Women’s land rights project: Opportunities and challenges
Land is one the keys to building better lives and equality for poor rural women in the developing world. Yet in many places, women's rights to land tenure are still not recognized or respected. Frequently, for example, husbands control land that legally belongs to their wives, or women are blocked from access to land they inherit from relatives.
Since 2008, the Women's Land Rights Project has worked to strengthen women's land rights, and thereby reduce rural poverty, by bringing these issues into the mainstream of IFAD's programmes.
At all levels within IFAD, the project raises awareness about women‘s land rights and their implications for poverty reduction. Among other objectives, it aims to increase staff expertise and facilitate research and strategic planning towards strengthening women's rights to use, control and transfer land.
The project has also conducted a series of case studies in the field to investigate how IFAD integrates women's land rights into its operations. Summaries follow below; the accompanying links open PDF documents with further details on each case.
Summaries follow below; the accompanying links open PDF documents (and one video) with further details on each case.
Against a backdrop of vulnerability in rural areas of Burundi – where many women are unaware of their land rights – the Transitional Programme of Post-Conflict Reconstruction works to restore livelihoods, build social capital, and promote dignity and food security in poor communities. In conjunction with the Ministry of Justice, the programme sponsors several "clinics" that disseminate legal information, encouraging rural women to fight discrimination and exercise their rights in land cases involving family relations and inheritance.
Poor rural women are among the most vulnerable people in El Salvador, where the Reconstruction and Rural Modernization Programme was launched in 2003 to aid areas stricken by earthquakes two years earlier. Women's land tenure was not initially a central theme of the programme. The issue had to be addressed, however, when women – a large segment of the target population – were unable to benefit from an investment fund for rural economic development because they had no access to land.
In Niger, women's land rights have long been protected by law and custom. But due to pressure on the land, these protections have weakened over time. As a result, farming has been "defeminized" in some areas, where women can no longer cultivate their own fields. The Pilot Project for Land Security – implemented by local partners – was established to develop and test an accessible, flexible mechanism for the acquisition of land titles by vulnerable smallholder farmers, including women.
Although Rwandan law guarantees women's rights to land tenure, traditional practices still lead to gender discrimination. Consequently, many women are unable to own, control or inherit land. The Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development works to increase community awareness of land rights, especially for rural women who depend on land for their livelihood. One key area of intervention is land registration, which gives wives an opportunity to secure their property rights to land that is registered in the names of both spouses.
Despite equal-rights legislation on the books in Tanzania, customary norms continue to limit rural women's ownership and control of land. The Sustainable Rangeland Management Project – implemented by the International Land Coalition with technical support from IFAD – was set up in 2009 to help secure women's land rights through the Village Land Use Planning process. Support for gender equity is essential to the viability of this process, which requires community-level plans for the use of land and natural resources in rural areas.
In November 2010, the Women's Land Rights Project organized a one-day workshop in Mozambique to share knowledge and lessons learned about securing women's rights to land tenure. Participants from various regions presented case studies (including some of those listed above) and discussed their findings. With a focus on both opportunities and challenges, the workshop was part of the project's broader aim: to foster regional and country-level dialogue, and develop effective strategies and programmes, advancing women's land rights as a key to rural poverty reduction.
Synthesis report: English
The Women's Rights Land Project has also compiled a report synthesizing the various case studies on securing women's land tenure. The report illustrates the contrasts and commonalities among projects supported by IFAD in different countries and contexts.
Note: IFAD, the Belgian Fund for Food Security, the Government of Norway and FAO have provided financial support to implement the activities outlined in these case studies.