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Digest 3: Dear participants,

Digest 3:

Dear participants,

What a great range of contributions we have had over the last few days, thank you everyone for sharing your knowledge!

It seems to me that one of the key issues emerging is co-ownership of land for spouses and how to promote it, especially at the village level where tradition stipulates otherwise. An added complication is that many couples do not register their married status. It is the beliefs and attitudes of people on the land, including of women themselves, that many of our contributors mention as a major obstacle to change.

Other important points made included:

-          Mere access to land is not the same as secure land rights, which imply control and usually ownership. In Nepal, there has been an increase in titles in the name of women due to the tax waiver, yet questions remain on whether women truly control the land in their name, in a context where customary practices are still predominant. Women’s organisations can contribute to changing attitudes, as can government. (Pabita Sharma).

-          In India, similarly, secular laws that guarantee women’s equal rights are blocked by the biggest obstacles: religion and culture. Even farmers’ organisations do not define women as farmers because they fear that this would make women eligible to inherit agricultural land. One suggestion made is to promote group farming for women, i.e. for the commons to be managed by women, giving them bargaining power in the community (Vidya Bushan Rawat).

-          If women are being denied basic human rights, like deciding whom to marry and how many children to have, investing in land reforms that give equal rights to women may result in land being managed by a male relative, even if the title is in the woman’s name. One suggestion is to put all such titles in the name of husband and wife (Tanveer Arif).

-          The recognition of women’s land rights in law – regardless of age, marital status, and motherhood – is a crucial first step but not sufficient. Such laws are often not implemented, particularly in patrilineal inheritance systems, and women are still strongly discriminated in their access and ownership of productive resources on the ground (Laura Berger). Enforcement should be more effective, for instance in terms of inheritance rights of the girl child (S. Sakamma). Education from a young age is of summary importance to change attitudes towards women as landowners and farmers (Eileen Wakesho), including of women themselves to overcome a “mental attitude of submission” (Gaby Gomez-Garcia)

-          One of the most relevant laws when it comes to women’s land rights is succession law, as women, for instance in Uganda and much of Eastern Africa, continue to acquire land mainly through inheritance – yet the girl child and widows are disadvantaged or ignored in inheritance. Making such laws gender-neutral could contribute hugely to women’s empowerment (Robert Bogere, Laura Berner).

-          Increasing women’s awareness of laws that guarantee their rights can have a huge impact if information is disseminated in an accessible manner and can reduce the “social taboo” of women controlling land (Laura Berger).

-          Increasing the representation of women in decision-making at all levels, administrative and political, is extremely important and strengthening women’s leadership is key to achieve this (Shah Mobin)

-          There should be special provisions for single women, widows, women from the most marginalised sections of society to be given preferences in land redistribution – a kind of affirmative action (Vidya Bushan Rawat).

-          The land rights of indigenous peoples are complex: they may have a common property title, but internally, land is distributed – and the community rights can act as a shield behind which the lack of recognizing women’s rights disappears from view leaving them in a vulnerable position. In Bolivia this is one of the main problems that remains to be addressed (Gaby Gomez-Garcia).

-          Paying attention to social and gender dynamics benefits the entire community: Women pastoralists have an important role in the sustainable management of natural resources, and working with women, including through the establishment of women groups aimed at enhancing participation in decision-making, has contributed to improving the knowledge of sustainable resource management (Ykhanbai)

-          In the move toward commercial agriculture, women are more vulnerable to losing their feeble rights, often pushing them to take up employment for low wages and in bad conditions (in Bangladesh); women are also increasingly moving to urban areas (in Bolivia)

-          Public investment in land, e.g. for infrastructure, as other pressures on land, continues to have a strong impact on women as they are seldom consulted as landholders and do not receive compensation, this makes them dependent on other (male) family members goodwill (Laura Berner).

-          Women’s land rights in the context of climate change was another important issue raised – women react and adapt differently and thus responses to climate change need to take women’s needs into account (wikigender).

On the role of women’s organisations, our participants agree that it is a crucial one, which is very encouraging:

  1. in Bolivia women’s organisations had an important role in instigating building broader movements, for instance the Assembly of the Guarani people (Gaby Goméz Garcia). In Nepal, similarly, strong women’s movements played a key role in empowering (grassroots) women and influencing national policy, in support of progressive political forces (Keshab Dahal);

  2. in DR Congo, women defend their land rights by three means: women leaders advocating through conferences and workshops to which decision-makers, including customary leaders, are invited; through NGOs advocating with land administration institutions to secure titles for women; and NGOs working to disseminate the content of legislation in a format accessible to women, because women that are informed will claim their rights. (Dismas Biringanine);

  3. in Mozambique, incremental work on raising women’s awareness of their legal rights and the training of paralegals (in a context in which custom prevails over laws that recognise and defend women’s rights over land) shows that “changing the culture” is possible! (Marianna Bicchieri);

  4. in Guatemala, women have mobilised for their land rights by participating in national level advocacy work to influence the formulation of the Rural Development Law, to include, for instance, co-ownership. The participation of women’s organizations in agricultural policy here lead to more equal outcomes (Rosanna).

Examples of policies and instruments that promote women’s land rights were provided from Bolivia, India, Kenya, Nepal, Rwanda, Tanzania and Tajikistan. Please see the individual posts for more detail. You can also reply directly to any of the posts below if you have comments or questions!

Finally, if you want to check what references there are to women’s land rights in international conventions and treaties, please check these posts we made recently on the Land Portal:

This discussion will continue until Monday, so please continue to contribute. After that, you can always sign u to the Land Portal to continue sharing information!

Best, Sabine


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