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Fighting land corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa: Widows tell their story

The land my husband and I farmed on has been taken away from me... when I appealed to the Tindana I found him drinking with the same people who evicted me from the land.”

– Video project participant

Land corruption is a major problem in Sub-Saharan Africa. Whether it’s a shady deal between private investors and local authorities, citizens having to pay bribes to secure title deeds, or customary laws that deny women their land rights, land corruption hits the poor and marginalised hardest.

Food insecurity and an increased risk of conflict are some of the consequences of land corruption. For, so long as access to information and justice in the land sector is limited and citizens are left out of decision-making processes about the land they tend, corruption will thrive.

We believe that if citizens are given a voice to speak out and demand action from those who abuse their land rights, change is possible.

Here is a video made with 10 widowed women from Kulbia, a village in the eastern part of Ghana.

In this village, customary laws dictate that when a woman’s husband dies, the land they both worked on is given to male-headed households. The film documents the corruption and abuse that denied the women their livelihood. It also shows how the local land custodian, or Tindana, eventually agrees to support the women’s rights.

The aim of this project was to enable community members to document land issues affecting them, so they can push for change in traditional practices and, ultimately, put an end to the corruption and abuse they face. Because land corruption affects men and women differently, there has to be a gender-sensitive approach.

The video was screened to the public at the local women’s resource centre so everyone could see the commitments made by Tindana. We are working on more of these participatory films to document the damaging effects of land corruption.

Transparency International is taking part in the World Bank Land and Poverty conference this week, where we’ll present evidence of the effects of land corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa and call on the international community to recognise it as a serious threat to livelihoods which needs urgent attention. Our work on corruption and land is looking for new solutions to change people’s lives. Click here to read about a small grants programme that is making a difference in Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The participatory video was made possible by a joint partnership between the Ghana Integrity Initiative, local partner organisation Widows & Orphans Movement and InsightShare, a UK-based community development organisation.

Image: InsightShare / Transparency International

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