Women in sub-Saharan Africa are often thought to have lower social and economic status than men. Lesotho may be an exception to that rule, as the World Economic Forum and Foreign Policy have both made mention of Lesotho as a place where women seem to fare as well or better than men, based on metrics of health, education and economics. There are concerns about the sustainability of these metrics as many of Lesotho's men return home from work in South Africa's mining sector. Those concerns, in part, provoked a donor-led effort to push sweeping legislation through parliament intended to make land titling an easier process. Part of the logic of that legislation was to solidify the rights of women in the face of potential new claims and contestations from returning men.
This proposed dissertation seeks to determine women's standing in Lesotho through the lens of land access. Newly created structures must be navigated in order to gain a title to land, and this raises a vital question: what are women's chances of navigating these new structures and gaining access to land? The contestations and negotiations that will determine the answer to this question will take place on Land Allocation Committees, an elected body comprised of women, chiefs and politicians and the proposed research focuses on these Committees.
I anticipate that passage of new land legislation in Lesotho is altering women's ability to benefit from land. In addition to altering relations between men and women, I expect the new legislation to have altered the relationships between women and chiefs and between women of different socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds. This research will contribute to ongoing theoretical and practical debates about women in development, land titling and the role of customary authorities today.