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FAO Justice for Widows and Orphans Project Zambia Law Development Commission
A National Workshop on women's property rights and livelihoods in the context of HIV/AIDS in Zambia
Co-organised by Justice for Widows and Orphans Project, Zambia Law Development Commission and FAO

Women’s property rights and livelihoods in the context of HIV and AIDS

Report of the National Conference

25 to 27 January 2006
Lusaka, Zambia

Edited by Kaori Izumi
FAO Sub-Regional Office for Southern and East Africa

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Executive Summary

The context of the plight of widows and orphans is of extreme vulnerability to property grabbing, dispossession and destitution on the death of a husband. This situation is exacerbated in the context of HIV and AIDS. The victims often lack the power to seek legal and social redress to their situation. It is against a background of continued injustices faced by women and children that the workshop on Women’s property rights and livelihoods in the context of HIV and AIDS was convened in Lusaka, Zambia in January 2006.

The workshop was a creative blend of different people and experiences from Zambia and in the region1. The participation of magistrates and lawyers, members of the police, delegates from NGOs, Community Based Organisations (CBOs), activists and academics along with widows and orphans provided an effective mix of people seeking to find solutions. As such the workshop sought to find practical solutions that are workable and thus make rights a reality. The workshop provided every opportunity for this, including as it did moving experiences and powerful testimonies from widows, orphans, and from a Ugandan woman living positively with HIV and AIDS. It was also evident that much good work has been undertaken by Zambian initiatives but these lack coordination and linkages resulting in duplication and inconsistent efforts on the ground.

Key distinctive outputs emanated from the workshop encompassing a press briefing summarizing the proceedings of the workshop as well as key recommendations with specific targets and timelines. Concrete steps on the Chilala case were immediately put in place to seek redress for her. Mrs. Chilala is a Zambian widow, aged 79, who has had 17 graves dug next to her home by her brother in law – because she refused to marry him and give up her property on the death of her husband in 1990.

According to Senior Chieftainess Nkomesha, “the Zambian Intestate Act has outlived its usefulness”. The Act has a number of gaps in terms of protecting the rights of widows and orphans. Specific recommendations regarding the amendment of the Act will be pursued by the Zambia Law Development Commission (ZLDC) incorporating the current challenges that widows and orphans are facing. Practical solutions have been sought in terms of linking property rights to livelihoods programmes. A range of “best practices”, spearheaded by community-based organizations and Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Zambia and in the region will be documented to allow for wide distribution with a clear dissemination strategy.

In closing, Qingsong Dong stated that as a policy maker, he had been revatilised to work at addressing issues of property and inheritance with much urgency due to the exposure of the people to the HIV and AIDS epidemic and their determination to respond positively.

  1. Region here means Southern and East Africa.

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