4 Jun 2019

Land rights seen as crucial element in gender equality - Landesa

4:07 pm on 4 June 2019

Higher incomes, better education and better health care can all result from women being given legal rights to land Landesa, an international organisation that works secure land rights for the world's poorest rural families, says.


The world's biggest conference on gender equality Women Deliver is taking place in Vancouver, Canada this week. Photo: 123RF

The US-based organisation is presenting its ideas at the world's biggest conference on gender equality, Women Deliver, in Vancouver, Canada this week.

Landesa programme manager for Women's Land Rights Beth Roberts said land and gender were two of the toughest issues there were.

"Women have been historically - and are currently, especially in emerging economics - very disadvantaged when it comes to holding assets in property," Ms Roberts said.

"So we do work from a legal and policy angle, we work directly with governments but we do work with civil society partners ... because social norms are often what constrain women's rights."

Evidence showed that when there was an imbalance of power, women were less able to make decisions about everything - from which crops to plant, to how much to invest in education, to what to feed the family - she said.


Changing those norms could bring huge benefits, however.

"There's enormous evidence that when women have legal rights to land, when they know they have secure rights to land and their husband knows that, and their community knows that, the balance of power shifts," Ms Roberts said.

She said women having a legal right to land led not just to basic benefits but to a drop-off in gender-based violence and an increase in women's political participation.

The Landesa organisation also works more broadly with poor families working on the land around the world. Ms Roberts said one of their recent successes was in China.

"There was a recent change to the rural land contracting law which has benefited 240 million families in China by redefining rates to agricultural land in China. So quite an enormous impact there and something we're really excited about."

Landesa is currently advising 11 countries but it has worked in more than 50 countries for over 50 years. Landesa looked for a window of opportunity when a government or attitudes changed, Ms Roberts said.

It then worked with a government to effect changes in land rights laws that supported, not disadvantaged, the poor who worked on the land.

That was because often, agricultural development plans, policies and laws do not favour people who depend on the land, but rather the country's elite or investors from overseas.

"We work on making those laws and policies more equitable for the people who are actually using the land."

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