Review of participant expectations and concerns. At the beginning of the workshop the facilitator received expectations and concerns of the participants when they were invited to attend the workshop. At the end of the workshop, participants were asked questions around these. They were able to correctly answer their own questions, an indicator that the workshop addressed most of their concerns.

3.2 Outcome

The real outcome from this workshop is observable in the medium to long term. It is anticipated that land law as newly codified will ensure that customary laws and practices that impede women’s rights become illegalised and punishable by law. The women who attended the workshop were empowered to champion women land rights advocacy and are now knowledgeable on what to do once their land rights are violated or denied.

3.3 Conclusions

Despite the undisputed enthusiasm and better understanding on the training content, the problem of real change remains until the Paramount Chief for Mzimba, Inkosi Mbelwa, and his advisors are supportive of the new land law, which is not the case at present. It is hoped that there will be growing pressure for change emerging from the solidarity of the junior chief, religious leaders the youth and women groups, resulting in the weakening of the status quo paving way to the implementation of the new land law.

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Dr. Samson Lembani

February 20, 2018
Nsondole Teachers Development Centre, Traditional Authority Kuntumanje, Zomba
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