Elisa Scalise
Elisa Scalise

Author Archives: Elisa Scalise

Elisa has over 10 years of experience working on analysis and reform on property rights to land for women and men, including formal and customary land tenure regimes, land administration, land tenure regularization, land institutions, dispute resolution mechanisms, forest land tenure, and communal property.

Our Thoughts on the International Day of Rural Women

Our Thoughts on the International Day of Rural Women

There is not just one story for rural women—whether they are farmers, miners, mothers, or daughters. On October 15th it was the International Day of Rural Women, a day to reflect on the diversity of rural women, and to shine a spotlight on women who are part of the agrarian community.

Talking with female miners in Uganda recently, I learned how the lives of women who live in rural areas are impacted by so many different factors beyond their control—climate, weather, health, men, local markets, outside investors and speculators, laws, and government programs. These women, facing insecurity in their rights and their lives, must be resilient and inventive to survive.

In Mubende, for example, women were traveling great distances with their partners, their children, and their belongings to do petty trading in a gold rush town, offering local beer and food to the small scale miners that flooded the area in their thousands to benefit from the minerals in the soil. However, they were soon evicted, along with their families, by the landowners who had made a deal with a mining company giving them exclusive rights.

In Busiya, women were panning for gold where the takings were so slight that the landholders did not mind when the women came with their “pans,” because they knew that it would be no threat to their profit. Though these women were thankful for the gold because it allowed them to pay for school fees and clothing for their children, it came at a price. Some lost their rights to use land for cultivation because once gold was found their husbands, who were customary land owners, believed the potential of a lucrative gold find to have more value than what the women were earning by selling produces. To strengthen their rights, these women formed an association so that they could try to pool their funds and their labor to try to get by financially.

There were also the women who were from the semi-nomadic Karamoja region who were leading teams of laborers to break marble and limestone and fill huge trucks. They fed the workers, gave them refreshments, took care of their children, made deals with the buyers, and negotiated with truck drivers. Then these same women had to navigate a home situation in order to try and retain a share of their earnings from mining so they could pay for their family’s food, schooling, and healthcare.

We’ve written on the links between land, gender, and extractives and we have written about the importance of land rights for rural women who rely on agriculture to survive and meet their responsibilities as a mother, wife, sister, or head of household. In all of this, it can be easy to lose sight of the industry, the strategic thinking, the endurance, and strength that rural women draw from every day to make their life work. As shown elsewhere, there is no one story for rural women; perhaps the greatest tribute we can make to rural women every day is to truly recognize their ability to overcome endless obstacles and their daily struggles, and to learn from them.

When it Comes to Land Rights, Women Should Never be an Afterthought

When it Comes to Land Rights, Women Should Never be an Afterthought

In Northern Uganda, as elsewhere, women are rarely thought of first, especially when it comes to land. There is one woman’s story that comes to mind: Rosalyn (not her real name) was a widow. She bought land with her late husband when he was still alive, near the local trading center in Pader district. Now that he has died, her in-laws have taken the land.

Collective Lands: Making Progress for Women and Men

Collective Lands: Making Progress for Women and Men

We at Resource Equity have seen the ways securing and protecting people’s land rights leads to benefits for societies. The ongoing work being done to secure the collective land rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities is therefore much needed.

However, it is vital that this work be done in a way that is gender sensitive. We know that protecting women’s rights to land is good for women, for their families, and for their communities. This is why we produced the report for Landesa, Gender and Collectively Held Lands: Good Practices and Lessons Learned from Six Global Case Studies, aimed at helping people who are trying to protect collective rights to land in a way that’s gender sensitive. To be gender sensitive is to recognize that in many cultures, men and women have different rights, obligations, roles, and responsibilities regarding land. Most important of all, they often have different access to power and decision-making. This is very important in collective tenure systems, where individual rights can be less important than the right to be involved in governance of the group’s land.

One recommendation we made is that protecting collective land tenure systems in a gender sensitive way must include work on adapting cultural norms regarding gender. Although gender dynamics are everywhere in society, they’re largely invisible. They’re embedded in the norms, behavior, and attitudes that influence the behaviors of both men and women.

In the Kyrgyz Republic, for example, women did not think that getting involved in pasture management was worth their time because they believed management was solely about men’s work (i.e. fixing bridges and roads) and took them away from their work of tending to animals, selling dairy and wool products, and feeding their families. For this reason, women were not joining pasture management committees, despite a quota for 33% women. It took extra time and effort to convince women that pasture management decisions could serve their interests as well as those of men.

 

“Although gender dynamics are everywhere in society, they’re largely invisible. They’re embedded in the norms, behavior, and attitudes that influence the behaviors of both men and women.”

 

In Peru, similarly, the community leadership had not noticed that their by-laws on who from their community could be included in land governance decisions inadvertently excluded women. This was a particularly glaring omission in the face of significant male labor out-migration in the area. In these communities, women remain, working on the community’s land for food and for income. However, they were not included in decision-making on how community land was managed. In a slow and highly deliberative process, a number of communities chose to change their membership by-laws to be more inclusive of women.

These are just two of the many examples of good strategies to both promote gender equity and promote protection of collective tenure that came out of the report. My hope is that this report will help provide concrete strategies for integrating gender dynamics into our understanding of collective land systems work. If we recognize this, we can make real progress in ensuring that women and men can both benefit from positive reforms.

Photo by Pedro Szekely

.