Experiences of women in asserting their land rights: the case of the Bugesera District

Poor women in developing countries rely on land as source of livelihood. Increasing pressure on land — brought on by globalisation pressures, increased population and privatisation — undermines women’s land tenure security. The comparison of women’s land access is predominantly measured against that of men, and this has been the basis for formulating policy aimed at increasing women’s land tenure security. However, this dichotomy reduces women to a homogenous group which experiences tenure security in an identical manner, so the dichotomy masks several differences which exist among women.

A focus on the differences among women allows for significant insight to emerge into how women experience tenure access differently, how various policies impact on different women and the specific ways these differences could be used to inform policy formulation and evaluation. Focussing on differentiation among women also illustrates other important factors shaping women’s access to land, normally overlooked when research focuses on differences between men and women.

This paper highlights how differentiation is useful to explain women’s differences in land access and how policy aimed at ensuring women’s tenure security could be more effective.