Lantmäteriet strengthens women's right to own land

In Sweden, women's right to own land is not in question. But that is not the case in all parts of the world. In Liberia, Lantmäteriet supports the work to increase women's knowledge of land rights in several different ways. Among other things, the message is spread through "talking books".

In celebration of International Women's Day on March 8, we are paying attention to the "talking books".

It is just one example of how Lantmäteriet through its Sida-funded project ILAMP (Capacity Building for Inclusive Land Administration and Management) in Liberia works to raise awareness among women about their right to own land.

And it is an effective method. In a country where a large part of the population cannot read or write, reaching out with information is a challenge.

In Liberia, a large part of the ownership is built on customary land – without formal registered ownership.

This is what the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) is working on to change, and then it becomes even more important to spread the knowledge about women's rights.

Messages in your own language

We visit a remote village in Margibi County in Liberia where a woman for the first time got a green little box in her hand. When she presses one of the buttons, it starts speaking.
The woman begins to smile and nods. In her own language, Bassa, she receives information from Liberia's Land Rights Act, the Land Ownership Act.

The messages in the "talking books" are particularly focused on informing about women's rights in land ownership issues.

The small green box will rotate among the inhabitants of the village for a couple of weeks. The project's partner, the organization Landesa, then ensures that the boxers move on to other villages.

The advantage is that there is no need for a connection or power because the boxes are powered by batteries.

- We can already see positive effects. Among other things, we have examples of how villages have been able to resolve conflicts with each other on land issues after receiving information about what the law says, says Ralph B Quiah at Landesa.

Christopher Byren, project manager at Lantmäteriet, with Ralph B Quiah at Landesa.

Effective solution where many cannot read or write

The initiative to spread the "talking books" comes from Lantmäteriet's project manager Christopher Byren, who during the pandemic period sought activities that could still be carried out – even though he himself was in Sweden due to the restrictions.

After a pilot, about 700 "talking books" were purchased that now rotate among different village communities.

- Our Talking Books initiative is a good example of remote collaboration, during a global pandemic, between Lantmäteriet, Civil Society, Government and the supplier that was able to deliver a digital solution, from concept to implementation in just over a month’s time, Christopher Byren says.

Olivia David, head of Gender Unit at LLA, and Emmanuel Chedeh Davis, head of Communication and Outreach Division at LLA. They work to in-crease awareness of equal land rights.

The project supports a knowledge-raising campaign

Increasing knowledge in land ownership issues – and thus preventing dis-putes tied to land ownership – is a priority for the ILAMP project and for the LLA.

An initiative that is just starting out is a knowledge-enhancing campaign in selected communities where the gender perspective is in focus.

A survey conducted by the LLA in December among 1,032 women in 20 communities shows that there is great need:

  • Only 23 percent of women say they know that women can own land through purchases.
  • 12% of women say they have the same right to own a country as men. 67% say no and the rest "don't know."
  • 57% of women answer "no" when asked if they have the right to in-herit land from their parents.

It is only a sample from the survey that will be followed up after the campaign to see if the knowledge has increased.

Olivia David, head of Gender Unit at LLA, explains why the campaign is important:

- The awareness campaign is important because it will increase the knowledge among women about land ownership in customary communities. Then, women will be able to participate in decision making in land governance

- We hope that women get full control and access over land.

“Women not placed on earth to produce children”

Emmanuel Chedeh Davis, head of Communication and Outreach Division at LLA, has the same hopes.

Though the newly enacted Land Rights Act (LRA) of 2018 has erased Liberia’s long standing gender imbalance to land tenure, governance and security, yet, rural women who contribute 80% of Liberia’s agriculture labor force are being faced with a stiff resistance from men to own, use, manage and have tittle and ownership to land.

- I hope to see that at the end of this exercise women in the selected communities and districts where the awareness will be carried out will no more see themselves as vessels placed on earth by God to produce children, instead, they will see themselves as women of opportunities and prosperities, thus, no more as properties, Emmanuel Chedeh Davis says.

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