Land use rights and gender in Ovamboland, North- Central Namibia, since the 1930s
AbstractIn agrarian economies arable land is the most important form of property and productive resource, so that access to land defines the political and social status of a member of society. This paper examines changes in property and particularly land use rights in North-Central Namibia, paying special reference to gender inequality in access to land. The problem is approached by exploring the coping strategies of widowed and divorced persons after the dissolution of their marriage. Where property rights and gender inequality have traditionally been investigated on the basis of administrative records, survey data or oral information, this paper approaches such problems from a new perspective, through life histories of the Christian population transcribed from parish registers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia. Linking of the parish register data to anthropological, ethnographic, socio-economic and cultural information markedly widens our scope for discussing rights over communal lands. The paper shows that remarriage was a real solution for many widows and divorced women in the 1930s and 1940s if they were at the best childbearing age. A dramatic
decrease in the remarriage rate occurred from the mid-1950s onwards, however, which was related to socio-economic changes in society.