Gender and Access to Land Ownership: Christian Reflection on the Experience of Malawian Widows

  • Gertrude A. Kapuma Zomba Theological College


Most women in Malawi encounter gender-based discrimination and violence when attempting to access land rights. Although legally land is transferred from parents to children, culturally in practical terms, land is either controlled by a brother or an uncle, leaving female members of the family with no decision-making powers. Upon the death of the husband, the widow loses property jointly held with the husband, as well as her own marital property to either the brother of the husband, or to her own brothers and uncles. Regardless of the many years spent in building their life together while enjoying the land they lived on and cared for together, unfortunately, the death of her husband leaves the widow with nothing. Lack of civic education makes many widows remain ignorant of the fact that the Malawian law protects them, and their land claims. This ignorance contributes to the suffering and impoverishment of many widows and leads some to live in acute poverty. The church has a special obligation to protect the rights of widows. It has an obligation to help empower women to secure land and the right to land so that widows can contribute to the larger community. Using a narrative approach, this article will demonstrate the difficulties faced by Malawian widows in terms of land claims. Current practices of inheritance and the ways widows are dispossessed will be uplifted through widows’ own stories about their lived realities. The article will conclude by proffering constructive proposals about how the church can empower widows to find solutions to these very real problems

Author Biography

Gertrude A. Kapuma, Zomba Theological College
Gertrude Aopesyaga Kapuma is a senior Lecturer in the Department of Practical Theology at Zomba Theological College in Malawi. She is also an Ordained Minister in the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP). Her research interests and publications focus on Pastoral Care and Counselling, Gender and Theology.