Land Rights: Liberia Is At A Crucial Moment In Its History

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The Editor,

A historic election gives President George Weah the momentum and mandate to enact a robust agenda, and Mr. Weah has rightly identified secure land rights as a priority for his administration. But will land reform in Liberia – through the presently debated Land Rights Bill – do enough to promote the rights of all Liberians? Or will women remain disadvantaged by customary practices that leave them to inherit poverty, not property?

My organization, Landesa, is an international NGO with more than 50 years of experience working on land policy reform and legal implementation, including nearly a decade of experience in Liberia. I’d like to connect you with a member of our Liberia program team to discuss the potential for gender equitable land reform to provide Liberia’s women with greater economic and social empowerment – and the inherent risk to prosperity and security if reforms neglect to account for women.

Gender Discrimination in Land and Inheritance Rights Threatens to Undermine Peace and Economic Prosperity in Liberia

The 2018 election of President George Weah was a watershed moment for Liberia, marking the first peaceful, democratic transition of power in five decades. Mr. Weah’s ascension from global football star to the presidency follows another historic milestone for Liberia, the region, and the world – the administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state.

But the symbolism of Sirleaf’s presidency has not translated into greater gender equity for the majority of Liberia’s women, who continue to be disadvantaged by inadequate or poorly implemented laws and discriminatory customary practices. In few areas is the gender gap more pronounced than in land and inheritance rights, as a recent USAID/Landesa study shows. This leaves women significantly disadvantaged in accessing a critical tool for wealth creation, and undermines Liberia’s progress in economic and social development. In a country still emerging from the turmoil of the 1989-2003 Liberian Civil War and the 2014 West Africa ebola outbreak, the consequences of continuing with this status quo could be severe.

President Weah, in a recent speech in Brussels, rightly identifies Liberia’s laws on property rights and land ownership as among those that marginalize and discriminate against women. With debate over the country’s Land Rights Bill about to enter its fifth year, the opportunity to reform its land laws and protect women’s rights is already before Liberia’s government. By recognizing women’s rights to land in both formal and customary settings, Liberia can move toward greater social and economic development for all Liberians.

Landesa, a global land rights organization with more than 50 years of experience in policy reform, advocacy, and legal implementation, began working in Liberia in 2010.

 

Tyler Roush,
Sr. Communications Manager, Landesa,

[email protected]

Seattle, Wash., USA

 

 

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