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Malawi grilsTwo young rural women farmers from Malawian successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania recently to make their demand voices heard and also as a symbol of determination to have land rights in the country.

Betina Spiriano, 28, from Balaka and Agnes Abisoni, 26, from Dowa were the first to emerge to a cheerful crowd of over 500 women at the foot of the African largest and tallest mountain standing at an altitude of 5,985 metres.   

The climb was seven days in total, said Sipiriano in an interview on Saturday soon after the descent adding the climbing powerfully symbolises the challenges women in Africa face to access, own or control land.

“It was really, really tough. I watched other people struggle with altitude sickness but this was a symbol of determination to have our rights recognized over land issues. We were initially 55 but just a few of us completed the trek. I am happy to make our voices heard,” said Sipiriano.

Rural women farmers in Africa including Malawi play a key role in food production and food security but access to land and secure tenure rights remains critical for food production and to the welfare of the entire household.

However, despite this recognition, rural women in Malawi and across Africa are facing a lot of challenges in agricultural development due to lack of access and control over productive resources including land.

This has prompted the call on the Africa wide Food and Climate Justice Campaign to raise women voices on the challenges faced and to call for commitment in addressing these challenges by national governments, development partners, private sector, civil society and male counterparts.

Since Thursday (13th October, 2016), women from across Africa have come together to campaign for land for women at regional level to demand women’s land rights in Arusha, Tanzania.

Figures indicate that women account for 60 to 80 percent of smallholder farmers and produce 90 percent of food in Africa and about half of all food worldwide, yet women are much less likely than men to own land, and their farms are usually smaller and less fertile.  Women control less than 1 percent of land in Africa.

Last week, Malawian rural women presented their charter of demands to Minister of Lands Atupele Muluzi. The women appreciate the Government of Malawi and development partners for the important strides that have been made towards having a progressive policy and legal framework in land related issues but they argue that as the primary duty bearer, Government has a constitutional obligation to lead and take decisive actions.

In their six demands, the women have called upon the Government to immediately start allocating adequate resources towards implementation of land related laws and also put in place systems and guidelines to ensure gender sensitive land governance in the country; starting with next Fiscal year.

The women also want Government to enact the Registered Land (Amendment) and Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bills in the shortest period possible and enhance land tenure security for both women and men by registering and issuing certificates.

“We want to see 30 percent of customary land registered and certificate issued by 2019,” Ellen Matupi, the national coordinator of the Coaliation of Women Farmers (COWFA) read the demands.

The women also want Government to revamp and scale up land resettlement programs with particular focus on landless

On Sunday, representatives of rural women in Africa were expected to hand over the charter of demands to the African Union.