DB: When it comes to land, what is the situation for women where you’ve been working?
Sabrina: One of the things I found happening is that female traditional leaders of both matrilineal and patrilineal communities were not really included in land policy decision making. Having worked with some female traditional leaders on a project to improve their participation in land policy decisions…I realised that land is usually held in trust by the Male Traditional Leaders, and women do not really participate in decisions concerning its management. Decisions on what happened on the land would usually involve just the male traditional leaders. Profits from the land and its resources are given only to the men. The female traditional leaders are usually not included. This means that their perspectives and interests are lost: the voice that represents the more vulnerable in the community you know, the women, is lost.
When it comes to inheritance, in Ghana we have both patrilineal and matrilineal inheritance. Where you have matrilineal inheritance, where you would think because it’s a matrilineal system women will have the upper hand. But the inheritance is usually given to a brother or an uncle of the woman…usually the brother of the woman is the one who heads the family and is in charge of most of the land and the property and oversees it.
Nevertheless, the narrative is slowly changing. In some communities it is still very dominant, so that we don’t have women participating in decisions that have to do with land.
DB: Is it the case that women are often keen to take on decision making roles, or do they need persuading that they have the capacity to do that?
Sabrina: I think women are traditionally in the background so they are not really given the option to participate, even if they really want to. So there is a need to encourage them; there is a need to work with all stakeholders, the male traditional leaders, and entire communities. And there’s a need to work with government officials to help them understand the need to incorporate women even in policy decision making. So it’s not really about persuading the women, but the fact that society doesn’t really deem it as necessary.
When it comes to land and resources, it’s the male traditional leaders who are seen as the heads, and the female traditional leaders – who are counterparts of the chiefs – are left behind. They are not included. And it happens across the board. If it’s happening for the female traditional leaders then it is also happening for female community members as well.
So it is not really about persuading the women but about changing society’s view and helping society understand the need to include women.