Ghana’s Ada Safo advocates for women’s right to property

Myjoy online GH
Mon, 15-Jan-2018, 10:48

The Minister of State in charge of Public Procurement, Sarah Adwoa Safo, has told world leaders to do their best to affirm women’s right to property, to ensure their economic autonomy.

Adwoa Safo who is also the Deputy Majority Leader of Ghana’s Parliament made this observation Iceland while addressing a forum of world leaders on Property Rights, especially, the predicaments of women to access to property.

“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.

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Commenting further on the issue, she said recognition and the application of property rights which give exclusive rights to any individual to acquire and to determine to use property, has been undermined and tilted towards the most powerful in society.

Women's right to ownership

She was sad to note that women own only an estimated 1-2 percent of all titled land worldwide, citing Ghana for instance where she said women produce about 50% to 70% of the food crop within the agric sector but earn less than 10% 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 them 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. 

“…For every 10 units of land in Ghana, nearly 8 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.”

Paradigm shift

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, Adwoa 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 individualisation 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 observed.

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