Breaking Down Barriers to Women’s Land Rights Starts in Our Homes

Nearly 30 years ago, in 1990s, I became a landowner for the first time in Sri Lanka when my father transferred his share of the land that he co-owned with my mother.

by Shahana Mohamed at IPS UN Bureau: Women’s equal rights to land and property are grounded in core human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As established by international standards, women have the right to equality in the enjoyment of all their rights, including the right to access, use, inherit, control, and own land.

Women own less than 20% of the world’s land while half of the world’s population is women,. Women do not have equal ownership rights to property in 15 countries and customs inhibit women’s access to land in 90 countries. Approximately 100 million women live in countries where they can’t own, inherit, or manage land. Nearly half of the global agricultural workforce is female but less than one in five landholders worldwide are women.

For women who are living in poverty, land is not just property; it is their home, survival and income and a chance to feed, clothe, house, and educate their children. When women farmers have access to their own land, they grow more and so do their communities and countries. Hence, strengthening women’s land and property rights increases food security and reduces malnourishment. If more women owned land, more people might be fed.

Throughout history, land has been a primary source of wealth, social status, and power. Owning land is a powerful pathway for women towards improving social and economic stability, increasing autonomy from their husbands/partners and other relatives, and fostering dignity and improved wellbeing. Ownership of land and property empowers women, providing income and security.

Without resources like land, women have limited say in household decision-making and no recourse during emergencies and crises. Land is also a source of fostering self-reliance for women as secure land rights provide women with an asset base that can be used to obtain credit for business investments and home mortgages, avoiding risky loans with higher interest rates and debts.

Our grandfathers, fathers, uncles, brothers, and sons have bigger roles to play in reversing the gender gap in land ownership rights. We also need the support and solidarity of our grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, daughters, and friends to fully enjoy women’s right to land ownership as equally as any man.

More here.