Reshaping women’s land rights on communal rangeland

20 Oct 2013

This paper aims to contribute to the debates on communal rangelands and analyses the gendered dimension of land rights and land access in the rural areas of Namaqualand. The actual gender relations within rural communities and the emergence of strategies that are being pursued in communal land processes are obscured and often ignored in policies about communal rangelands, which over-emphasise ‘the ecological and economic impact’ and the balancing of these dimensions. As active, primary users, women play a central role in livelihoods supported by communal rangelands yet their access to land is mediated through their relationships with men, effectively circumventing women’s land autonomy. A wider debate is necessary to advance the largely superficial policy considerations of women’s position in relation to communal rangelands land and their social exclusion on the basis of traditional control of land, forms of access and claiming of use rights. The paper discusses the complexity of land rights under communal land tenure and argues that, despite traditional and policy barriers, women in traditional systems of male-dominated land rights have had some success in accessing communal rangelands. Greater policy impetus is necessary to leverage equitable and independent land access for women amid debates about management of communal rangelands.