Women’s Property Rights and Gendered Policies: Implications for Women’s Long-term Welfare in Rural Tanzania

    1. Study Information


      This section discusses Amber Peterman’s 2011 article, “Women’s Property Rights and Gendered Policies: Implications for Women’s Long-term Welfare in Rural Tanzania.”1

      This study evaluates the effects of community-level women’s property and inheritance rights on women’s economic outcomes using a 13-year longitudinal panel from rural Tanzania. In the preferred model specification, inverse probability weighting is applied to a woman-level fixed effects model to control for individual-level time invariant heterogeneity and attrition. The study uses data from Kagera Health and Development Survey (KHDS) a longitudinal panel from rural northern Tanzania collected over 13 years from 1991-2004.

    2. Questions posed
      • Does granting women property and inheritance rights improve economic outcomes for women?
    3. Description of intervention

      In 1999, a legal change shifted land administration to the village level, where the community is responsible for registration, adjudication, titling, and land disputes. This change followed a post-independence period of confusion over ambiguous and conflicting laws around land ownership. After this legal change, changes occurred in community-level variation of customs over time.

      Tanzania’s Law of Marriage Act of 1971 recognizes married women’s rights to ‘acquire, hold and dispose of property, whether moveable or immovable. The right was extended to all women, regardless of marital status under section 3(2) of the Land Acts of 1999, which recognizes the right of every woman to ‘acquire, hold, use and deal with land to the same extent and subject to the same restriction as the right of any man’, and a number of other spousal rights. However, the Land Acts did not alter existing laws governing women’s inheritance of land2. Even without a change in the inheritance law, the changes in custom following the changes to the Land Acts, which gave women rights to land, had a positive impact on women’s ability to inherit land.

    4. Context of findings

      The land reforms stipulated that women are to be represented in land administration bodies and the law protects women’s rights to co-ownership of land as well as the individual right to acquire, hold, sell, and use land. These concessions were the result of advocacy and public debate lead by the Gender Land Task Force (GLTF).

      In Kagera, land is traditionally governed by the clan, namely the Haya and Nyambo tribes in the north and the Subi, Sukuma, Zinza, and Hagaza in the south. The Haya make up the majority of the sample and are patralinal and historically banana and coffee farmers. Upon marriage, bride price is paid from the bride’s family to the groom’s family, and women are expected to leave their family and reside in the village of their husband’s household. According to the Core Welfare Indicator questionnaire in rural Kagera, three-quarters of household heads classify as agricultural.

    5. Key findings

      Findings suggest that women’s property and inheritance rights are significant in promoting individual economic advancement for all women, especially in the realms of employment and earnings. These findings are based on changes in community-level variations of customs over time after a change in constitutional arrangements in land administration, and are not a result of strictly exogenous policy change.

      Women who live in communities with high levels of women’s property and inheritance rights (WPIR) are more likely to engage in non-agricultural, self-employed work and have higher savings and higher individual and household expenditures.

    1. Peterman, A. (2011) Women’s Property Rights and Gendered Policies: Implications for Women’s Long-term Welfare in Rural Tanzania, The Journal of Development Studies, 47:1, 1-30.

    2. Dancer, Helen (2017) An equal right to inherit? Women's land rights, customary law and constitutional reform in Tanzania. Social and Legal Studies, 26 (3). pp. 291-310. ISSN 1461-7390