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Women Farm Workers and Land Redistribution in Zimbabwe
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
October 30, 2003

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There is no doubt in any thinking black Zimbabwean's mind that land redistribution was and still is necessary. Our war of liberation was all about redistributing productive resources that had been taken from us by the colonial settlers. However, as has already been articulated by most progressive civil society groups, the land reform programme should be transparent, equitable and benefit those (mostly black), people who needed it most.

A lot has been said about how chaotic, opaque and problematic the land reform project has been. The Zimbabwean government claims that the current problems the country is facing are all a product of its land reform exercise.

The name of land reform many ordinary black Zimbabweans have been violently assaulted, tortured, sexually violated, or imprisoned. The irony is that those who were the most marginalized, the most in need of land, have been at the receiving end of these violations. Those in whose name the 3rd Chimurenga has been waged are yet to taste the fruits of "liberation". Women are among those who are yet to see the benefits of land reform.

This presentation focuses on one group of women who should have been part of the beneficiaries of land redistribution. Women farm workers.

The situation of women farm workers before jambanja
Women farm workers are one of the most exploited, and vulnerable social group among other workers. Their situation was bad even before the land reform programme and has been worsened by the current crisis. Statistics and research show that:

  • Women are the bulk of non-permanent workers on farms. This is because women are not normally seen as workers in their own right. They are considered as part of a male-headed household and so their rights are often ignored.
  • Women account for less than 10 per cent of the permanent labour force in commercial farming. According to the Central Statistical Office (CSO), in 1999 the sector had 152,790 permanent male employees (90.3 per cent) and 16,460 permanent female employees (9.7 percent).
  • Female employees are mostly casual workers, constituting 55 per cent of casual labour. Female casual labour tends to be concentrated in the horticulture sector.
  • Women farm workers tend to be single heads of households. At national level, women head one in three households.

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