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The new Gender and Land Rights Database: a hub of information on gender-equitable land tenure

This week, FAO unveiled the new and improved Gender and Land Rights Database (GLRD). Consisting of three main sections – country profiles, gender and land-related statistics, and the all-new Legislation Assessment Tool – the site aims to serve as a hub of information, statistics and analysis on the different political, legal and cultural factors that influence women’s land rights throughout the world.

© FAO / Franco Mattioli
05/03/2015

The new version of the website will also highlight key publications and resources related to gender-equitable land tenure, and feature regular online discussions on targeted issues relating to gender and land in different countries and contexts.

We sat down with Ana Paula de la O Campos, Naomi Kenney and Christine Legault of the GLRD Core Team to hear about what's new and what's better:

Let's start with the all-new Legislation Assessment Tool. Can you tell us a little about it?

While the GLRD site has always offered country profiles and statistics, the Legislation Assessment Tool (LAT) is a completely new feature. It offers 30 indicators for measuring progress towards gender equity in land tenure in national policy and legal frameworks in different countries around the world.

Selecting an indicator brings up an interactive world map showing the stage of incorporation of an indicator into a country’s policy and legal framework – the different colours reflect how far an indicator has been incorporated on a scale from 0 to 4. 

It's a very practical, evidence-based tool for visualizing the legal intricacies around men and women's access to land in different countries: you can get a sense of positive and negative elements in the policy and legal frameworks, and you can use the assessment results to inform policy and law-making processes.

How does the LAT work?

The LAT uses the GLRD country profile information to assess the extent to which a country enables gender-equitable land tenure from a legal perspective. Basically, it looks at everything in a country that is required to safeguard women's land rights from all angles: the constitution, inheritance law, nationality law and family law, the ratification of international conventions, decentralisation through formal vs. customary institutions, the existence of specific measures such as quotas to support women's representation in land-related institutions, grievance mechanisms and legal aid for land disputes, and so on.

In addition to good practices, the indicators draw on FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security and the Technical Guide on Governing land for women and men.

The country profiles on our website are regularly updated, so as a consequence the LAT will be too. This means that over time, the LAT will reflect actual progress across the different indicators as well. In fact, we're already working with FAO colleagues to look at using some of these indicators to monitor programmes in women's land rights in the post-2015 development agenda.

What made you decide to develop the LAT? How did it come about?

We talked to website users and partners who felt the country profiles were too long and time-consuming to read all the way through. Sometimes they didn't understand why certain information was there, or how it was relevant. This is understandable – it's not always obvious how a certain law can have an effect on women's land rights. We realized we needed a way to illustrate the situation in each country more clearly and concisely.

We also needed a tool that we could use in countries, to provide policy and legal advisory support to FAO’s member countries on strengthening their national frameworks to make them more conducive to gender-equitable land tenure, especially in the context of the Voluntary Guidelines. In this sense, we've already begun using the LAT: the tool was recently used in the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines in Sierra Leone. So far we have 17 countries available in the LAT section of the website, and we'll be adding more in the coming months.

What about the other two main sections of the site – the country profiles and the gender and land-related statistics?

The country profiles have been a familiar feature of the GLRD since it was originally launched back in 2010. At that time we had around 70 country profiles, but we've since added more, bringing the number up to 83 – and we keep them all regularly updated of course. Each profile provides key facts on gender and land rights in a given country, across a range of relevant contexts including constitutions, family law, succession law, land law and customary and religious law, as well as policies and programmes.

In the past, the information in these country profiles was not easily searchable. If you were interested in women's land rights in a certain country, you had to click on the country profile and read all of it in its entirety. Of course, this is not how people use the internet these days, so for the new site we created a search function that enables you to pull from the country profiles by topic. If you're interested in Bangladesh for example, but only in terms of information related to customary law, you can select that. The search will then extract the information related to customary norms and institutions, traditional authorities, discrepancies or gaps between statutory and customary laws and so on. And you still have the option of reading the full country profile of course!

"We capitalized on the wealth of information in these 83 country profiles, by creating a search engine that enables users to find specific information by topic."

For the statistics area of the site as well, we've made some major improvements. In the past we only had one meaningful statistic – about the share of male and female agricultural holders. Because of our name, most people who came to our site expected to find more data. Instead, they would find that there wasn't much in terms of data and statistics, and that most of it was not very recent.

So in addition to updating all the information and statistics, we partnered with the FAO Statistics Division and other organizations to gather all the available data on gender and land and publish it here, and to develop new statistics as well. In particular, we're using a new interactive data map, which does a great job of showing the discrepancies between men and women's land rights among countries in both numbers and colours. 

 - Information is quickly accessed by selection of indicators in scroll-down menu and displayed visually thanks to an interactive map.

 - Most recent land-related statistics disaggregated by gender, including distribution of landholders by sex and the incidence of landowners by sex, among others.

 - Useful for generating and printing tables and graphs as well.

And the online discussions?

The idea with the online discussions is to encourage stakeholders at country level – NGOs, civil society and independent experts – to engage with a specific issue in a country and share their experiences on the ground. When we organize an online discussion about a country, we encourage participants to read and respond to the country profile for that country. This helps fuel the discussion of course, but it also creates a natural feedback loop that enables us to validate the information on our site, and to make updates and improvements as needed. We've had two online discussions so far – one on land titling in Peru and another on legal pluralism in Madagascar. Summaries of both discussions can be found here.

Are there any plans for additional developments in the near future?

While we don't plan to add any major features or functionality in the short term, we do intend to continue building on the work done so far, in terms of new and improved content, including publications, regularly-updated statistics and more online discussions.

Click here to access the new, re-launched Gender and Land Rights Database.