"Women have no right to own land in this village. It is a tradition but no one is working to change this bad tradition,"explains Habiba Juma Nambondo, with deep emotion.
And then she adds," Even in the family, boys are given a priority to own land while girls are not considered at all When a married woman loses her husband she knows that the best thing for her to do is to 'dust up her buttocks' and go back home to her parents because the in-laws will not give her an inch of land. This is the rule whether they owned one hectare or twenty hectares. The same is the case when a woman is divorced; she gets nothing."There sat the chairman, not saying a word to contest the lady's statement and wearing a deep grin on his face.
The problem starts in the family where parents do not see their daughters as having equal rights to own land as boys. Since this is norm in the village, when the girls are married their husbands and in-laws make it clear that she will have no say what-so-ever regarding land the two will own.
As a result, women take it for granted that owning land is the right of men and women would always serve as workers for the land owners. Miraji Mbetu, the Matandu Village Executive officer explains that there is no definite system of land ownership for women as this is a non-issue not only in Matandu but in almost all the villages in Kilwa District.
The problem, he says, has nothing to do with shortage of land for there is plenty of land to meet the needs of all villagers and people still undertake shifting cultivation, moving to areas where the land seems to be more fertile. According to Mbetu, land ownership in the village is based on traditions, with claims pegged on family orclan.
Those who want to put solid claims on specific areas do so by planting permanent crops like coconut, cashew and mango trees. "But when it comes to women, they have no right to own land. No one recognizes that right not only in our village but in almost the whole of this district.
It is the tradition that women should not own land. And the women know it. Even at family level, boys are given priority to own land but not girls. That is why if a woman loses her husband or is divorced, she simply packs up her belongings and goes back to her parents without asking for her share of the land that she owned together with her husband," he explains, adding that women have also not shown any interest to own land as a result of which the situation has not changed for years.