Commemorating International Rural Women's Day: The fight for equal land rights
October 15th was the International Day of Rural Women. Established in 2008 by the United Nations General Assembly, the Day recognises the crucial role women and girls play in rural society for sustainable development.
For the ILC, fighting for women’s land rights continues to be a top priority. Working together as a network, we have committed to overcoming any practices that marginalise or disempowers people -in particular women- by applying the principle of gender justice to all our work.
Despite some progress, women continue to face discrimination in their fight for equal rights to own and access land. There are still too many instances of women forced out of their homes after the death of a partner or kept out of decision-making processes related to land.
“Globally women own less land and have less secure rights over land than men. Women make up on average less than 20 percent of the world’s landholders, but make up an estimated 43 percent of the agricultural labour force.”
Earlier this year, the United Nations Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice produced a paper about the insecurity of women’s land rights and the threat it has on gender equality and development. The position paper strongly supports for States to urgently change those laws and social norms that inhibit a woman’s right to own and access land. Securing tenure rights play an important part in improving poverty conditions for the rural poor, who depend on the land for their livelihoods. According to UN report, “women’s lack of secure tenure can limit their access to credit, ability to invest in the land and its overall productivity.” Denying this right is essentially obstructing the development of half of the population.
In honour of Rural Women, ILC, Landesa and dozens of other organisations came together in adoption of the Working Group’s position paper, as well urging “States’ compliance with their obligation to respect, protect and fulfill women's human rights” to ensure the realisation of women’s land rights indicators for the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
“Stronger women’s rights to land and productive assets are linked to enhanced status, improved living conditions, better nutrition and food sovereignty, improved health and education outcomes, higher earning and individual savings, and better access to credit, as well as better protection from gender violence.”
Working together at Regional Levels
To make joint advancements on ILC’s 4th commitment: Equal Land Rights for Women, ILC members have formulated Commitment-based initiatives (CBI) in three regions. These working groups bring members together to work on a common goal to define multi-year work plans and monitor progress, reporting to each other and to the wider membership.
Despite each of the region taking diverse approaches based on socioeconomic and geographical challenges, all have a priority on mapping and knowledge exchange.
Latin America & the Caribbean
Coordinated by CINEP, ILC members in Latin America gather and contribute to learning and knowledge exchange, as well as building spaces to address women land rights issues specific to the region, which includes threats of extractive activities and agrochemical production systems that are disproportionally affecting women.
Key activities include knowledge sharing on participatory mapping and report generation describing key issues in the access to and participation in land initiatives for rural women. Recently, the initiative contributed to toolkit on influence and communication in regards to women’s land rights that will be disseminated in the coming months.
Led by Swadhina, one of the main characteristics of the CBI, Ensuring Gender Justice: Enriching the Land Rights Now Movement in Asia is the diversity of participants. Organisations from five different Asian countries to take the initiative to ensure advocacy and awareness to initiate positive actions in improving gender justice related to land.
To facilitate knowledge exchange on Women’s land rights topics, ILC members along with ILC-Asia regional coordination unit, established an online portal known as She Land, with the aim of eradicating gender-based discrimination through information sharing. The joint effort responds to a specific need to document and promote visibility of actions, projects and good practices in relation to women's land rights.
Under the coordination of Wildaf West Africa, activities planned and implemented by ILC members are embedded in the broader framework of the Kilimanjaro Initiative. The success of the initiative, both in terms of women’s agency and effective advocacy, was clearly represented by the positive reaction of the African Union to the Kilimanjaro Charter, which was submitted by rural women after the historic climb to the summit. The African Union officially endorsed the charter of demands. The demand included 15 specific issues addressing women’s access to use, control, own, inherit and dispose of their land and natural resources” with the aim to empower women across the continent. This success opens the way for further mobilisation at regional level to combat discriminatory norms and policy and secure women's land rights.
Learn, Share & Be Inspired
ILC’s Database of Good Practices is a dedicated space to share experiences with and learn from the rich experiences and knowledge within ILC’s network. Members have gone about creative ways in realising the lands rights of women through participatory mapping, resource management and influencing policy.
 See UN WOMEN, Facts & Figures, http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/commission-on-the-status-of-women-2012/facts-and-figures.
 See Insecure land rights for women threaten progress on gender equality and sustainable development, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/WRGS/Womenslandright.docx
 Women to Kilimanjaro. (2016, October). Charter of Demands: Actualizing Women's Land Rights in Africa [Press release]. From http://us-cdn.creamermedia.co.za/assets/articles/attachments/68327_english_charter_to_print_final.pdf