A happy new year to all our bulletin readers from the team at Resource Equity.
Read on for news and views and a few announcements for 2021.
In this edition we’re:
- Introducing The Women’s Land Rights Institute
- Sharing a new evidence brief on the effectiveness of Inheritance Reforms
- Connecting you to the new and improved resources available on our website
- Illustrating how laws can facilitate change with an example from Botswana
Learn how to design and deliver policies and programs that advance women’s land rights with Resource Equity’s latest initiative – the Women’s Land Rights Institute.
This year The Institute will run two, 10-week long online courses that explore what works (or what can work) to meaningfully advance women’s land and resource rights and address gender inequality in land tenure governance and systems.
Applications close February 19th 2021 for the first course, which will start in April 2021.
Sign up here.
The course will be open to around 16 students per cohort.
Classes run for 90 minutes per week, and there will be dedicated time for interaction with course leaders and other participants. It will also feature a seminar series, where experts will share diverse technical or contextual perspectives on tackling land and resource-related issues for women (e.g. indigenous rights, land administration systems, collective resources, etc.)
We’ve designed the course to challenge participants to think beyond the standard recommendations for gender inclusion and also to provide a strong evidentiary basis for promoting change. The course will integrate the latest research but will be heavily geared towards practice. By the end of the ten-week period participants will have a better understanding of how to analyze gender issues in laws, policies, and programs; what has/could work to address those issues in a real way; and how to design policy and program solutions that equally serve women’s and men’s interests and needs in land and resource reforms.
Applications are open to anyone who is interested, and the course is well suited to staff from national, regional, and international NGOs working on land rights or women’s rights; government staff in land and resource governance roles; donors that work in this space, or gender focal points on land and resource-related projects.
Scholarships, assistance with technology access, and translation can be available for qualified candidates (this is explained more in the application packet).
Inheritance rights for women are often at the forefront of advocacy for gender equality in land and resources. They are a fundamental part of state obligations under CEDAW and feature in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG Goals 1 and 5)
But what do we know about inheritance reforms and whether they work to improve women’s tenure security? In line with our recent piece “What works for women’s land and property rights? What we know and what we need to know” (also available in French and in Spanish), this evidence review asks the question of whether inheritance reforms work for women? The right to inherit is distinctive within the set of property rights that make up a tenure system because the right is not realized until an event of uncertain timing occurs: namely, the death of the property rights holder whose rights will devolve to the inheritor (or heir) at the time of death. In customary tenure settings, custom and culture determine who are the heirs. In formal law, heirs are determined either by laws of intestacy -when someone dies without a will – or by a testamentary will. (Noting that the lines between when formal and when customary laws will apply in law and in practice are not always clear.)
Typically, the most common reforms to inheritance make women’s rights more “complete” through allowing women to acquire legal inheritance rights that they might not have under custom, and more “robust” through accessing justice when inheritance rights are under threat.
Our review of the quantity and quality of evidence on inheritance reforms today suggests that there is clearly a need for more research into how effectively they impact women’s lives. The studies that exist tend to focus on reforms in isolated countries from which it may be difficult to learn broader lessons. Moreover, they are focused on a limited range of reforms. Research is needed to enhance our understanding of when and how inheritance reforms can help improve women’s rights to land and land-based resources. Further research might examine whether inheritance reforms are sustained across generations, and assess the positive and negative implications of women asserting inheritance rights against brothers (and the related practice of renunciation.)
You can read the full report here, outlining common inheritance reform types, summarizing findings from available evidence, and categorizing the evidence that exists.
We’ve been streamlining the resources and support that we have on our website. You can continue to access Landwise, our comprehensive library of laws that relate to women’s land rights in many countries around the world, and the only place where you might find the full text of some of these laws.
The resources page also has a searchable library of other literature and publications in the Research and Publications section, and if you want help with a research question you can contact our Helpdesk (you ask a question on women’s and rights and we help research the answer).
The Quicklinks page will take you to practice guides, evidence briefs, and synthesis reports on best practices.
We’ll conclude this bulletin with a brief illustration of how change can happen (hint: it takes a long time), looking at Botswana’s marital property and land laws.
In 2004, Botswana passed “The Abolition of Marital Power Act 34 of 2004.” Among other important things, the Act allowed for spouses to co-own land they purchased and removed the legal position of the husband as head of the family.
However, the 2015 Land Policy allowed only one plot of land per person, with a married couple treated as a single entity. Unmarried women could purchase land after the 2015 Land Policy passed, but married women and widows could not because they only had the right to own land through their husbands and were considered part of his property. Additionally, husbands had the power to sell the property without consulting their wives even if their wives depended on that land.
In 2019, President Masisi, amended the law to allow wives to own land independent of their spouses. The revised Land Policy gives every citizen an equal opportunity to own residential or agricultural land in areas of their choice on state or tribal land. This amendment is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as widows previously could not inherit their husband’s land nor secure land of their own. Widows typically had no choice but to marry their husbands’ male relative to grant security. Now that Botswana gives women equal land ownership, widows are able to support themselves and remain independent.
Women’s organizations in Botswana pushed for change over many years, and the changes made to the law took a long time. Like the AIDS epidemic, the Covid-19 pandemic would have left women, whose husbands’ died, without a home or a way to raise food or earn money.
This example from Botswana shows that there are often multiple laws that work together to impact whether women’s rights to land can be realized, and that changing laws, while not a panacea, can create opportunities for real change in women’s lives.
You can find a report on the amendment here.