Women’s access to land and household bargaining power: a comparative action-research project in patrilineal and matrilineal societies in Malawi

WOLREC undertook this action research in order to enhance women’s bargaining power through improved access and control over land in the patrilineal and matrilineal communities in Southern and Northern Malawi. For WOLREC, as an action-orientated NGO, the exact nature of the relationship between women’s bargaining power in the household and their access to, and control over land is key to deciding which interventions improve poor rural women’s access to economic justice.

Malawi, with its dual matrilineal and patrilineal customary ownership system, offers action researchers a rare opportunity to investigate the relationship between land ownership and intra-household bargaining power, and thus to inform policy debates in poor and developing countries on how to secure women’s access to assets that would improve their lives and the lives of their children.

WOLREC’s research aimed at:

  • Examining the co-existence or overlapping of customary and statutory laws, practices and norms that govern women’s access and control to/over land within patrilineal and matrilineal contexts
  • Assessing the relationship between women’s access to land and household bargaining power and compare how this varies in matrilineal and patrilineal contexts.
  • Supporting and enhancing the agency of women to influence gender sensitive changes in policy and practice.