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!
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!
C’est avec plaisir que nous accueillons notre blogueuse invitée, Philippine Sutz. Outre à nous avoir aidé à traduire notre Cadre Conceptuel, Philippine est basée à Londres où elle travaille en tant que ‘Senior Researcher’ auprès de l’International Institute for Environment and Development. Ses domaines de recherche principaux sont l’émancipation des femmes et l’accès des femmes au foncier.
Le Consortium de Recherche, par Resource Equity, vient de publier la version française de ‘Sécurité Foncière des Femmes : un Cadre Conceptuel. Ce document, co-écrit par Cheryl Doss et Ruth Meinzen-Dick, est le premier outil du genre permettant une analyse systématique et cohérente de l’ensemble des facteurs pouvant influencer la sécurité foncière des femmes et à fournir des définitions et concepts communs.
La sécurité foncière est un moyen pour les femmes de pérenniser leurs moyens de subsistance et de contribuer au bien-être de leurs familles et de leurs communautés. Aujourd’hui, un nombre toujours plus important d’organisations entreprennent des études et interventions visant à renforcer la sécurité foncière des femmes. Ceci est une excellente nouvelle ! Cependant, il peut être parfois difficile de tirer des enseignements généraux de ces interventions – et donc de les appliquer ailleurs par la suite – dans la mesure où les éléments clés du contexte ne sont pas toujours clairement identifiés. Les concepts auxquels ces études font référence tels que ‘sécurité foncière’ ou ‘droits fonciers’ ne sont également pas toujours explicitement définis, ce qui peut prêter à confusion.
En effet, la nature des droits visés par une intervention cherchant à renfoncer la sécurité foncière des femmes peut varier selon le contexte. Dans certains pays par exemple, un individu ne peut obtenir que des droits d’usage et d’accès à la terre, tandis que dans d’autres il pourra obtenir un titre de propriété inaliénable. L’étendu de ces droits : droit d’accès, d’usage, de modification etc.. ; leur durée et leur solidité jouent un rôle clé pour garantir un certain degré de sécurité foncière. En outre, le fait que ces droits soient individuels ou collectifs peut également avoir un impact sur la sécurité foncière des femmes. Enfin, il est important de garder à l’esprit que la sécurité foncière des femmes ne se résume pas à la reconnaissance d’un droit ou à l’obtention d’un titre de propriété. Elle est également influencée par un certain nombre de facteurs dont la nature variera selon le contexte. Or, bon nombre des études ou des documents tirant les leçons d’une intervention n’analysent pas de façon systématique l’ensemble de ces facteurs, rendant ainsi malaisée une analyse comparative des études et une agrégation des leçons tirées d’études de cas individuels.
En proposant une liste des facteurs clés ayant une influence sur la sécurité foncière des femmes ainsi qu’un langage commun, le cadre conceptuel développé par le Consortium de Recherche sur les Droits Fonciers des Femmes devrait permettre aux praticiens et chercheurs de s’assurer qu’ils recueillent les informations nécessaires à la contextualisation de leur étude ou intervention. Le document propose notamment une analyse de ce que les termes ‘droits fonciers’ et ‘sécurité foncière’ peuvent recouvrir, et revient sur la notion de ‘faisceau de droits’. Il identifie également un nombre de facteurs clés pouvant avoir une influence sur la sécurité foncière des femmes tels que les normes sociales en place ou la nature des relations au sein d’une communauté donnée. Le cadre conceptuel inclue également une analyse des menaces et des opportunités existantes telles que les réformes en cours, les programmes de développement existants ou l’existence de conflits ainsi que du cadre d’intervention et des acteurs impliqués et des ressources à leur disposition.
En permettant une analyse plus systématique du niveau de sécurité foncière dont bénéficient les femmes dans un contexte donné, cet outil a le potentiel de faciliter une analyse comparative et donc une application plus aisée des enseignements tirés. Au final, ce cadre conceptuel devrait permettre aux praticiens et aux chercheurs de développer des interventions plus adaptées et plus performantes et donc contribuer à renforcer la sécurité foncière des femmes au niveau mondial.
We are pleased to introduce our guest blogger, Philippine Sutz. In addition to helping us translate the Conceptual Framework, she is a French lawyer who is based in London, and is a Senior Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development where she leads the Institute’s work on gender and land.
The Research Consortium, by Resource Equity, has recently published “Women’s Land Tenure Security: A Conceptual Framework” in French. This document, co-authored by Cheryl Doss and Ruth Meinzen-Dick, is the first tool of its kind to offer a coherent and systematic analysis of all the factors affecting women’s land tenure security as well as to provide some shared definitions and concepts.
Land tenure security enables women to strengthen their livelihood options and to contribute to the wellbeing of their families and communities. An ever-growing number of organizations are undertaking studies and projects aimed at strengthening women’s tenure security. This is great news! However, it can be challenging to draw broader lessons from these projects—and replicate them elsewhere—as all of the key dimensions of the context are not always clearly identified. The concepts to which these studies and projects refer to—tenure security, land rights, and so forth—are also not always clearly defined, which can be confusing.
In fact, the nature of the rights at stake in any given study or project which aims to strengthen women’s tenure security can greatly vary depending on the context. In some cases, individuals can only obtain use rights to land, whereas in other instances, they are entitled to full property rights. The breadth of these rights: right to access, use, modify; their duration; and their robustness all play a key role in ensuring tenure security. Additionally, the fact that these rights might be held individually or collectively also has an impact of women’s tenure security. Finally, it is important to bear in mind that women’s tenure security is not limited to the recognition of a right or to the registration of a title. Tenure security is affected by a number of factors, which vary depending on the context. However, most studies drawing lessons from a specific project or intervention do not systematically analyze all of these factors, making comparative analysis and aggregation of lessons drawn from individual cases quite hard.
By providing a list of key factors that affect women’s land tenure security as well as a common language, the Conceptual Framework developed by the Research Consortium on Women’s Land Rights enables practitioners and researchers to ensure they gather the necessary information in order to properly contextualize their study or intervention. In particular, the framework offers an analysis of what the terms ‘land rights’ and ‘tenure security’ may cover and it explores the notion of ‘bundle of rights.’ It also identifies and analyzes key factors which can affect women’s tenure security, such as social norms and the nature of relationships within a given community. The framework also includes an analysis of potential threats and opportunities, such as ongoing reforms, existing development programs, and conflicts, as well as the action arena and actors, including relevant stakeholders and resources.
By enabling a more systematic analysis of women’s land tenure security in any given context, this tool has the potential to facilitate comparative analysis and replication of lessons learned. Ultimately, this Conceptual Framework should help practitioners and researchers to develop better research and interventions, therefore contributing to achieve greater tenure security for women across the world.
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.
I have talked to women in at least 15 countries—in their homes, their gardens, their fields, their pastures, their universities, their community organizations, their government and executive offices, and their courtrooms. When asked about rural women’s land use or rights or ownership or livelihood, the thing that usually stands out to me is that most women say, in one form or another, that rural women are generally able to use land, and sometimes even control land, when they are in an intact family. But when the family breaks down—because of divorce, death, abuse, or even polygamy—women often are the ones who are forced to leave, taking nothing with them. In much of the rural world, when women marry, they move to their husband’s home and land. And because land is often the most important asset for a rural household, women who lose their right to use land lose much more than just the land.
This is what I have heard in 15 countries, which is valuable information, but rather broad and not that useful for policy making or program design. But the just published Prindex report now confirms this information with systematic data from their first wave of data collection in 15 countries (10 from Sub-Saharan Africa, four from Latin America and one— Thailand—from Southeast Asia). Prindex collects robust data on people’s perceptions of their property rights. Only two of the 15 countries where I have worked overlap with the 15 countries in the Prindex report, and Prindex collects data in both rural and urban areas, but this first report provides us with some useful data regarding women and men’s perception of their land tenure security in the event of two major family events—divorce and death.
The report says:
“[T]he differences between women and men’s perceptions are more significant when respondents were asked how worried they were that they might be forced to leave their property in the event of divorce or spousal death: the share of women who were worried was on average 10 percentage points higher than it was among men.
As is the case with many of the demographic and economic factors observed using this data, there are some large country-level variations.
Under the divorce scenario, Burkina Faso stands out, where 53% of women are worried about being forced to leave their property if they were divorced from their spouse compared to 7% of men, a difference of 46 percentage points. By contrast, Liberia, Rwanda, Costa Rica and Ecuador show very little difference between men and women.
The 10-point difference in tenure insecurity among men and women in the spousal death scenario is broadly the same as in the divorce scenario. Again, there are some noticeable differences between the two scenarios in certain countries. As an example, men and women were equally worried about having to leave their property in the event of a divorce in Rwanda. In a spousal death scenario, the proportion of women in Rwanda who are worried is 20 points lower than it is among men.”
This finding is important to our work on women’s land rights. We now have data that supports what we have heard from women. There are also many follow-on questions to pursue to help guide law and policy and program development. Some of these questions may be able to be answered by the data, and some of them may require further research. Some examples include:
It is both exciting and valuable to have ongoing research in three regions of the world that specifically asks women questions about their perception of their land tenure security. “Talk to women” has been a mantra for the Resource Equity staff and other women and land researchers and practitioners all around the world. We are grateful that Prindex is doing just that.
Resource Equity’s Research Consortium is looking forward to building on these initial findings with more data and more engagement. For more detail on the report and for diagrams that illustrate the findings on women’s land rights and many other findings, visit: www.prindex.net.
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.
Six studies have been curated and added to the Titling and Registration topic section of the Research Consortium website. The studies are from 2017 and 2018 and look at titling and registration interventions in Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda. The outcomes measured are agricultural investment (one new study); inclusivity (three new studies); and increased bargaining power (two new studies). These additional studies add to our knowledge of the benefit of ensuring that women’s names as well as men’s names are included on land documents. They also indicate that even with positive law and sincere effort, women within male-headed households do not always have their rights documented.
To access all of the studies on the Research Consortium website click here.
Resource Equity acaba de publicar el marco conceptual sobre la seguridad a la tenencia de la tierra de las mujeres en español. El documento escrito por Cheryl Doos y Ruth Meinzen-Dick, plantea los factores que afectan la seguridad en la tenencia de la tierra de las mujeres, es una valiosa contribución a los desafíos y debates sobre la tierra que enfrentan los países hispanohablantes, particularmente en Latino América.
Latino América es la región más desigual en el acceso y control de la tierra en el mundo. La desigualdad en el acceso y control de la tierra ha fomentado conflictos y guerras civiles en varios países. Igualmente, la reciente expansión de un modelo económico extractivista que apuesta por la extracción y explotación de recursos naturales para obtener grandes volúmenes de materias primas como el principal motor de la economía ha intensificado la competencia por la tierra y fomentado la concentración de poder entorno a esta.
En este contexto, la tierra, como principal activo de millones de hogares rurales que derivan su sustento de las actividades agrícolas se encuentra en constante amenaza. Dentro de los hogares, son las mujeres quienes enfrentan mayores desventajas e inseguridad en su relación con la tierra. A pesar de que la legislación de todos los países de la región reconoce la igualdad de derechos entre hombres y mujeres, las sociedades latinoamericanas siguen siendo extremadamente patriarcales y mantienen a las mujeres en una posición de subordinación respecto de los hombres. Las preferencias masculinas en la herencia, los privilegios masculinos en el matrimonio, los sesgos masculinos en los programas estatales para la distribución de la tierra, y los obstáculos que enfrentan las mujeres para participar en el mercado inmobiliario como compradoras impiden el acceso y limitan la seguridad de las mujeres en la tenencia de las tierras. Además, las mujeres encuentran restringida su participación en espacios de negociación y concertación de las políticas y programas para la distribución de la propiedad rural y la destinación los recursos naturales.
Ante este panorama y tras el reconocimiento al acceso igualitario a la tierra como presupuesto para la disminución de la pobreza, combatir el hambre y alcanzar la igualdad de género, se requieren acciones decididas que prioricen el acceso y control de la tierra para las personas y comunidades que dependen de ella. Igualmente, adoptar medidas especificas con enfoque de genero para vencer los obstáculos que impiden a las mujeres ejercer su derecho sobre la tierra.
El marco conceptual sobre la seguridad en la tenencia de la tierra para las mujeres de Doss y Meinzen-Dick contribuyen a ese propósito. Primero, porque revalúa el concepto tradicional de seguridad en la tenencia de las tierras y propone la consideración de nuevos elementos que definen qué tan segura es la seguridad de la tenencia de la tierra, especialmente para las mujeres. Segundo, porque el marco conceptual invita a identificar todos aquellos factores que intervienen para debilitar o fortalecer la seguridad en la tenencia de las mujeres.
La creciente migración de la población rural hacia las ciudades en Latino América por falta de oportunidades en las zonas rurales parece haber desalentado el estudio y la producción académica en torno al problema de la tierra. Asimismo, las diferencias lingüísticas han relegado a la región de participar mas activamente de los debates que sobre el tema se dan en otras latitudes. La disponibilidad del marco conceptual en español cobra valor entonces no solo por los innovadores aportes que hace respecto a la seguridad de la tierra con perspectiva de género. También porque pone al servicio de los países hispanohablantes los más recientes avances en torno a la conceptualización de la seguridad de la tierra y los invita a ser interlocutores activos y a participar en diseño de alternativas creativas para la garantía y protección del acceso y control sobre la tierra como condición para el desarrollo.
Esperamos que en adelante Resource Equity y otras ong que trabajan en la defensa del acceso a la tierra y los recursos naturales se animen fomentar el intercambio de información, conocimiento y experiencias con los países hispanohablantes, particularmente de Latinoamérica, donde todavía un numero significativo de la población depende y mantiene un estrecho vinculo con la tierra.
 Arantxa Guereña, Desterrados: Tierra, poder y desigualdad en América Latina (Oxfam), Noviembre 2016, https://d1tn3vj7xz9fdh.cloudfront.net/s3fs-public/file_attachments/desterrados-full-es-29nov-web_0.pdf
 America Latina es la región más urbanizada en el mundo con el 80 por ciento de su población viviendo en las ciudades.
 Fernando Murillo, Los migrantes y las ciudades: Nuevas colaboraciones para gestionar la movilidad (Organización Internacional para las Migraciones (OIM), 2015 World Migration Report), 2015, https://www.iom.int/world-migration-report-2015
Resource Equity has published the Conceptual Framework on women’s land tenure security in Spanish. This paper, by Cheryl Doss and Ruth Meinzen-Dick, presents the factors that affect women’s land tenure security and is a valuable contribution that addresses the challenges and debates over land that presently face Spanish-speaking countries, particularly in Latin America.
Latin America is the most unequal region in the world for access and control over land. Inequality in access and control over land has fostered conflicts and civil wars in various countries of the region. Furthermore, the recent expansion of an extractives economic model, which opts for the extraction and exploitation of natural resources to obtain large volumes of commodities as the main engine of the economy, has intensified the competition and encouraged the concentration of power for land.
In this context, land, as the main asset of millions of rural households who derive their livelihoods from agricultural activities, is constantly under threat. Within these households, women are those that face the greatest disadvantages and insecurity in relation to land. Despite the legislation from all of the countries within the continent that recognizes equal rights for men and women, Latin American societies are still extremely patriarchal and maintain the subordination of women to men. Male preferences to inheritance, male privileges within marriage, male biases in land distribution state programs, and the obstacles women face to participate as buyers in the real estate market all hinder women’s access to land and limit their land tenure security. Additionally, women have restricted participation in forums of negotiation and concertation of policies and programs for the distribution of rural property and the destination of natural resources.
Against this background and following the recognition of equal access to land as a precondition to diminishing poverty, fighting against hunger, and achieving gender equality, the region requires decisive actions that prioritize access and control over land for the people and communities that depend on it. Moreover, it’s necessary to adopt special measures with a gender sensitive approach to overcome the obstacles that hinder women to exercise their rights over land.
The Conceptual Framework on women’s land tenure security prepared by Doss and Meinzen-Dick serves that purpose. First, it revaluates the traditional concept of land tenure security and suggests considering new elements to define how secure land tenure is, especially for women. Second, the conceptual framework is an invitation to identify all the factors that come into play to weaken or strengthen women’s land tenure security.
The increasing migration of rural people to urban areas in Latin America, due to a lack of opportunity, seems to have deterred the study and academic output on land issues in the region. Likewise, language differences have downgraded the ability for the region to participate more actively in discussions that occur in other parts of the world on this topic. Therefore, the availability of the Conceptual Framework provides value, not only for the innovative contributions it makes towards land tenure security with a gender sensitive approach, but also because it is now accessible to Spanish-speaking individuals. In addition, it lays out the most recent developments regarding the conceptualization of land tenure security, it invites them to be active partners/actors, and it allows them to participate in designing creative solutions to ensure and protect access and control over land as a condition for development.
I hope Resource Equity and other NGOs that work for the defense of access to land and natural resources continue to foster and facilitate the exchange of information, knowledge, and experiences with Spanish-speaking countries, particularly from Latin America. A region where a significant amount of the population still depends on and maintains a strong bond to land.
Access the Marco Conceptual here.
 Oxfam. Unearthed: Land, Power And Inequality In Latin America, November 2016, p. 21, at: https://d1tn3vj7xz9fdh.cloudfront.net/s3fs-public/file_attachments/bp-land-power-inequality-latin-america-301116-en.pdf
 Latin America is the most urbanized region in the world, with 80 percent of its population living in cities.
 International Organization for Migration (IOM), Migration and Urbanization Paths: Reshaping the Human Geography of Latin America and the Caribbean, 2014 p. 26 at: https://www.iom.int/sites/default/files/our_work/ICP/MPR/WMR-2015-Background-Paper-FMurillo.pdf
The Conceptual Framework is designed to identify core issues that shape the discussions around women’s tenure security and to suggest critical dimensions that should be included in analyses of women’s tenure security. The Framework also attempts to develop shared definitions and concepts to facilitate aggregation of the lessons from individual analyses and case studies. In addition, because women’s tenure security is not static, the framework identifies the types of factors that may change women’s tenure security, both to strengthen it and to undermine it.
We are thrilled to have translated it. While a majority of the research that is widely available and used for comparative purposes is written in English, many practitioners working on issues related to women’s land tenure security and collecting information about what works and what does not are Spanish speakers. To encourage the sharing of information and lessons learned, we need a common understanding of what we mean by women’s land tenure security. And a common understanding requires translating the Framework into multiple languages.
Most of the work on women’s land tenure security occurs in countries located in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We will be translating the Framework into three languages commonly spoken in these areas of the world to cover as many countries as possible: Spanish, French, and Portuguese. While we have not yet translated the Framework into as many languages as we would like (for example, Mandarin and others common in Asia), we hope in the future to be able to translate it into as many languages as possible as the funding becomes available.
We look forward to sharing the Framework with all of the researchers and practitioners for whom English is not their working language, and to continuing to build a robust community around women’s land rights.
To access the Spanish-language version of “ Women’s Land Tenure Security: A Conceptual Framework” click here.
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.
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.
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.