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The struggles for land rights by rural women in sub-Saharan Africa: The case of Tanzania

Godfrey Massay (Africa Program, Landesa, Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania)

African Journal of Economic and Management Studies

ISSN: 2040-0705

Article publication date: 10 December 2019

Issue publication date: 11 June 2020




The purpose of this paper is to provide examples of how rural women in Tanzania have addressed land rights challenges, showcasing three interventions implemented by Tanzanian Civil Society Organizations. It demonstrates that women have used both legal and traditional systems to negotiate and mediate their claims to land. Although the interventions featured have been greatly shaped by the work of civil society organizations, they have equally been influenced by rural women movements and individual rural women. The cases selected provide understanding of women’s land rights issues in both privately and communally held property/land.


This paper presents literature review of the existing secondary data on the subject coupled with the interviews.


Informal and formal approaches have been used by rural women to negotiate their claims on both communal and private lands. CSOs have equally shaped the approaches employed by rural women.

Research limitations/implications

This research was mainly based on the secondary data and few key interviews. There is a need to conduct further analysis of the issues.

Practical implications

This paper highlights the role of CSOs in improving the participation of women in decision-making bodies. The wave of large-scale land-based investments has caused insecurity of land tenure for women. The paper shows some ways to address the problem in communal lands.

Social implications

Socially, the papers shows the power relations involved in the struggles over land, as well as the role of traditional systems and bylaws in protecting the rights of women.


The paper provides dynamics of gendered approach used by women to negotiate their claims in communally held lands. It also highlights the role and space of local and international CSOs in shaping the local context of resistance on land rights. It is a very useful paper for academics and practitioners working on land rights.



Massay, G. (2020), "The struggles for land rights by rural women in sub-Saharan Africa: The case of Tanzania", African Journal of Economic and Management Studies, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 271-283.



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