Minister of State in-charge of Public Procurement, Sarah Adwoa Safo, has told world leaders to do their best to let their respective countries affirm women’s right to property to ensure their economic autonomy.
“Effective access to ownership of property contributes to economic autonomy for women, which in turn enhances their bargaining power in households and socio-political spaces,” she noted.
Ms Safo, who is also the deputy majority leader of parliament, made this call when addressing a forum of world leaders on women’s property right in Iceland.
Commenting further on the issue, she said recognition and the acquisition of property had been undermined and tilted towards the most powerful in society.
According to her, it is sad to note that women own only an estimated 1-2 percent of all titled land worldwide – which in addition to other real properties, represents about 75 percent of a nation’s overall wealth.
The Ghanaian legislator observed that in this country for instance, despite women’s enormous contribution towards the agricultural sector – producing about 50 percent to 70 percent of food crop – they earn less than 10 percent of its (sector’s) incomes and have very limited access to land.
Ms Adwoa Safo noted, “Although statutory laws exist, property ownership and inheritance are regulated in practice by customary laws. The customary laws have greater influence than statutory laws. Some of these customary laws effectively deprive women of property right, particularly land and housing rights, both in their natal and marital clans. Customary laws, commonly based on traditionally conceived gender distinctions, give men greater rights than women over property. For every 10 units of land in Ghana, nearly 8 units are controlled by traditional leaders and family heads. The remaining two units are controlled by the state, although there is a negligible proportion of the land which are controlled by individuals who have acquired them through the customary freehold.”
According to her, although attempts are being made to address the challenges inherent in Ghana’s patrilineal system, the situation continues to persist because of cultural norms and values, as the practices are handed down from one generation to the other by oral history.
These underlying challenges, Adwoa Safo noted, require reforms, especially in the country’s land registration and tilting, removing constraints facing women access to economic opportunities and public education on the importance of granting unfettered property rights to women.