Amanda Richardson
Amanda Richardson

Author Archives: Amanda Richardson

Amanda has been working to improve the social and economic rights of women since 2008. She has extensive research, program design and analysis, project management, and public policy experience. Amanda has professional experience in India, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Nepal.

As We Turn Four We Want to Say Thank You!

As Resource Equity turns four, we are reflecting on what motivated us to begin, and why we continue: ensuring women’s rights to land and natural resources are at the center of our work.

We founded Resource Equity four years ago in order to center women in our work, and to ensure that women’s experiences, needs, and desires drive what we do. We know that secure land and resource rights are a critical building block that provide women, and their families and communities, the opportunity to prosper. However, for a long time, women’s voices have been excluded from land and resource rights reforms. We believe that many of the solutions to the challenges women face are found by starting with women, and by truly listening to them and including their perspective in everything that we do.

When economic development projects start with women, they benefit both women and men, but the reverse is not always true. In fact, development work often has unintended consequences. A project which gives money to households might see that money used to purchase alcohol instead of food. A change in a law to ensure that families get titles to land may result in women’s rights to land being extinguished in the process. Livestock given to women can be taken and sold by husbands who say that they own the land that was used to grow the fodder. Land given to landless women may not be used, because it is too far from home and the duties they have there, too barren, without water, or in an insecure place.

One way to foresee and forestall these consequences is to view people as people, not as projects, and to trust that they are normally the best judges of what is best for them. Even when we are constrained by funding and resources, we work to make sure that we talk to the people we are working with first, and that we work with partners in-country who know and care about women’s challenges and strengths.

Part of our work is to recognize and address the needs we can fulfill, then work to connect the communities we have committed to helping with other resources, and, most importantly, to ensure the women and men we are working with know that they are heard and that we are prioritizing their articulated needs.

But it also means we uncover needs we cannot solve or fund. Often, we know we could do much more if we had more time or resources. These needs are often for physical things, like picks and shovels, safety gloves, birth control, or school fees, or access to medical care, sanitation, and electricity. We know our work on land and resource rights aims for long term and sustainable benefits for people that rely on land to survive, including increased incomes and increased access to services. However, our work and these changes take time. In that time, the urgent needs that people face don’t go away.

Having worked in over 40 countries, we have insights into how to draft laws that work for women, design projects that provide women with the same opportunities as men, and advocate for policies that will improve women’s lives. However, work focused on women or gender is consistently underfunded, and funding is usually tied to particular goals or projects.

As we embark on our fifth year, we have set an ambitious goal: to raise $20,000 for our Impact Fund. Because it is not tied to a particular source of funding or a particular project, this fund gives us the flexibility to respond to immediate situations—the need to help a partner come up with language for a law that ensures women are included in decisions about resource use, for example—while also continuing to work for long term systemic change.

We are asking you to help us bridge some of the funding gap that we face in doing our work. You can read more about one particular set of communities in Uganda we are supporting on our fundraiser page here.

As we enter our fifth year, we want to thank you for supporting women’s land and resource rights. We truly believe empowered women change the world!

Amanda Richardson Signature
Renee Giovarelli Signature
Elisa Scalise Signature

Amanda Richardson

Renée Giovarelli

Elisa Scalise

Impact Fund

This year, our goal is to raise $20,000 for our Impact Fund to enable us to take advantage of opportunities to advance women's rights as they arise. Across the world, women’s rights to land and resources are key to increasing food security, reducing poverty, and mitigating conflict.


Help us reach our goal! 

What’s “Me Too” Got to do with it?

What’s “Me Too” Got to do with it?

As I reflect back on my eight years of experience working in the field of women’s land rights, I am struck most by the similarities I’ve found—not just among the women I’ve worked with and spoken to in the developing world, but among all the women I have met, everywhere.

In my work, I have the opportunity and privilege to speak with women, mostly from rural areas, in groups and individually. Whether in Kenya, India, or Ghana, women want basic, simple things: good nutrition, education, healthcare, and peace, for their families and for themselves. Frequently that means they need help securing their rights to the land they use, to ensure they will have a place to raise food and their children.

Women sometimes laugh at their struggles with their husbands or recalcitrant children. One group of women in Kenya told me that they’d like all of the men to be sent away for a year. That way, they said, they could get everything running smoothly without interference. The men could come back after a year if they promised to behave.

But, of course, at their root, these humorous conversations are not funny at all. Women can be held back by the men in their communities, and, more specifically, by long-standing patriarchal customs that prevent them from doing things like owning land or making financial decisions.

In our group conversations, women turn to me and say “you don’t have these issues in America,” or “in America, it’s different. You don’t have the same customs and traditions.”

In fact, historically, most countries had laws that not only kept women from owning property, but that effectively made them property themselves. It wasn’t until various Married Women’s Property Acts were passed in the nineteenth century that most married women in much of the English-speaking world were allowed to own property in their own names. And as the “Me Too” movement has shown, although laws have changed, women in the U.S. still fight to be heard, and believed, and respected as they do in the rest of the world.

So many men that were perceived as “good guys” have been exposed in the last few years as anything but good. It is easy to despair, and to feel negative about men in general. I have grappled with this in my years in this field as I regularly hear stories from women of beatings, of sexual assaults, of being chased off of land—almost always by men, and almost always told as if the stories are a routine part of life.

But, of course, there are many good men. In my work, I also see champions all the time. Male leaders who work to make sure women are included on leadership councils. Male politicians who work to make laws more equitable. Male community members who make space for women’s voices to be heard.

So, what does “Me Too” have to do with land rights? Plenty. At Resource Equity we are championing women’s land rights, and saying women need to be able to control their work and their income and their lives. We partner with men and women who believe that empowered women can change the world and we are creating meaningful change for women, men, and societies everywhere. It is only by acknowledging that there is an issue and by working together, regardless of gender, that we can create a more equitable society, for ourselves and for our children.

Women and Natural Resources: Our Experience at the World Bank Conference on Gender and Extractives

Women and Natural Resources: Our Experience at the World Bank Conference on Gender and Extractives

Last month I was fortunate to attend the inaugural World Bank Conference on Gender and Extractives. The event attracted attendees from civil society, government, and companies, and was an important forum for these diverse groups to engage in meaningful and valuable dialogue. I welcomed the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with others who understand the importance of centering gender in our natural resources work, as this dialogue is critically important to understanding the gaps and identifying promising strategies to realize gender equitable investments.

I was struck by the many commonalities across geographies. I heard, repeatedly, about the resistance people face when working on gender, such as having to make the case for why the issue is important or hearing the worry that working on gender deprioritizes other issues.

One important theme that emerged was the observation that, while we need cultural sensitivity and understanding, we shouldn’t let this be an excuse to not work on these issues. Rural women use land and natural resources to play a critically important economic role within their families and communities, yet extractives projects often exacerbate existing social and economic barriers that leave women less well-off and less able to cope with the changes that such projects bring. It is, therefore, vitally important that we ensure that extractives projects do not replicate these barriers, but find ways to work towards equity and equality.

In many presentations, I heard about policies that are good on paper but not in practice, such as consultation requirements that don’t actually engage all affected groups. The conclusion from these sessions is clear: policies are important, but without more—better assessments to support better-informed implementation, increased capacity, proactive efforts to give women a seat at the table—women are unlikely to share in the benefits of extractive investments and could end up worse off as a result of a project.

Alongside these lessons, we also heard some inspiring examples of empowerment. I was particularly struck by repeated examples of women’s groups, such as women’s savings groups and women-only cooperatives, offering a space for women to empower themselves and to increase their voice. This is something we have observed in our work on land and have captured in our Starting With Women approach. It was inspiring to see it work in the extractives context as well.

Reflecting back on the conference, two key themes resonate with me particularly strongly: the importance of feminism in natural resources and the importance of land as an issue. At Resource Equity, we are committed to centering women in our work and to actively working to change the patriarchal institutions which replicate inequality. We have also been working to draw out the links among gender, land, and natural resources, which you can read about in Gender, Land, and Extractive Development: Issues and Opportunities for Improved Understanding and Practice. To learn more about our work click here and to learn more about the World Bank’s work on Gender and Extractives click here.

International Widows Day and Women’s Land Rights

International Widows Day and Women’s Land Rights

Becoming a widow is a terrible experience, no matter who you are or where you live. But for some women, the loss of a husband is only the first in a series of losses. In addition to dealing with the pain and loneliness of losing a spouse, widows in many parts of the world are also dispossessed of their land and their homes, becoming outcasts from their communities.

Dispossession

In many places, women depend on men for access to the land on which they rely for housing and for their livelihoods. When those relationships are interrupted, as when a husband dies, these women may be forced to leave their homes and their land. In fact, widows around the world are routinely forced off the land they rely upon because their rights to that land were tied to their husbands.

A woman who moved to her husband’s land when she married, for instance, may be considered a stranger to the community in which she built her life. Because she is not considered by her community to have independent rights over the land she uses, she may have no recourse if her in-laws or other family members decide to remove her from that land—a removal that is often done by force.

This is unfortunately common. I have met with women in countries from Kenya to Liberia to India who have shared stories of such dispossession. Widows without children are especially vulnerable, but even those with children may be forced to leave, forced to marry the brother of a husband, or even forced to give up those children.

In many of these countries, the majority of women are in customary marriages which may not have all of the protections of registered marriages, such as co-ownership of property. Their land may be considered “family land,” under control of the head of the family. Even in cases where there are strong legal protections, they may not know the law, or may be unable to access a lawyer or the court system.

In these places, widows in mourning are forced to fight off relatives or cope with sudden homelessness. Older widows lose the land they have worked on and developed all their lives, while younger widows may struggle to find a way to house and feed their children.

On this International Widows Day we are reminded of the importance of securing women’s land rights. We work towards a day when no widow is dispossessed because she loses her partner. By changing laws, changing practices, and raising awareness, we work to protect women and ensure they can enforce their rights. You can learn more about the work we do to secure these rights at resourceequity.org, and about widows in particular here.

Her Land Her Story and the Importance of Centering Women in our Work

Her Land Her Story and the Importance of Centering Women in our Work

On Friday, April 20th, I had the pleasure of participating in the Her Land Her Story webinar, co-hosted by the Cadasta Foundation, the Land Portal Foundation, the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. It was a wonderful chance to learn more about the Her Land Her Story campaign, which launched on International Women’s Day and ran until April 13th. It featured the stories of 27 different women from around the world to raise awareness of the importance of women’s land rights.

The panelists included representatives from Cadasta, Land Portal, Landesa, and Suelo Urbano. What struck me most was that all five of us, despite different backgrounds and different perspectives, had the same core message about how and why to secure women’s rights to land. To truly ensure that women’s rights are secure, we need to get both political and social buy-in, to pay attention to and respect culture, and to include the whole community from the beginning of any effort.

Most importantly, we must start with and include women. I presented on Resource Equity’s Starting with Women approach, which is a structured process for making sure women are never an afterthought in projects. Its core is about designing projects in a way that respects the autonomy and self-determination of women. Women’s needs and aspirations are the drivers of a project throughout its life.

We know that the approach of working with women, individually and in groups, and engaging the whole community works. Women themselves bring creativity and local perspectives to our work.

The next step is ensuring we have good, solid research behind us. Resource Equity’s Research Consortium is a hub for the collection, sharing, and exchange of knowledge. The ultimate goal of the Consortium is to effectively secure women’s land and resource rights around the world.

We are doing this by collecting the existing evidence on interventions, including what we know works, and curating that evidence, identifying where there are gaps, and sharing that curation on the website.

Most importantly, our aim is to create and sustain a thriving community of researchers and practitioners, with a shared language and framework for talking about evidence on women’s land tenure security.

This webinar and the Her Land Her Story campaign have been welcome reminders of the importance of centering women in our work. Visit our Starting with Women approach here and our Research Consortium here to learn more about how we do that.