Smartphones help Tanzanian women secure land rights


Yolanda Ngunda has every reason to smile now she holds a title deed recognising her as sole owner of a disputed plot of rugged farmland in Tanzania’s remote southern highlands.
For the past decade, the 51-year-old widow, who lives in Ilalasimba village in the rural district of Iringa, was embroiled in a family feud as her brothers-in-law tried to grab her land and kick her out of a brick house she built with her late husband who died after a short illness.
“I have been living in fear all those years because I did not have any document that supported my land rights claim. I have now won the battle,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, proudly displaying her certificate printed on pale-green paper.
Ngunda, who has four children, is among hundreds of Ilalasimba residents who have secured land titles thanks to a pilot project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Ngunda said her brothers-in-law had even threatened to set her house on fire. “But I stood firm to defend my children’s property,” she said proudly.
Iringa is one of many areas in Tanzania where there are cases of property grabs involving widows, rights activists say.
The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the region has made many widows susceptible to losing their property as family members who know little about the disease accuse them of killing their husbands to inherit property.
Tanzanian law grants women the same rights as men to access, own and control land, and allows them to participate in decision-making on land matters. But only 20 percent of women possess land in their own names, according to USAID.


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