“From the voices of peoples' organisations: their fight for land rights as part of a bigger network” Learning Lab series is a space for peer-to-peer exchanges among peoples’ organisations of ILC. It seeks to understand how these organisations engage with the ILC network, their expectations, institutional challenges, and strengths. Over 100 ILC member organisations represent over fifty-six thousand communities and more than seventy-one million people around the globe. These peoples’ organisations directly represent and are accountable to people depending upon the land, whether at the local level as grassroots organisations or on a larger scale as regional federations.
Winny Chepkemoi of Kenya Land Alliance is a feminist and gender practitioner with over six years of experience in climate justice, food security, land, and natural resource governance. She facilitated the session and took the audience to Uganda, India, Albania, and Nicaragua and explored the diverse challenges and successes in securing women's land rights.
Gender Inequality and Land Rights: Learning from ILC women
From problems to solutions in Uganda
Caroline Kayanja is a women's land and property rights project officer at Uganda Community Based Association for Women and Children's Welfare (UCOBAC). UCOBAC is an NGO working to protect human rights and women and children's welfare, including land rights.
Land is an essential source of income and livelihood for Ugandans living in rural areas. Eighty per cent of Uganda's land falls under customary tenure and is mostly unregistered. 90% of rural women work in agriculture, yet only sixteen per cent own land and thirty per cent own land jointly. Although the law protects women's land rights, customary rules for land governance still undermine women's land rights. Patriarchal norms hinder women from accessing and securing their land rights. Further, women and men are still ignorant of the law and their rights, creating a profound disparity between law and practice. The violation of women's land rights often leads to land grabbing and disinheritance of women.
UCOBAC uses pro-poor fit-for-purpose and gender-responsive land tools and approaches to register women's land rights and secure their tenure. Pro-poor and fit-for-purpose tools are inclusive, easy to use and participatory, and always involve the women in mapping and documenting land rights. For example, UCOBAC registered women as co-owners of land in their families through Certificates of Customary Ownership or communities through Communal Land Associations. Additionally, UCOBAC promotes access to justice through alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve land disputes quickly and cheaply. Specifically, they train sub-county and community leaders on gender-responsive mediation to support women in land disputes. Finally, UCOBAC works with women to lead advocacy efforts to implement gender-responsive laws and collaborates with other civil society organisations, such as KELIN Kenya and Pastoral Women's Council, to develop a social norms transformation curriculum.
(Photo credits: UCOBAC)
Invisible women: making the gender data gap visible in India
Pallavi Sobti Rajpal is the Deputy CEO of UTTHAN, a founding member of the Working Group for Women and Land Ownership (WGWLO) in India. She works on policy advocacy on rural women's land rights.
In Gujarat, India, 73.2% of rural women engage in agriculture, yet only 10.8% own land. The man or the family always holds the land, constraining women from exercising their land rights. Several constraints including patrilocal post-marital residence, village exogamy, opposition to mobility from men, traditionally institutionalised gender roles, low female literacy and awareness, male dominance in administrative, judicial, and other public decision-making bodies at all levels. Further, the unavailability of gender-disaggregated data makes it difficult to understand the problem comprehensively and design targeted solutions. Gender-disaggregated data is at the core of gender equality and is key to improving land tenure governance, including policy formulation, access to services, legal systems, and information.
Since becoming an ILC member four years ago, WGWLO has connected with land actors in India and Asia and participated in land-related platforms to advocate for women's land rights. Specifically, WGWLO engages with grassroots women, government officials, and other civil society partners in policy dialogue on women's land ownership, their identity as women farmers, and their access and management of productive resources. WGWLO mainly works with community para-workers trained in social, legal, and procedural skills to work with communities and local governments. The para-workers work in spaces called 'Swa Bhoomi Kendras' (Land of one's own), mainly situated within government offices. They guide women in claiming land ownership, working closely with Panchayats, which are the lowest tier of government in India's three-tiered government system. They also facilitate community-Panchayat dialogues on women's land rights and work with women's federations.
(Photo credits: Jason Taylor)
A short Story in context: Women's struggle to protect forests in Albania
Kesjana Merdini is a communication officer working on forest and land rights at the National Federation of Communal Forests and Pastures of Albania (NFCFPA). The NFCFPA is a coalition of 215 forest and pasture users.
In Albania, a group of women from three small villages protested government concessions affecting the forest near their houses. For three years, the local women and their children blocked the concessioners from entering the forest by guarding it day and night. As a result of the women's tenacity, the Ministry of Environment and members of the parliament met women's demands. The NFCFPA directly assisted the organisers and supporters by producing leaflets and brochures to raise the visibility of forestland issues.
The law of Albania complies with international standards by recognises the equality of men and women in land ownership, title, and tenure. However, there is an implementation gap on the ground, where traditional and social norms vest properties in men, especially in rural areas. To recognise the roles of women and girls in forest governance, the NFCFPA dedicates its March edition to honour women and girls who devote their work and lives to protect the forest and environment. Although NFCFPA took positive steps to recognise the role of women in forest government, their total contribution is still not recognised.
The NFCFPA ensures people-centred forest and pasture resource governance by integrating a gender dimension into campaigning, capacity-building, learning, and knowledge sharing exercises. Specifically, NFCFPA uses ILC's National Engagement Strategy (NES) platform to raise awareness of women's land rights, increase their knowledge of their forestland rights and promote inclusive decision-making in forest-related matters. As a result, NFCFPA has achieved a 13% increase in women's participation in forest and pasture users' associations and federations.
(Photo credits: NFCFPA)
Strengthening grassroots women’s decision making in Nicaragua
Haydee Rodriguez is the president of the Union of Women's Cooperatives, Las Brumas, in Jinotega, Nicaragua
Climate change is affecting many communities in Nicaragua, requiring the adoption of climate-smart land-use practices. Although women and girls are agents of change in the fight against climate change, their agency is often sidelined. Women are food sovereignty, food security, and resilience champions in Nicaragua, setting up cooperatives to manage farmlands. Despite women's dependence on land in Jinotega, 72% of women farmers do not own their farmlands. Women's insecure land tenure inspires Las Brumas to strengthen grassroots women's decision-making and leadership positions.
Las Brumas works with grassroots women in Jinotega to strengthen women's agency in climate actions and resilience. Las Brumas created twenty cooperatives of grassroots women farmers to empower rural women by teaching sustainable agriculture, land reforestation and soil conservation and fighting for women's property rights. Las Brumas aims to challenge social norms and traditional roles of rural women by empowering women to own land. When women own land, they make land-use decisions compatible with the protection of the environment, such as using the moon calendar and the conservation of water and biodiversity. Although fathers and husbands remain the majority owners of land, the work of Las Brumas assists women to own land. Nicaragua recently passed a law protecting women's land rights, although it is not in force yet due to covid-19. While awaiting its implementation, La Brumas continues working with women, producing natural herbs and medicines.
(Photo credits: Jason Taylor)
The role of ILC Multi-Stakeholder Platforms in creating an environment for change
ILC provides a space for peer-to-peer learning and for sharing best practices. Through ILC, UCOBAC connected with the world and like-minded organisations. For the future, UCOBAC would benefit from joint fundraising in a world where fundraising is increasingly challenging.
The complexity of land rights advocacy requires working in networks to achieve changes in laws, policies, society, culture, and the environments. WGWLO is a network of 46 organisations and 20 CBOs in Gujarat, working to secure women's land rights and unseat deep-rooted inequalities. Since joining ILC four years ago, WGWLO's voice in land matters is more cohesive, as they join efforts with national and regional land actors. ILC's global and regional platforms afford members, big and small, an opportunity to engage in grassroots action, capacity building, government partnerships, and knowledge exchanges.
ILC's global and regional platforms afford members, big and small, an opportunity to engage in grassroots action, capacity building, government partnerships, and knowledge exchanges.
Being part of the ILC network, NFCFPA learns from the experiences of other countries and exchanges ideas of defending women's forestland rights. NFCFPA's has become visible beyond Albania, at the regional and international levels. NFCFPA and the entire NES benefit from various training in the forest sector. ILC should continue empowering women in the forest sector to create opportunities for rural households and communities. Moreover, women need more representation in decision-making bodies in the forestry sector to secure their forestland tenure.
Las Brumas' work is more visible, allowing sharing knowledge, experiences, and practices, and exchanging ideas with other organisations. Further, working as a network makes it easier to mobilise people around a common goal. On the other hand, as a network, LAS BRUMAS needs training to improve the agricultural skills of the women's cooperatives to take part in the fair-trade arrangement, enabling sustainable and equitable trade relationships. During the pandemic, women have been working on producing natural medicine.
Working as a network makes it easier to mobilise people around a common goal.
Contributions from the audience
Men changing gender norms and advancing women's land rights
Grace Scorey of the Pastoral Women's Council emphasises the importance of including men in advancing women's land rights. How do the participants' organisations work with men?
UCOBAC engages men in land rights work as women do not work in isolation. To this end, UCOBAC trained 42 men and women working as facilitators in projects. Further, UCOBAC trained 120 men using the social norms transformation curriculum and will upscale the training, targeting 2250 men.
In India, WGWLO is working with men and women to build the identity of women farmers to normalise women as farmers and lay a foundation for advocacy for women's land rights. Further, sharing positive stories on joint land ownership inspires other men to register their wives as joint landowners.
Khalid of DQLCC, Jordan, states that women's land rights framed as family land rights in the Middle East show respect for the socio-cultural dimension of land rights. Framing women's land rights as family land rights encourages both men and women at the local level to respect and protect women's land rights, in line with the community's cultural values. By working with women in our cooperative in Jordan, we discovered that women's economic empowerment is crucial in increasing women's land rights.
Karen from the WGWLO highlights the importance of working with families and men as patriarchal socio-cultural norms can thwart women's land rights.
What kind of support can ILC offer to better respond to the needs of pastoralists?
- Advocacy and campaigning – 59%
- Support participation of women in relevant processes – 18%
- Joint funding for joint initiative – 50%
- Capacity building and training – 54%
- Connection with other organisations – 36%
from the database of good practices
Securing women's land rights in customary areas in Uganda
20 January 2021Read More
Women’s land rights as a pathway to economic justice
3 March 2021Read More
Group of women in India claims rights and services from the state
4 March 2016Read More
Peruvian indigenous women become community leaders
21 March 2018Read More
Shadow reporting on rural and peasant women in Colombia
20 October 2020Read More
The Learning Route methodology: An example on women’s land rights from East Africa
4 March 2016Read More