A Pathways Woman Blocks a Land Grab: The Story of Naomi Mwale

malawi8 A Pathways Woman Blocks a Land Grab: The Story of Naomi Mwale

Naomi Mwale, 49, lives in Kapyola village Traditional Authority Njombwa in Kasungu district in Malawi. Born in a family of four, with two brothers and a sister, Naomi comes from a Chewa clan. She is happily married to Mr.Olwin Mwale,  a primary school teacher, and together they have four children. In addition to her husband’s job as a teacher, the family grows various crops including groundnuts, soya, tobacco, and maize.

Naomi joined the Pathways project in 2013 where she acquires knowledge and skills on groundnut and soya production. She decided to join Pathways after she saw the benefit of collective selling of farm produce.Through her participation in the Farmer Field and Business School (FFBS) activities, her knowledge and self-confidence improved. She is able to negotiate in various spaces including at home and in the community.

Recently, the community leader of her area took away the land her late father and mother left for Naomi’s family because the Chewa culture requires that all children should go to their mother’s home once the father dies. Traditionally, Chewas believe that children belong to the mother so that when the father dies, children and their mother should go back to the mother’s original home. Barely a year after Naomi’s father’s death,  her father’s relatives started asking her family to go back to her late mother’s home in T/A Njombwa in the same district. Naomi’s father, before he died, owned twelve hectares of land, which he left for his children. Although the land belonged to Naomi and her siblings, an uncle of Naomi’s father, who also happens to be the village head, distributed half of this land to other relatives, such as Naomi’s aunt and others. As if this was not enough, in 2013 the uncle sold the remaining half to other people in the village without the consent of Naomi and her siblings. Since Naomi and her husband do not stay in the village but close to the school where her husband teaches, the brothers were afraid to stop their father’s uncle from snatching the land.

However, when Naomi got the news she gathered her courage and went to confront the chief in 2014. Her brothers refused to accompany her to the chief as they were afraid. Alone, she tricked the chief by telling him that she had come to open her farm on her remaining piece of land. Although the chief (her uncle) resisted, she went to the people who had bought the land and told them to get their money back from the chief. Because of this pressure, the chief ended up exchanging the land with his own land, which was not being used. Later, the chief came to apologize to Naomi for his wickedness and they now live in harmony.

Naomi owed her courage to FFBS dialogues and various leadership roles in her producer group, which helped build her confidence to speak about this issue. Naomi is a role model as she has also assisted some of her friends who complained to her about gender-based violence to speak up and get help from relevant places. Asked if she harbors any aspirations regarding fighting for other women’s rights in the community, district, and country at large, Naomi said that she would like to continue fighting for women’s rights if she is aware of any infringement.