The Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) and the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) Lessons Learned Outcome on the Land Rights Act, and Inheritance Law showed improvement in women’s rights in Lofa and Grand Gedeh counties, a release has said.
It can be recalled that AFELL with funding from AWDF in February, 2019, conducted training of trainers’ (ToTs) workshops in Zorzor and Salayea Districts, Lofa County and Putu/Tiama and Zai Town, Grand Gedeh County for 120 participants on the Land Rights Act and Inheritance Law.
As a follow-up, according to the release, experience sharing and lessons learned conferences were held in Salayea and Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County from June 1-5, 2019, which brought together over 80 participants comprising traditional, religious, women and youth leaders, as well as local authorities, community-based organizations (CBOs), and the Justice and Rule of Law actors.
At the occasion, participants narrated several positive outcomes, which they saw as direct derivatives of the TOT Workshop among other positive results.
Participants also revealed: “Traditional leaders are now aware that widows have the rights to inherit and administer their deceased husband’s property without interference of in-laws. Therefore, in settling dispute, the issue will be taken into consideration. The practice for women to be accompanied by men to either acquire land or use farmland is being addressed by the traditional leaders in Zoror and Salayea, Lofa County. A single woman is given the right to discuss with her chief regarding community land for farming without a male accompanying her.”
They added: “The issue of refunding dowry is being practiced in Zorzor and Salayea respectively.”
The women said the fear and threat of refunding dowry have kept some of them in abusive marriages. On the order hand, the traditional leaders said they have understood the law on divorce as it relates to traditional marriage. They therefore promised to abolish the practice of refunding dowry during divorce. Before the Land Rights Act, a woman who was married in another community, could not be automatically accepted as a community member until certain traditional ritual or demands are met. For instance, joining the Sande (Women’s secret) society.
The women who find themselves in such category are excited about the land rights law, which gives an automatic right to a woman to become a community member upon marriage.
The conferences ended with several recommendations, including the need for AFELL to establish sub-offices in some districts, and scaling up the inheritance and land rights training in other districts.
AFELL is a non-profit, non-governmental, non-political organization birthed on February 24, 1994, under the ravages of the country’s brutal civil war with the mandate to advocate for the promotion, protection, and advancement of the rights of women, children, and indigent persons.
On October 2018, the African Women’s Development Fund approved a grant of US$20,000 for nine months to AFELL to promote women’s rights to own property through building the capacity of women.
AFELL’s implementation of the project comprised series of training-of-trainers workshops with participants from 29 communities in Salayea, Zorzor, Putu/Tiama and Zai.