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Sierra Leone: CDHR Engages Biriwa Chiefdom On Women Access to Land

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The Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CDHR) last Wednesday concluded a two-day civic education for communities in Biriwa Chiefdom, Bombali District on land acquisition policy law and gender related issues.

The session, held at the Kamabai Multi-Purpose Complex Center, Kamabai Chiefdom in the Bombali District, attracted women at the local level, and chiefdom authorities including traditional rulers.

Welcoming participants, CDHR Program Manager, John Kargbo, said women's access to land is still a problem for communities in the Bombali District. "We will be looking at land acquisition by women, what the law says and what is being practiced in the chiefdom," said Mr. Kargbo. "As women, including traditional rulers, we know what is happening in our communities and this is why we are here to discuss and how these issues can be addressed. We know this is a problem but we do not have the answers and this is the reason for this civic education."

Chiefdom Speaker Lansana K. Conteh, in his statement, said that women have access to land in the Biriwa Chiefdom and that this can be done through inheritance. He said women who have the money to buy land can do so in the chiefdom as long as they go through the correct procedures. He however noted that chiefs in the provincial areas are custodians of the land but notwithstanding this, women are not deprived from accessing land either for farming or other purposes.

Conteh said there are rules governing land acquisition at the local level, and that women can access land through their husbands, adding that they are all aware of the Devolution Estate Act, which he said they are abiding by.

The chiefdom speaker, however, conceded that women are still being discriminated against, and that such an act is commonplace in most remote communities in the chiefdom. Times, he said, have changed and that with continuous education and the enactment of new laws, women's access to land is now gaining momentum.

"There is a lot of transformation presently taking place in the chiefdom," Conteh said, while thanking CDHR for the changes taking place in the chiefdom. Education, he stressed, is paramount.

"Women can now own land if they want to. We have a lot of women who have access to land and own land in the chiefdom as most women are being empowered in the district and the chiefdom as well,"said the chiefdom speaker. "This was not the case 10 to 15 years ago but things are changing. There is still discrimination against women but it is not as bad as it used to be. We want the sensitization to continue because most of our people are still lagging behind, more especially in remote places."

Regina Posseh Kalawa is the Mammy Queen of Biriwa Chiefdom. She said a number of women are still being discriminated against and that inheritance can only be possible if the woman bears a male child. According to her, tradition is still a key factor when it comes to human rights and it also plays a key role when it comes to women's affairs.

Madam Kalawa noted that for a country to develop, both men and women should work together and be given equal opportunity. The women are doing so much at home and yet most of them are being deprived, she lamented, adding that denial of the woman access to land is a denial of her right.

"This is no longer encouraged in the chiefdom. Inheritance is one big problem and most women have been denied the right to inherit properties such as land after the death of the husbands," she told the gathering.

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