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Filling the Legal Void? Experimental Evidence from a Community-Based Legal Aid Program for Gender-Equal Land Rights in Tanzania

By: Valerie Mueller, Lucy Billings, Tewodaj Mogues, Amber Peterman, Ayala Wineman

Abstract: Gender disparities continue to exist in women’s control, inheritance, and ownership of land in spite of legislation directing improvements in women’s land access. Women are often excluded from traditional patrilineal inheritance systems, often lack the legal know-how or enforcement mechanisms to ensure their property rights are maintained, and often lack initial capital or asset bases to purchase land through market mechanisms. Community-based legal aid programs have been promoted as one way to expand access to justice for marginalized populations, through provision of free legal aid and education. Despite promising programmatic experiences, few rigorous evaluations have studied their impacts in developing countries. We evaluate the effect of a one-year community-based legal aid program in the Kagera Region of northwestern Tanzania using a randomized controlled trial design with specific attention to gender. We measure impacts of access to legal aid on a range of land-related knowledge, attitude, and practice outcomes using individual questionnaires administered to male and female household members separately. Effects were limited in the short term to settings with minimal transaction costs to the paralegal. Treatment women in smaller villages attend legal seminars and are more knowledgeable and positive regarding their legal access to land. Cost-effectiveness analysis shows that the costs of bringing about these changes are moderate. The difference between the impact of the intervention on men and on women is narrowed when taking into account the gender-differentiated paralegal effort, and thus costs, allocated to women and men.

Keywords: legal aid, gender, land rights, Tanzania

Notable Replies

  1. Glad it was helpful! Very interesting addition to the limited evidence studies we have.

  2. Gideon says:

    Thank you ! I have seen all your concern on the legal empowerment and hopefully all what I will recommend will be concerned. The Activities that I do mainly are concerned with land matters, family, contracts issues in general and many others which are mainly concerned with Law. Therefore this is the exposure that I have decided to share with you.

  3. Wonderful! KAPAO is going from strength to strength in the network. It’s so great to see so many of you here. I do hope you decide to hang out in the forum and contribute to discussions. You can have @AndrewExavery and your colleagues show you around! I suggest you start in #tanzania topics and of course #land. Given your interest in land matters, I suggest you download and use this guide linked below.

  4. Gideon says:

    It is good to hear from you, land disputes concerns different people, but what I know women are mostly discriminated on their rights particularly to own the land in communal societies.
    Our Constitution of Tanzania shows how every person is free and equality before the law how is applied, in some articles of the Constitution stipulates that, therefore through amendments on land laws of Tanzania we continue to use that knowledge to educate the public

  5. Hi Gideon. Glad to see you are starting to log in regularly - that is the best way to stay up to date with the community. Note that you are replying privately here - I suggest you take some time to explore community discussions, especially in #land and #tanzania. There are also some interesting topics about the Kenya constitution which you may weigh in on with your experience from Tanzania - see below.

  6. Gideon says:

    It will be good, to make the direct connection with the public posts so that we can have the same interests on land disputes by sharing with ours in #tanzania

  7. HI Gideon - thanks for checking in again today. I have gone ahead and moved the private conversation you and I were having into this public topic. The topic was posted originally two years ago but is about women’s rights and land in northwestern Tanzania. I think you will be interested!

    I know KAPAO works in Arusha so a different part of Tanzania than that covered by this research, but perhaps you can tell us the extent to which these learnings reflect your experience.

    Here’s the link to the report again:

  8. Gideon says:

    It is true that out customary laws did not allow women to inherit land neither to sell it the same… But due to women awareness and women’s rights particularly on the situation of owning land. The Constitution of Tanzania stipulates that everyone is equal before the law, but the the land Act of Tanzania stipulates under s. 24 that every person has the right to own the land… There different case laws reflecting denying women right to own property particularly land… One of them is Attorney general v Elizabeth Stephan trace it Web

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