African Journal of
History and Culture

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Hist. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6672
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJHC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 171

Full Length Research Paper

Women’s right to resource access in Northern and Central Ethiopia: A historical survey of land tenure system from the 13th to 20th century

Tamrat  Haile
Haramaya University, Ethiopia. 
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 07 June 2013
  •  Published: 30 September 2013



This article attempted to examine how the evolution of land tenure system in north and central Ethiopia historically resulted in unequal resource accesses as far as gender relations are concerned. The article is an outcome of historical research and the researcher has employed a qualitative research method. Accordingly, written historical documents related to the study were consulted carefully and important secondary sources were also referred to. Having analyzed the historical evolution of land tenure system, the study also tried to indicate that the question of access to land had not only been an economic issue, but also a political and cultural one at the state level for many centuries. As this study unraveled, in Ethiopia for at least two millennia, both the acquisition and inheritance of land had been highly patriarchal because the state mobilized the military who usually happened to be men to expand its territory. Hence, land was occupied and defended mostly by men. As the usual habit of the patriarchal system elsewhere, the claim to possession of land was based on belonging to a descent line of an original father who happened to be the first to occupy the land. Since unlike men, women usually did not get the chance to participate at the line of military confrontations that were launched for territorial expansions and land acquisitions, they were deprived of the right to land access. Consequently, this land tenure system in the 13th to 20th century Ethiopia resulted in the creation of a deep rooted gender biased socio-political structure that denied women the access to important economic, political and social privileges.


Key words: Land tenure, sïrit, gender relations, rïst, gult, militarism, Ethiopian women.