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Sharing a new blog I have been working on for IIED.

(G)ender inequalities in land governance can be seen as the result of women not being involved in local decision-making processes around land. They are also connected to wider gender discrimination in local or cultural practices, and to attitudes in social hierarchies…. it clear how important it is to have a good understanding of the issues at a local level. For projects seeking to improve women’s access to land, exploring these local dynamics is key to addressing root inequalities.

Read the full piece here. 

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Sharing a new briefing I have been working on about gender equal land governance.

Discussions around gender equality in land governance in sub-Saharan Africa often highlight the fact that only a small percentage of women own land, and many projects addressing land and gender in the region focus on women’s ability to acquire land. But this framing does not fully convey the breadth of challenges women face in relation to land stewardship, such as involvement in decision making. Based on learning from an event that brought together 28 NGO practitioners and academics from East and West Africa, this briefing suggests that any attempt to tackle gender inequalities in land governance must also take into account local contexts and gender dynamics. Projects must start at a household level, put aside easy assumptions about customary practice, and — perhaps most crucially — ensure that women’s voices are solicited and heard.

Download the full briefing here.

women farmers

Securing a right to land for women, we expect to find that it will protect her economic security and also her livelihoods, as well as her rights in divorce and inheritance. We don’t often think it will also protect her right to say ‘no’. Yet, some studies highlight that securing a land right for a woman, goes far beyond the direct obvious benefits of secure tenure. These additional benefits include assuring control over her sex life.

A report by OSI, called Securing Women’s Land and Property Rights’ refers to research which makes distinct connections between securing control of economic assets, in particular land, as a important for women to also have control over their sex lives.

To give some examples:

  • One study from Western Kenya shows that the integration of women’s property and inheritance rights with HIV prevention and treatment reduces HIV risk.
  • Research in Kerala, India shows that 49 % of women with no property reported physical violence compared to only 7 % of women who did own property. This is an enormous difference.

These would both suggest that feeling secure about property and livelihood, make women also feel secure in her home and regards her emotional relationships.

A quote from Rasghida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, also brings this home:

“Inequality and sex-based discrimination with regard to land ownership and its effective control, is the single most critical contributor to violations of the economic, social and cultural rights of women among the agrarian economies of most developing countries.”

As does one from Caroline Sweetman, in a paper for Oxfam:

“Efforts to fight HIV and AIDS around the world are ineffective in protecting young women in particular from infection because they fail to focus sufficiently on the need for women to have control of economic assets if they are ever to gain control over their sex lives.”(Caroline Sweetman, ‘How Title Deeds Make Sex Safer: Women’s Property Rights in an Era of HIV,’ From Poverty to Power: Background Paper, Oxfam, 2008.)

It is easy to forget or overlook the links between issues such as land and reproductive rights, yet so enlightening when links like these are made. When we work in the NGO sector, we are all too often encouraged to focus on only one topic, with little time to explore the connecting issues. Yet, when you think about it, it makes so much sense: providing a woman with secure ownership and decision making power over the place where she lives and earns her livelihood, allows her to make empowered choices in other parts of her life and most especially inside her own home.

It makes we wonder, how can we highlight these links more often into our work? Or are there ways to strengthen these benefits by being aware of them?

Further Reading:

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