The second training workshop, ‘Protecting Women’s Land Rights in Sierra Leone’ was the training of Community Adjudicators and Moderators.
The over 80 participants were drawn from Chiefdom Leaders, Local Authorities and Land Sector Institutions from the project pilot communities in Bombali, Bo and Kenema Districts.
In her welcome statement, the FAO Resident Representative in Sierra Leone, Dr. Nyabenyi Tipo, revealed that this is the third of such trainings to be organized in the country by FAO, that there are many provisions in the land rights policy launched a year ago pointing out that in spite of the fact that between 60% – 80 % of agricultural work and food is produced by women, women’s access to land is a challenge, the reason it would be difficult for Sierra Leone to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 and commended the Irish Aid for supporting the training.
The FAO Representative continued that the training would be accompanied by proper mapping of lands in the three project pilot districts reiterating that it is the collective effort of all and not a single individual to achieve women’s land rights.
The Head of Irish Aid, Mary O’Neill revealed that Ireland is proud to be one of the sponsors of the Land Policy in Sierra Leone, that Ireland and Sierra Leone are partners in development adding that the SDGs were developed by all nations for their common goals and disclosed that Goal2 of the SDGs is to end hunger and improve food security that are essential to address the challenges of rural women including land governance and food security.
Mary O’Neill furthered that the workshop is critical to end poverty and quoted President Julius Maada Bio as promising in his inauguration speech to reform the land tenure system as well as implement the Land Policy, ensure equitable distribution of land, end land discrimination against women and hoped that the training would meet its objectives.
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Lands, Hon. Quinton Salia Konneh underscored the need for participants to replicate the training in their respective communities, especially when they are stakeholders and opinion leaders and appealed to them to use their authority positively by ending discrimination against women for land.
The MP went on to stress that women must have access to land, that they are partners in development and that the President is interested in agriculture and land issues but lamented that the latter is plagued with many challenges, encouraged participants to be attentive and urged the facilitators to prioritize practical than theory and that FAO must visit communities as a follow up to the training affirming that all must be ready to make a change as no one person can do it.
The Head of UN Women, Mary Okomie asserted that Sierra Leone would not make progress if women are left behind stressing that women are partners and equals with the same capacity as men adding that the workshop is about how men and women can work side by side.
She also underlined that women are very resourceful, that a King should treat his wife as a Queen and promised to award the first chiefdom that would formulate byelaws giving women right to land and property.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, Mr. Israel Gigba commended FAO for its continued financial and technical support to the Land Policy, a national priority, highlighted some of the challenges confronting the land sector including large-scale acquisition of land, overlapping laws and increase in land conflicts.
He informed that by 2027, a modern integrated land system would be in place to help improve land administration and in the process help to alleviate poverty, improve confidence in the system as well as improve domestic and foreign investment, fair and equitable system, assured that the Ministry has taken concrete steps to address gender issues relating to land but cautioned that Sierra Leone would not progress without women’s participation national development.
The National FAO Gender and Land Rights Trainer, Dr. IsataMahoi, enlightened that the training is to increase the knowledge and awareness of community adjudicators and moderators on global and national principles, policies and practices such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) National Land Policy and existing legal frameworks for securing land and property rights.
She also informed about human rights abuses, human rights and responsibilities, rights and gender in Sierra Leone, the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights ratified in 1948, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women and the concept of the 50/50 that is equal opportunity.
According to Dr. Mahoi, customary law is subject to change, that there are no absolute rights as all rights have limits, that there are gaps in the gender laws, that in the past girls were not sent to school, hence the affirmative action, that boys who impregnate girls would not be allowed to go to school, that women are not slaves or property and that there is need to review the law on inheritance of property.
She continued that the project would look at wills, that it is against the law to sell land upcountry, that Sierra Leone is a male-dominated society, that land rights are enshrined in the constitution, that there is vast land upcountry but lacks poor management, that land conflicts affect food production and is a security issue and that government reservation areas upcountry were not demarcated.
Dr. Mahoi furthered that the workshop is also to identify measures to support gender equality as customary leaders/institutions and develop institutional capacity for gender equitable land tenure governance as well as enhance the skills of the land sector advocates to articulate gender equitable customary and statutory land laws.
Powerpoint presentations were also made by Mrs. Josephine Koroma, National VGGT Coordinator on the Progress on the Implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT).
In his PowerPoint presentation on the topic: ‘Securing Women’s Land Rights in the Context of Implementing the National Land Policy,’ Mr. Rashid Ngiawee, Head of the National Land Policy Unit, Ministry of Lands said all citizens must have secured access to land and equitable distribution of land resources, that there should be no discrimination in the allocation of land, that the constitutional amendments have been made protecting women’s land rights and that the policy emphasizes on women.
In his presentation on Protecting Women’s Land Rights in Sierra Leone: Empirical Findings from Bombali and Bo Districts by Mr. Sheku Sei, the Consultant/Lead Socio-Economist said the land tenure system left by the British colonialists is not good, that land in the provinces can be leased for 50 years and renewed for 21 years, that an acre of land in the United States and New Zealand is sold for $30,000 and $ 25,000 respectively while in Sierra Leone it is $5 and encouraged all to be interested in pushing forward land tenure issues.
Dr. Samuel Mabikke, FAO Land Tenure Officer presented a paper on the topic: Land Governance in the 21stCentury during which he revealed that land problems are global and therefore need global solutions, that Africa is undergoing rapid urbanization, that the future of the world depends on all human beings and that stakeholders must demand that FAO scale up its activities in the three project pilot districts.
At the end of the group work, participants recommended that Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies must collaborate and speak with one voice, that there is need to do away with cultural and traditional practices inhibiting women, that education of girls should be a flagship project and that pregnancy and early marriage are some of the factors affecting girl-child education.
The also recommended that women must have access to loans, that women must support each other, that Christian and Muslim Religions support womenand unanimously resolved to replicate the training in their respective communities.
In his closing courtesies, Dr. Samuel Mabikke disclosed that the training was intensive touching all, commended participants for their active participation, observed that the training was a time of reflection, period to learn, challenged participants on the critical issues of land, encouraged all to read the land policy/laws and hold duty bearers accountable, that information is power, that participants must share the knowledge gained to create impact and promote women’s land rights and assured that the mapping of lands would continue in the project’s three pilot districts.
Dr. Samuel Mabikke further underscored that FAO strongly believes in people/organizations (CSOs, Local Authorities) learning from each other, that CSOs are the first point of call in communities which means they are trusted and neutral to mediate in conflicts and bridge the gap between communities and government highlighting that accountability and transparency as well as good governance are critical for CSOs’ operations and urged participants to continue sharing knowledge until they die.
The question and answer session climaxed the event.