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Announcing the Launch of the Research Consortium on Women’s Land Rights

We are pleased to announce the launch of the Research Consortium, a new powerful hub for the collection, sharing, and exchange of knowledge on how to effectively advance women’s land rights. We know women’s land rights matter, and the Research Consortium is designed to help us figure out how to ensure these rights are realized.

Twenty years ago, only a small number of researchers and practitioners working in the field of land rights pushed for women, as well as men, to have secure land and property rights. But over time, research showed that women’s land rights were good for the whole family and community, that women’s land rights would improve the overall economy, agricultural productivity, and the lives of women who were widowed, or abandoned, or divorced. Unfortunately, in the meantime, large, donor-funded land projects were documenting rights to land around the world.

Documentation of land rights was focused at the household level—the goal was a household land certificate or title, very often in the name of the male head of household. Titles had one signature line, all-male meetings were held to inform the community of the process and value of titling, and men showed up in the fields when land was being demarcated. Women worked in the fields but very often did not have control over what to plant, how to market it, or how to spend the earned income.

I didn’t think about women’s land tenure security as separate from the household until around the year 1999. During that year and the next, I focused on talking to women farmers in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Uganda, and India. In most countries, women were almost entirely excluded from the land reform process, even though the stated goal of the land reform was secure land rights for those working on agricultural land. While men’s land tenure security was improving, in many instances women’s land rights were becoming less secure.

Things are different now. The phrase “land tenure security” is almost always followed by “especially for women” in RFPs and project documents. Women’s land tenure security shows up in three of the SDGs. Now, all over the world, people who believe in the importance of women’s land rights are trying to make those rights legally and socially enforceable.

We turn now to the how–how do we do this in the face of cultural norms that are part of a much larger system of community organization and distribution of wealth, but do not give land rights to women? We know it’s difficult, and there is insufficient evidence to tell us what works, when, where, and how.

The Research Consortium, which launched this week, is intended to contribute to the body of literature and practice which tries to understand the answers to those questions. The RC is a hub for the collection, sharing, and exchange of knowledge on how to effectively advance women’s land rights. Through the hub, we will identify gaps in knowledge and help develop a common agenda for research so that learnings can more easily be compared, shared, and applied. The hub will curate information so it is easily accessible, promote new research, and connect to those who seek to make a difference in women’s land tenure security.

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