For Women by Women: Securing lands rights and female leadership in rural Zambia

by | Mar 6, 2019 | Insights | 0 comments

Based the current pace of development, it is estimated that it will take another 170 years to achieve gender parity within companies and business at large. This is particularly unsettling seeing as full gender parity in labour markets and throughout value chains could contribute with an additional $28 trillion (+26%) to the global annual GDP by 2025 – roughly the combined size of the economies of the United States and China today. While this development is long overdue to a certain degree in most countries, it becomes particularly important in emerging markets to accelerate economic and social development.

In this article, a total of five women are featured, all of whom have a connection with the company Medeem Zambia Ltd – either working in the company’s management team or benefiting from the company’s service as clients. Medeem is a social impact enterprise that provides an innovative and affordable, private sector driven solution to formalizing land rights for the world’s poor by issuing ParcelCertifcates. A ParcelCertificate is a document that combines survey grade mapping with client interviews to collect and organize evidence of land interests in a manner consistent with customary requirements. It formalizes land ownership and documents land size at an affordable cost.

Medeeem works in Peri-Urban areas and rural areas dominated by Chiefdom’s which are governed by Chiefs and characterized by small holder houses and families with land on which they cultivate for their livelihood. Their vision is to secure land rights across Zambia, thereby brining significant development by unlocking finance, agriculture and empowering women with the right as land holders.

Caroline Mufune, who originally joined Medeem in 2016 as a Business Development Manager, moved to the role of Operations Manager after a year and a few months later, she was promoted to the role of Senior Manager. Her current role involves supervising other managers, and developing business plans, project management and general operations work. 

According to Caroline, Medeem has given her an opportunity to apply her skills and knowledge given her background in urban and regional planning. She has not experienced any challenges to fit into the work environment at the company because the culture is built on gender inclusiveness and the belief that this is an ideal way to capture land related issues related to women.

“To climb up the company ladder all depends on hard work, which presents an opportunity for every one” Caroline Mufune, Senior Manager

Another reason for gender inclusion is the dynamism of the areas in which the company operates. The ParcelCert officers are mostly women since the women in the communities feel more comfortable talking to fellow women.

Francine B. Mashikini joined Medeem in 2016 as a ParcelCert Manager, and was after two years promoted to Field manager. She is currently working with field officers in Chiefdoms, opening new Chiefdoms and maintaining the business relationships within the Chiefdom.

To Francine, gender equality is the state of equal access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, for instance economic participation. She believes gender diversity is important as companies with gender diversity attract more diverse people, and people who consider gender have a wide variety of talent and skill’s poor to tap from. That said, she recognizes that opportunities are generally being withheld from women because of assumptions about gender roles.

“When recruiting we do 50/50 ensuring that gender is considered” Francine B. Mashikini, Field Manager

Musenge Mubamba joined Medeem in 2014 as a ParcelCert Officer. Two years after joining, she was promoted to a managerial position as Data Manager.  A year later, she was moved to a different position as Business Development Manager where she is currently in charge of ensuring growth for the business by performing roles such as partnership management and marketing. According to Musenge, her experience at the company has been very fruitful, since she has grown professionally within the organization.

She adds that people in the company have faced a number of challenges and opportunities within the organization however it is not based on their gender, because equal opportunities have been given to both male and female members of staff. She feels that their organization is gender inclusive because of the equal opportunities that are given to both males and females at the time of employment. Looking at the managerial makeup, the organization is gender balanced in terms of representation with three males and three females that make up the management team.

“Working for our company as a woman has been a good experience because I have never been treated differently based on my gender and I have been progressing in my career from the time I joined Medeem” Musenge Mubamba, Business Development Manager

The following sections will feature the two women who benefited from Medeem’s solution as clients, Margret Mwendabai and Constance Kangende, both of whom are part of Chief Liteta’s Chiefdom of Chibombo district. Medeem’s program in Chief Liteta’s Chiefdom began in July, 2017, after the Chief gave consent to issue ParcelCerts through Medeem’s program in order to provide security of tenure to land holders of Liteta Chiefdom. Chief Chamuka is one of the chiefs that has been giving land certificates through Medeem in order ensure secured tenure for his people. 

The story about how ParcelCert protected a widow

When Margaret Mwendabai of Chamuka Chiefdom in Chisamba district lost her husband, her biggest worry was her security over the parcel of land that she and her late husband had acquired many years before his death. Sadly, her fears turned to reality when a few months after her late husband’s death, she began having problems of encroachments on her parcel of land. She became very desperate because the parcel of land was the only property she had to sustain her family’s livelihood and to send her nine children to school. 

Besides the encroachments, things went from bad to worse when she began having problems with her late husband’s relatives who wanted to grab the land from her. “My late husband’s family wanted to keep the land to themselves. They had no regard as to where I was supposed to go with the children,” she narrated. Fortunately she heard news about Medeem’s work in the area.

“It came as an answered prayer from God in a desperate time.” – Margaret Mwendabai.

She was extremely excited when she heard that there was an organization called Medeem that was providing security of tenure by issuing out ParcelCerts to people living in traditional areas. She immediately began the process of acquiring a ParcelCert and became one of the first clients that Medeem had ever served in Chamuka Chiefdom.

“If it were not for Medeem’s work in Chamuka Chiefdom, my land would have been taken away by my in-laws and me and my Children would have been left homeless; but I am grateful for Medeem’s services as they helped me protect my land.” – Margaret Mwendabai.

Chief Chamuka used the ParcelCert to mediate over the dispute on Margaret Mwendabai’s land and ruled in her favor as she now lives peacefully on her parcel of land knowing that she has a document that protects her. The document does not only combine survey grade mapping with evidence of her interest in the land, but is also endorsed by signatures of the traditional authorities in her Chiefdom.  

The story about how the ParcelCert ensured security of tenure for a woman

A 30-year-old woman called Constance Kangende, from Mwachisompola village, under Chief Liteta’s Chiefdom is one of the small scale farmers who has benefitted from Medeem’s program in the area. Growing up in rural Zambia, Ms Constance had no idea that her deep-rooted passion for farming would enable her to serve her community as well as take care of her family. As a child her parents took care of her and her siblings through farming and taught them everything they had to know about the markets for small scale farmers. As a young girl she was so captivated by the all the farms around her area, and she saw them as a treasure.

Unfortunately the farm owners had no security of tenure and people kept on losing land due to lack of proper regulations. Little did she know that later on as she grew and started her own family consequently owning her own  land she would fall victim to yet another land dispute just like she witnessed growing up; a named church in her village kept on encroaching into her land and this sprung into a battle that she was slowly losing until she heard about a company called Medeem that secures traditional land in Zambia through processing and issuing a document called a ParcelCert to land owners which secures one’s land. At first it sounded too good to be true, because she had never heard about anything of its kind before.  She then did her research by talking to Medeem representatives and her village Headman, who confirmed that indeed, such a program was going on in her Chiefdom. In January, 2018, Ms Constance acquired a ParcelCert through Medeem and secured her parcel of land.

This ended all the disputes she had with the named church and she can now yield and harvest her crops peacefully and take care of her family. She urges everyone else who might be going through the same thing she went through and she also urges everyone who owns traditional land to go ahead and secure their land with Medeem and acquire a ParcelCert for protection of their land.

The story of Constance, shows the importance of a PercelCertificate as an empowerment tool that safe guides and protects the right to land productivity for women.