15 March 2018
Reports Launched on IWD2018 Assess Progress on Women’s Land Rights
Peter Luethi, Biovision Foundation
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Recently launched reports highlight the slow progress towards achieving gender parity in land ownership and control.

Discussing the need to build the evidence base on how best to strengthen women’s land rights in Africa and globally, the World Bank’s Voices blog makes a case for more “nuanced data collection”.

13 March 2018: The need to guarantee women’s access to and ownership of land, property and other economic assets are incorporated into several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including: SDG 5 (gender equality) target 7; SDG 1 (no poverty) target 3; and SDG 2 (zero hunger) target 3. Despite these ambitions, various reports that were launched close to International Women’s Day 2018 highlight slow progress towards achieving gender parity in land ownership and control.

A recent audit of land ownership by the Kenya Land Alliance that was guided by gender parity objectives set out in Kenya’s constitution, the SDGs and various African Union (AU) targets, including the AU Declaration of Land Issues and Challenges in Africa and related target of achieving 30% of documented land rights for women by 2025, found that despite the adoption of Kenya’s progressive new constitution in 2010, women’s land ownership lags far behind that of men. The audit analyzed about one-third of the 3.2 million title deeds issued since 2013 and found that women hold roughly 10% of land titles issued in the last five years. An even greater gender disparity was found in terms of actual land size, with women getting only 1.62% of more than 10 million hectares of land titled during this period.

Discussing the need to build the evidence base on how best to strengthen women’s land rights in Africa and globally, a post on the World Bank’s Voices blog makes a case for more “nuanced data collection.” The blog references a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), titled, ‘Women’s land rights as a pathway to poverty reduction: A framework and review of available evidence,’ which argues that despite the large body of literature on the relationship between land tenure security, livelihoods, and poverty, most of this literature is based on household-level data and does not consider possible intra-household inequalities in land ownership. It mentions ongoing efforts at the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) to develop standard methods for measuring perceived tenure security, for example on the differing perceptions of women and men about their risk of land confiscation, or the experiences of women within male-headed households. Among some examples of possible policy measures that build on a more “nuanced” approach to land data, the blog highlights efforts to incentivize joint registration of land held by married couples in Uganda, and a project in Benin to demarcate village boundaries and certify farm plots.

Another UN-HABITAT report published on the Land Portal titled, ‘Women and Land in the Muslim World: Pathways to increase access to land for the realization of development, peace and human rights,’ notes that while women around the world face similar challenges – including socially prescribed gender roles, unequal power dynamics, discriminatory family practices, and unequal access to justice – the influence of customary and religious practices in countries with a dominant Muslim population create “context-specific opportunities to meet these challenges.” Among some tenure options in these contexts, the report pays special attention to the protection of women’s land rights through inheritance and at the time of marriage, when the land and property regime of the family is redefined. Legal and administrative reforms, access to justice, credit and microfinance are presented as important conditions for change, with emphasis on the protection of displaced women’s land and housing rights.

One example of how programmes are working in an innovative way in a Muslim setting is the use of community radio to raise women’s awareness of their land and property rights in the predominantly Somali-speaking Garissa County of northern Kenya. An article published on the Land Portal narrates an exchange among women members of a radio listening club following the airing of a specially-packaged radio programme, which includes drama series, radio features, call-in sessions and a segment explaining relevant clauses within the Kenyan constitution.

Some listeners recount how they lost everything after undergoing divorce, while others highlight the struggles they have gone through to get ownership of their land, livestock and property, and the abuse they have received as a result. The article notes that as a result of the awareness created, mass applications received by the Garissa land registry office from women wanting to transfer land into their names. The overall impact on women’s economic empowerment is further highlighted by the success of the Sankuri Women Milk Hawking Cooperative Society, which was established in 2011 by activists, divorcees, widows and other village women who had faced cultural injustices. The article highlights the change in women’s social status, with one woman joking that men now inquire if women are divorced “so that they can marry us and be part of our prosperity.” [Kenya Land Alliance Website] [World Bank Voices Blog Post on Women’s Land Rights] [Publication: Women’s Land Rights as a Pathway to Poverty Reduction: A Framework and Review of Available Evidence] [Publication: Women and Land in the Muslim World] [Land Portal Story on “Land Rights FM”] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on International Women’s Day 2018]

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