By SIMBARASHE SITHOLE
CHIWESHE traditional leader Chief Negomo has pledged to assist in raising awareness on women’s land rights after observing that most widows in his area were being denied the right to land due to archaic patriarchal beliefs.
Chief Negomo said the campaign was meant to correct traditional imbalances on land ownership between men and women and ensure that the latter are empowered in line with the country’s Constitution.
“We have noted that many widows in this area are being suppressed on customary land rights and I have assigned my village heads to role our massive awareness campaigns to educate widows on their land rights,” he said.
“For widows who want to change their tittle deeds, we are giving them affidavits that empower them to own property which they may have acquired together with their late husbands.”
Chief Negomo, who rose to fame in 2011 after summoning the late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to his traditional court for violating customary marriage norms, also highlighted that cultural laws were enshrined in the Constitution.
“Our cultural laws are in the Constitution, for example Statutory Instrument 53 of 2014 which gives equal share of property or land between husband and wife, so those who suppress women are selfishly doing it and it is illegal,” he added.
Sarudzai Mukodzongi (65), a widow in Mukodzongi village, Chiweshe, said she lost her farmland to her in-laws following her husband’s death.
“Soon after the death of my husband in 2013, I lost our land to his brothers who claimed it belonged to their family and there was nothing I could do about it since we grew up knowing that women do not challenge men in our society,” lamented Mukodzongi.
Another widow, Chenai Chigwida said she lost her land because she did not have sons to inherit it after the death of her husband.
“Our land was taken away from us after my husband died. Since I did not have sons, they (her in-laws) claimed that my daughters would leave the family when they got married and, therefore, I was not entitled to customary land. We are slowly learning through awareness campaigns carried out by our village head that as women we also have rights to land,” she said.
Legal expert Yolanda Chekera-Radu told journalists during a virtual workshop on women customary land rights organised by Advancing Rights in Southern Africa last week that customary law should work in tandem with the Constitution.