Land and Tenure Rights

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Women in South Africa use land, occupy land, and own land, within different contexts and experience varying levels of discrimination. In January 2017, the World Economic Forum reported that women own less than 20 percent of the world’s land. This situation is mirrored in South Africa where women’s access to land remains peripheral at best even though the state has enacted a number of key strategic laws and policies to provide for equal treatment of women. Women continue to face challenges to accessing their rights to land, including the specific challenges of restitution, eviction, security of tenure, and a lack of access to resources and subsidies. Despite the fact that 52% of the population is made up of women and that women are responsible for 68% of agricultural output, they have not benefitted in any substantive way to access and ownership of the very land they work.

Access to land and housing in urban centres have increasingly become problematic. In cities such as Cape Town apartheid spatial planning and development and exclusionary property markets continue to block women from enjoying access to housing which is near their places of employment. Increasingly, poor and women headed households are facing evictions and are being displaced to the Cape Flats.

In rural areas, traditional authorities are likely to be male and councils are male‐dominated and patriarchal, negatively affecting women’s ability to access land. Where industrial development is taking place there is scant regard for the environmental health rights of those who live in the area, with the result that women are significantly affected, or bear the burden of caring for ill partners and children who have been harmed by these developments.

Housing and tenure security intersect with violence against women as well as issues of custom in both law and practice. One therefore cannot have a conversation about a woman’s rights to and access to land in isolation from where she is positioned within her home, community and society as a whole. Legislation, policy, and the presence of customs and cultures which are steeped in patriarchy has supported women’s ongoing discrimination in respect of land access and ownership.


To ensure that laws and practices do not discriminate against women’s access to land and tenure security.


To challenge apartheid land patterns and dispossession that impact on women’s rights to land and tenure security.


To shape the agenda of national, regional, and international structures to promote the interest of women’s rights to land and tenure security, and to ensure compliance with human rights standards.


To collaborate and partner with strategic and relevant organisations to promote the interests of women’s rights to land and tenure security.