Urmilla Bob

Date of Graduation


Document Type



The South African land reform program is aimed at redressing inequalities in access to land and security of tenure. The intention is to redress the racially biased land policies of the past by developing a long-term national land reform program. Land reform is viewed as one of the key means for positively changing people's lives. The land reform program has identified specific beneficiaries that are to be targeted in particular projects. Poor women and rural people are the key groups to be targeted. This study provides a gendered analysis of the land reform program. In particular, the incorporation of women's needs and aspirations as well as the impact of land reform initiatives on women's lives are carefully considered. In this regard, the ability of land reform to empower women is appraised. The ability to enhance women's status, increase their productive potential and decrease their reproductive responsibilities are also key focus areas. To enable a critical examination of the above issues, field work was conducted in three Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands communities. Each community represented the three components of the land reform in South Africa: restitution (Baynesfield), redistribution (Ekuthuleni) and tenure reform (Boiling Fountain). A variety of qualitative and quantitative methods were used including a questionnaire survey, gendered activities' profiles, venn diagrams, ranking exercises and gender/mental mapping. There is a dearth of literature that conceptualizes the complex relationships between women and land. Despite this neglect, three frameworks inform this study. These are the empowerment approach to gender planning and development, the bargaining approach and the feminist political economy approach. In keeping with many gender geographers, a multi-theoretical/multi-conceptual approach is employed. Each framework provides some insight into the topic under investigation. Together they provide a richer understanding of the relationships between women and land. A gendered critique of the land reform process in South African rural areas is both timely and necessary. African women remain central to production and reproduction in rural areas. Resolving the land crisis in a gender sensitive manner is fundamental for peace, transformation and democratization in South Africa.