Category Archives for "Blog Post"

Inaugural Grantee Workshop Kicks off in Australia

During the first week of June we held our very first Research Consortium Women’s Land Rights Grantee Workshop. Held in Geelong, in the state of Victoria in Australia, a representative from each grantee group, the submission reviewers, and representatives from Resource Equity met for three days to share, learn, and challenge each other on the draft research papers that have been produced under this grant. It was a rare opportunity to dive deeply into substantive questions of what works to improve land rights for women, and what kinds of research can help us answer those questions.

Although not every author was able to attend in person, we were fortunate enough to have several that called in to join our inaugural event. The grantee groups and authors are:

The workshop centered on the authors presenting their preliminary findings in detail and then answering questions from the entire group. The interventions analyzed in the research papers were diverse:

  • Systematic land rights certification and registration in Ethiopia;
  • Forest land tenure reforms in Uganda, Peru, and Indonesia; and
  • Customary land certificates in Uganda.

Each draft research report relies on existing data sets from a range of sources including NGOs, government, and project reports. Each of these reports provides a valuable piece in the puzzle of what works to achieve land tenure security for women.

And each report met with some interesting challenges that will no doubt help those faced with similar challenges in the future:

  • How to narrow a research question when there is too much available data so that we can draw meaningful and specific learnings from it?
  • How can we describe an intervention’s activities in a way that will allow us to understand what specifically about it made a difference for women?
  • How can we accurately describe what data tells us and what it does not tell us about an intervention?
  • What factors influence our ability to assert how we attribute results to actions taken?

But perhaps the most important piece of the workshop is that we had the time and the occasion to really dig deep and to critically explore our own work and our own assumptions and biases. The workshop presented us with the rare chance to scrutinize our methods and approaches to the work, and to see our own work through each other’s eyes.

Next Steps

At the Research Consortium one of the main objectives is to start to fill in some of the gaps in evidence so that policy-makers, programmers, donors, and practitioners can rely on evidence-backed information to make the most informed decisions possible. The hope is that this evidence will help make the case that secure land and resource rights for women are achievable and will help to show what strategies can work to achieve stronger land rights for women in practice. These grants and this workshop are some of the ways we hope to accomplish this objective.

In the months to come we will be publishing the completed reports and findings made by each of the grantee groups.

Dr. Margaret Rugadya is Joining Our Team

We are excited to announce that Dr. Margaret Rugadya, Ph.D. is joining the Resource Equity team. Dr Rugadya comes to us from the Ford Foundation, and we are thrilled to welcome her.

“Margaret brings a wealth of knowledge and experience with her. As a researcher, she will contribute a new perspective to Resource Equity.” – Renée Giovarelli           

With more than two decades of experience as a development practitioner, grant-maker, and development and academic researcher, she is a leader in the area of land policy and gender equity with original contributions to the economics of gender, land, and resource tenure. Her focus is on women, pastoralists, forest dwellers, indigenous persons, and urban dwellers across Africa.

Margaret will be involved across our work, bringing her experience and perspective. We look forward to her contributions to our research and evaluation projects, and to drawing on her deep knowledge of East Africa.

Dr. Rugadya holds a Ph.D. in Economics – Governance and Public Policy from Maastricht University, and a Masters of Arts – Sociology and Bachelor of Information Science from Makerere University. She also holds a Diploma in Management (UMI) and a Diploma in Legislative Drafting (ILI). She is trained in Leading Economic Growth (Harvard Kennedy School), Reform Communication (Annenberg School, University of Southern California), Extractives and Economic Development (CCSI-Columbia University), Urban Land Management and Settlement Regularization (IHS-Erasmus University, Rotterdam), Managing NGOs (Victoria University of Manchester), Financial Assessments for NGOs (MANGO), and has a Certified Trustee for Pension Programs (College of Insurance – Nairobi).

Management of Land and Gender Related Challenges: Harbingers of Change

This article was originally published in PROPARCO magazine, PS&D (Private Sector and Development).

Developing agroindustry entails changes in land use and ownership. Best land-related practices can help investors avoid harmful impacts on individuals (both women and men), households, and communities. Best practices can give a voice to those often precluded – especially women – from being heard and participating meaningfully in land deals. Plus, when investors need land expertise to implement best practices, civil society can often collaboratively offer the needed talent and local knowledge.

Agro industrial development can involve transactions on vast tracts of land. Between 2000 and 2016, the Landmatrix database recorded more than 700 land deals in Africa and Asia covering 15 million hectares.1. In many of these deals, local communities were not included in negotiations, mostly due to a lack of formal titles and because informal and customary rights were either not identified or recognized. Many of these land investments adversely affected communities’ livelihoods and cultural landscapes, as well as sometimes igniting violent opposition to projects. The outcomes for investors can include reputational risks, operational problems, and decreasing investment returns.

Heed Guidance, Avoid Pitfalls

Individuals and communities can be harmed when investments are not made according to best practices. Women and girls can bear a disproportionate share of the risks and negative impacts, and tend to be less likely to benefit from the economic and employment opportunities. The primary household impact is a loss of livelihood caused by displacement from the land, with the displaced population receiving no or insufficient compensation. Plus, investments can also drive changes to household land use when they prompt a shift to cash cropping from subsistence or local market crop production. This can lead to a general decline in household well-being when earnings are not spent, for example, on nutrition, health, and education.

Giving Women A Voice

Proper assessment and compensation of the social impact of land acquisition for agricultural projects involves identifying all land users and their rights to the land. Some local regulatory frameworks do not reflect traditional and informal rights. Even when customary norms and practices are recognized by national governance frameworks, some rights holders — especially women – can be excluded when land transactions occur.

Investments that focus on the community or the household when designing compensation for the loss of land and livelihood can wrongly cut women out of the picture. In many cases, they are excluded from owning land, with the rights being allocated to men as the heads of households.

Hearing from women – who often have little role in community governance – usually requires a more concentrated effort than just inviting them to meetings. Consultations on land deals must involve ongoing assessments of how women can access and participate in discussions and decision-making.

As women are often unrecognized as rights holders, a critical question should be: “Who uses this land and gains value from it?” Asking the right questions will ensure women’s work on the land and their use of it is made more visible, and therefore makes it more likely that their voices will be heard during decision-making processes.

Best Practices – The Rise of International Frameworks

Yet investors and industry have never before been better positioned to make socially responsible land investments. Best practices for equitable, transparent, mutually beneficial / multilateral benefit-sharing and less-risky deals are now better understood than ever. National governance frameworks and their implementation are improving as well. The FAO Voluntary Guidelines have served as an influential benchmark for over six years. Other international standards (e.g. IFC Performance Standards, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights), including commodity standards (e.g. RSPO for palm oil) and implementation guides (including those developed by the FAO, AFD & CTFD, the Interlaken Group, and others) are available and highly informative. The guides are remarkably consistent and comprehensive.

The standards and guidance describe the best practices needed for socially responsible investment in land. First, consultation and engagement between companies and local men, women, and communities (and government) should focus on including and hearing women’s voices when it comes to the use and rights of land and natural resources. Second, investors should identify and recognize statutory, customary, secondary, seasonal, and other uses and rights, with a particular and critical focus on women. Moreover, potential direct and indirect environmental, social, human rights, and gender impacts should be assessed and adverse impacts should be avoided or, at a minimum, mitigated. The value of foregone livelihoods and other compensation requirements, including resettlement where necessary, should be assessed, with the goal of providing full, fair and equitable compensation at the individual, household and community level. This entails careful consideration of all land uses and interests and a focus on equitable outcomes for women. A level playing field should be created, with transparent negotiations, and fair agreements between communities (including women, men and households), investors and governments. This means that projects should be designed, implemented, monitored, and evaluated to ensure that agreements are implemented and enforced, and that remedies for breach and non-performance are available. Dispute resolution systems provided by the state should be supplemented by investment-specific grievance mechanisms, which should be accessible, certain, sustainable, and effective in delivering remedies. These should be accessible to women and should facilitate their ability to articulate complaints and obtain redress. In support of these practices, community and individual capacity should be built to enable women, men, and communities, to understand and participate in a meaningful way. An emphasis on women is always required to reach and benefit them.

Civil Society Has a Key Role to Play

For some businesses and investors, implementing best practices can be challenging. Many national and regional companies are often unaware of them, and national government frameworks may not call for them. Another hurdle is the lack of available expertise and experience – grounded in emerging-market geographic experience – in legal, social, and livelihood issues linked to land and gender. Even lenders and companies that have committed to best land practices face challenges in filling the expertise gaps. Such services are rarely offered by traditional corporate service providers (accounting, legal, labour, health and safety, environmental).

One path to obtaining this much-needed expertise is to collaborate with local civil society organizations (CSOs). Their existing missions and programs often make them good candidates to work with both private sector and government to identify and clarify women and men’s rights and interests, facilitate their meaningful input to land and resource investments and support increased accountability and parity in negotiations. They can also monitor and enforce the terms and conditions of agreements between businesses, land and natural resource rights holders.

Investors who embrace best practices in agricultural land acquisitions are more likely to earn and maintain their social license. They can do so by applying the practices in a way that reflects local realities and that makes the most of local talent – CSOs can be an important resource. Doing this will call for a significant ESG effort, all whilst maintaining a strong focus on women.


The Impact of the Research Consortium

On March 27, 2019, the Research Consortium hosted a happy hour at the 2019 World Bank Land and Poverty Conference. The event attracted a mix of attendees from the conference, including leaders in the field of land rights and land tenure security. The happy hour reception was a chance for the attendees to learn more about how the Research Consortium fills in the gaps of knowledge for researchers and practitioners and was a chance for those who attended to deepen their ties to the Consortium.

The Research Consortium Happy Hour was well attended.
Attendees enjoy the evening.
Attendees mingle and talk at the Research Consortium Happy Hour.

Remarks were made by one of the Research Consortium’s steering committee members, Rick Gaynor. He said, in part, that he joined the Research Consortium because it fills a critical gap in the land sector that he sees as a practitioner: it helps to identify what works, and what doesn’t, in trying to advance women’s land rights. The Research Consortium helps the land rights community move past identifying problems to proven solutions that will make a difference.

Steering Committee member Rick Gaynor speaks to the crowd.
Rick Gaynor speaks to the crowd.

Rick went on to say:

“The Consortium launched in March 2018. I’ve been impressed by the immense progress we’ve made in just a year. We have become known as a hub for the collection, sharing, and exchange of knowledge on how to advance women’s land rights. We have also become an important voice in setting the research agenda. The Research Consortium identifies gaps and helps to develop a shared research agenda to fill those gaps and foster the sharing of learnings on women’s land rights.”

“The core of the Research Consortium is about the creation of a community of researchers and practitioners to improve research with the goal, ultimately, of overcoming barriers to women’s secure land and resource rights around the world.”

He highlighted four features of the Consortium:

We were thrilled to see everyone there. If you’d like to learn more about the Research Consortium, please sign up for our mailing list. By signing up you will receive a monthly newsletter, invitations to special events and webinars, and access to unique updates related to women’s land rights.

How a New Land Rights Study Amplifies Women’s Hopes and Fears – and Makes us Think Again About Solutions for Everyone

This piece was originally written for and appeared on the blog From Poverty to Power, a conversational blog written and maintained by Duncan Green, strategic adviser for Oxfam GB.

A couple of weeks ago, writing on this blog, Duncan asked a question: How do we, in the international development community, recognize and work with (let alone measure) issues like love, shame, fear, solidarity?

As an advocate for women’s land rights, this question resonated with me. Whenever I hear from women about the fragility of those rights and their efforts to strengthen them – as I’ve done across 16 countries and two continents – these facets of the human condition are ever present.

Fear and hope – attitudes to the future – matter because they determine how we behave. They might inform decisions about investment in land, and about families: decisions which can shape lives, communities and economies.

As for measuring these qualities, I might have the beginnings of an answer, found in a report released this week by Prindex, a new international survey which asks men and women how they feel about the security of their rights to stay in their home and continue to work their land. It’s a joint initiative of the Overseas Development Institute and Global Land Alliance.

Prindex found that 1 in 4 people fear losing their homes or other land. That’s remarkable in itself.

What’s more, Prindex found that women were, on average, over 12 percentage points more likely than men to express fear for their right to retain their home in the event of divorce or the death of their spouse.

That matters for women, and for their societies.

It is so often women who remove rocks from land, plant, fertilize, weed, and harvest crops, care for children, care for the elderly, cook, clean, carry water and wood, and all the rest without earning any money.

Women are less likely to invest sweat equity in land that does not belong to them and over which they have no ultimate control. For example, one study found an increase in investment in soil quality when women’s land rights are more secure.

If their contribution is not valued in a divorce, they are likely to receive much less than their husband, who is usually the traditional money earner.

This affects many more women than those who actually divorce. It includes women that are toughing it out. How many women are in abusive or harmful relationships who cannot leave because if they leave, they leave with nothing—no land and no money?

In Uganda, the Prindex survey indicates that 40 percent of women are insecure about their rights to land in the case of a divorce. This tallies with one of my findings from years ago. In focus group discussions in Uganda, women openly talked about being beaten before the harvest so that they would return to their family for a while and their husbands could harvest and sell the crops before going to bring them home. In rural India, where Hindu women who divorce are regarded as a shame on their families and where women often receive nothing in a divorce, women talk about having to stay in extremely abusive situations because they have nowhere else to go.

So, where does this leave us? Prindex’s gender report shows that there is no one single solution, and that the long-term work of changing norms is key. But one finding in particular caught my eye.

Women who contemplate divorce in countries that take into account women’s nonmonetary contributions to the marriage – including unpaid work on the land and caring or “reproductive” labour – when dividing property at the time of divorce tend to be less fearful than women in countries that do count nonmonetary contributions.

Countries where women display relatively low rates of tenure insecurity in divorce scenarios (30 percent or below) are all countries in which the division of property benefits both spouses at the time a marriage is dissolved.

There are countries such as Liberia, Mozambique, and Burkina Faso in which divorce legislation is gender-equal but women anticipate more insecurity in divorce scenarios. This may reflect differences over whether women know of their legal right, and whether their personal and social circumstances along with the de facto operation of courts allow them to enforce that right.

That’s another reason why Prindex asks – and we should all ask – about perceptions: because they may reflect the reality more than the laws as written in statute books.

Asking about fear and hope becomes a way to recognize that what appears to be a land law issue is also a family law issue and an issue of norms, courts, and citizen awareness. If we don’t ask about perceptions, and if we don’t make sure that we collect data from women as well as traditional heads of household, we risk neglecting a large part of the picture, and at least half of the population.

Our Team is on the Road to #LandConf2019

Next week is the annual World Bank Land and Poverty Conference. This is one of the most important events of the year in the land rights sector. It’s a chance for a wide range of practitioners, researchers, and funders to connect and to learn more about each others’ work. It’s also a chance to step back and reflect on what we do, in the company of colleagues and peers.

The conference begins on March 25th and will be attended by our entire team, who are traveling to Washington, DC from as far away as Australia. The team will be actively involved at the conference chairing sessions, presenting papers and a poster, and teaching two Master Classes related to women’s land rights. We hope to connect with you there!

If you are not attending, we will be updating our social media, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, throughout week. Follow Resource Equity on our social channels and look for #LandConf2019 to see our updates and stay informed about all the different aspects of the conference!

If you are attending the conference you will be able to find us at:


What is the Research Consortium? The poster will be displayed in the MC Atrium from Monday to Wednesday, March 25-27th. A team member will be available to meet and answers questions at the poster on Tuesday and Wednesday from 12-2 pm. Stop by to learn more about our Research Consortium and learn how you can get involved!

Session Chairs:

Renée Giovarelli will be chairing the session “Recognizing women’s rights over common resources” at 2 pm on Tuesday, March 26th. Come find out more about the role of gender in securing rights over customary and common land.

David Bledsoe will be chairing the session “Gender and land policy” at 10:30 am on Wednesday, March 27th. The session will include papers on innovations in securing women’s land rights in various contexts.


Elisa Scalise will be presenting a paper entitled “When joint ownership is not sufficient to ensure joint registration: lessons from Cabo Verde” at the session “Beyond joint titling: making land institutions gender-sensitive” at 2 pm on Wednesday, March 27th. The paper is co-authored with colleagues from MCC (Michelle Adato and Naomi Cassirer) and discusses some nuanced and complex legal issues in Cabo Verde when trying to register joint ownership rights of women and men who are in de facto unions (or informal marriages).

Master Classes:

Amanda Richardson will be co-teaching a Master Class with Cadasta called “Starting with women: tools for empowerment” at 11 am on Friday, March 29th. This class will include a presentation on Cadasta’s tools and on our Starting with Women approach, and end with a chance to practice using the tools.

Amanda Richardson will also be teaching a Master Class at 1:30 pm on Friday, March 29th called “The Conceptual Framework on Women’s Land Tenure Security: an action tool.” This class will be a collaborative learning experience, where participants will learn about a tool for evaluating the security of women’s rights to land and have a chance to provide feedback.

International Women’s Day and the Power of Women in Groups

I recently traveled to the highlands of Peru. Every woman I met there seemed to be doing something with wool: spinning it, or knitting or crocheting skirts, sweaters, and scarves. I was fascinated by the activity, as a sometimes knitter myself, but when I asked to take pictures of them they reacted with confusion at my interest. In their minds, they were not doing anything remarkable or picture worthy, just the daily work they needed to get done.

I see this everywhere I go. Women are almost always working, even if I’m distracting them by gathering them for group discussions, interviews, or meetings. To them, working while participating is utterly unremarkable. In Ghana, they might be shelling beans. In the remote region of Karamoja in Uganda they might be dividing up posho, and leaving the group intermittently to cook lunch. Everywhere, women are breastfeeding babies or soothing toddlers.

When I’m not interrupting their days these women are, of course, doing much more. Women usually describe days that start before sunup and end long after their husbands and children have gone to bed. They cook, they collect water and firewood, they care for the children. They make cheese, or they make shawls, or they fix clothes. They work in the fields and in their kitchen gardens, or they haul water, dirt, and stones in small-scale mines.

This is not to say men don’t work. They do. But they don’t work in the constant, noticeable way of women. A project I visited in Kenya conducted an exercise with men and women to measure the differences in how they work. They were both asked to describe a typical day, using a clock. When they saw the results, the men were all shocked by how much the women were working. While the men were working too, they were getting up hours later, taking time during the day to relax or see friends, and going to sleep right after dinner while their wives cleaned and prepared for the next day.

You will rarely see women relaxing, or gathering in groups the way men do.

That’s why uniting women in groups can be so powerful.

Meeting with groups of women around the world is one of my favorite parts of my job. Often, just gathering them together to talk about their lives is, for them, an unusual, powerful event.  While I try to ensure that these meetings aren’t taking away from their responsibilities, interviews are often still a chance for them to take a pause from their lives and to gather with and learn from each other.

And that’s just interviews. Where projects focus on creating women’s groups, the dividends can be much more powerful.

Last month I visited two projects working in mining areas—one in Peru run by ALAC, and our own Starting with Women project in Uganda. Although in many ways these places are very different, there are some commonalities: both projects are in mining areas, both are in the poorest areas of their countries, and both focus on empowering groups.

And both projects have had some similar, promising, yet still anecdotal results. Women, even in mixed groups of both men and women, are speaking up more. They are better able to control their income. When their husbands understood the tangible benefits of the group, domestic violence went down.

There is strong evidence to support what we have learned anecdotally. Women’s self-help groups have positive, statistically significant effects on women’s empowerment. And this may be true globally. The 2019 World Bank Women, Business, and the Law report found that women’s rights advocacy groups have played a key role in driving reforms that increased gender equality in laws affecting work.[

When women support each other, and have the space to learn together and from each other, they are much more likely to have control over their bodies, their income, their assets, and their lives. They are more likely to have options when faced with difficulties and are more likely to be able to assure a good life for themselves and their families.  We know that collaborating for change takes time, from people who don’t have a lot of it to spare. In our work with our partners, we aim to help make sure the foundations are in place so that women can assert and enforce their rights to land—just one piece of a much larger puzzle towards achieving gender equality.

Announcing the Recipients of the Research Consortium’s Inaugural Research Grants

In more than a decade of working on women’s land rights, I have often been asked the question “where is the evidence?” While we have more and more insight into how secure land rights benefit women, men, and communities, the question remains “how to get there?”: we don’t know as much as we should (or would like!) about what works, or does not, to improve land rights for women.

That’s one of the most important objectives of the Research Consortium by Resource Equity: to start to fill in some of the gaps in evidence so that policy-makers, programmers, donors, and practitioners can rely on evidence-backed information to make the most informed decisions possible. Our hope is that this evidence will help make the case that secure land and resource rights for women are achievable and will help to show what strategies can work to achieve stronger land rights for women in practice.

The grant-making program is an important part of the Research Consortium. For our inaugural Request for Proposal we invited applicants to submit proposals that asked new questions of existing data sets, on the topic of the effectiveness of land and resource tenure interventions to improve the lives of women. We also asked applicants to link the research to the Women’s Land Rights Conceptual Framework to help validate, refine, or even challenge it.

We received around 40 very compelling proposals and had the tough choice to select only three, through a rigorous, independent review process.

The Grantees

We are very excited to announce the recipients of our first three grants:

Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

Iliana Monterosso Ibarra and Anne M. Larson

“Mobilizing change for women and vulnerable groups within collective tenure regimes”

This research will contribute to the analysis of gender differentiated results of ongoing forest tenure reform processes in Peru, Uganda, and Indonesia, providing lessons and identification of implementation practices and action resources that mobilize change, in order to improve women’s and vulnerable groups’ access to land and resources under collective tenure regimes.

Associates Research Trust – Uganda

Herbert Kamusiime and Paul Ntegeka Mwesige

“Do certificates of customary ownership as currently issued/delivered translate into more secure land rights for women and men involved?”

This research is a case study from Nwoya district in Uganda, using quantitative data from beneficiary and non-beneficiary households to assess whether and how current processes for issuing customary ownership certificates are working to achieve more secure land rights for women and men.

Land Investment for Transformation Programme (LIFT) (Development Associates International – DAI)

Workhowa Mekonen, Gladys Savolainen, and John Leckie

“Challenges facing Ethiopian women in realizing their land rights during second level land certification”

LIFT is a program that is systematically issuing land certificates to people in Ethiopia. The purpose of this research is to synthesize the LIFT program’s knowledge and experience of land certification in Ethiopia and to answer the question: how have these practices positively or negatively impacted the land use rights of women and vulnerable groups in Ethiopia?

Results and Findings

We’re excited to share their results and findings with you on the Research Consortium website in the coming months. You will also learn more about the grantees and their work, and see how their research helps to start to fill some of the gaps in knowledge in this field.

Got Questions?

In my line of work I think a good deal about women’s land rights—every day in fact. After working for over 20 years on helping women gain legal and social rights to the land they use, I am frustrated by the slow progress of the work being done. There has been progress, of course, but I am impatient—even a little bit exasperated. I know others in the field feel the same way and we all wonder why progress seems to happen so slowly.

There are many complicating factors, and I could write a book on the nuances of the truly difficult issues facing rural women. But the thing that really bothers me is this: after all the great gender strategies written up and approved by foreign aid organizations around the world, after all the important people finally taking notice that supporting rural women’s right to land and their economic empowerment is “smart economics,” and after all the grants that require gender be considered when implementing land projects, we still get it wrong over and over again, and women, whose livelihoods depend on us getting it right, lose.

So what is it going to take to change the rate of progress? I have a few suggestions.

Big Changes to Your LandWise Library

We are excited to announce the newly updated LandWise Library website. LandWise is Resource Equity’s online library for primary legal materials, articles, and other practical resources. These resources are organized by country, topic, language, and document type. To see a quick overview of the library’s contents you can visit the browse page.

In addition, LandWise houses a number of women’s land rights and land tenure security practice guides and tools that were created specifically to assist practitioners working in the field of women’s land rights. These guides include general frameworks for understanding land rights and inheritance and country-specific guides for Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.


LandWise was initially launched in 2013. Over the years we continued to maintain and populate the library as new research was published and new laws were passed. However, as with any digital tool, the need for site maintenance increased as time went by. We recognized that LandWise was long due for a larger overhaul!