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23.01.2012 - 05.02.2012

How can women's land rights be secured?

Dear Forum Members,

There is increasing awareness of the discrimination women face in terms of their land rights as well as recognition that this is a priority topic for those concerned with food security, rural development, and women's empowerment. In fact, this year, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) focuses on the empowerment of rural women, which is why the International Land Coalition (ILC), FAO and IFAD, are organising a side-event entitled “How can women’s land rights be secured? Learning from successful examples” at the CSW on 1 March 2012.

My name is Sabine Pallas, Programme Officer at the ILC Secretariat in Rome (Italy), and with Luca Miggiano, ILC Consultant on Women's Land Rights and Global Policy, we will facilitate this discussion simultaneously in the FSN-Forum and on the Land Portal, a platform to share land-related information which we encourage you to visit!
This discussion aims at gathering  inputs – especially concrete examples from the ground - to enrich our debate in New York and raise the profile of women’s land rights issues in the CSW.

Why are women’s land rights so important?

The most important resource for rural women is land. Despite women’s critical role and contribution to agriculture, rural development, and food security, women across the world are discriminated against in terms of their access to, ownership of and control over land and the income produced from it. Women’s ability to access land and to claim, use and defend rights to land and other natural resources is weakened by their status within the household and community as well as discriminatory customary or statutory laws. Growing commercial pressures on land increase dependency on subsistence agriculture and further undermine women’s land rights.

According to FAO’s 2010-11 report on The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA), evidence of gender inequalities in access to land is ‘overwhelming’: social norms discriminate against women, with customary practices restricting women’s ability to own or operate land, and if they do, that land is generally of a lesser quality and size than men’s (SOFA 2011:23ff) – but land rights for women are crucial to closing the gender gap in agriculture. In IFAD-supported programmes, secure land tenure is central to reducing rural poverty and increasing agricultural production, as well as achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.
ILC, a network of intergovernmental and civil society organisations, of which IFAD and FAO are founding members, promotes secure and equitable access to land for women and men and has a targeted Women’s Land Rights Initiative.

Questions to be addressed during this discussion and the side event.
We would like to invite your contributions on:

  1. (Successful) examples of women claiming their land rights: Can you share concrete examples of women getting to know, understanding and claiming their land rights? Specifically, are there concrete examples of women accessing justice systems to claim their land rights? What can we learn from “not-so-successful” examples? Please share any lessons that might apply in other contexts.
  2. Examples of policies and tools that promote women's land rights: Which policies have promoted secure land rights for women and how can these be replicated? What innovative and affordable tools can secure land tenure?
  3. The role of women's organisations: What are effective approaches to ensure that women's voices are heard and get the support of policy-makers? What type of support do women’s organisations need to mobilise, and who are the existing and potential partners in promoting women's land rights? How can women's organisations contribute to community development, and how can the role of women in decision-making be strengthened?
  4. The wider policy context: What challenges do women face in securing their land rights when land is increasingly used for commercial agriculture, fuel crop production, and conservation purposes? Once land rights are secured, how can women sustain their livelihoods from the land?

Thank you in advance for your time and contributions, which we will synthesise and share at the FAO-IFAD-ILC side event in New York, as well as with participants at the 56th session of the CSW.
We look forward to a stimulating debate, and in particular hope that you will share practical examples of rural women claiming their land rights to inform and motivate others working towards securing women's land rights!

Sabine Pallas and Luca Miggiano

This discussion is now closed. Please contact fsn-moderator@fao.org for any further information.