Women’s Land & Property Rights
In many countries around the world, women’s property rights are limited by social norms, customs and legislation hampering their economic status and opportunities to overcome poverty. Even in countries where women constitute the majority of small farmers and do more than 75% of the agricultural work, they are routinely denied the right to own the land they cultivate and depend on to raise their families.
Ownership of land and property empowers women and provides income and security. Without resources such as land, women have limited say in household decision-making, and no recourse to the assets during crises. This often relates to other vulnerabilities such as domestic violence and HIV and AIDS.
In regions of conflict, the impact of unequal land rights has particularly serious consequences for women — often the only survivors. In conflict and post-conflict situations, the number of women-headed households often increases sharply as many men have either been killed or are absent. Without their husbands, brothers or fathers — in whose name land and property titles are traditionally held — they find themselves denied access to their homes and fields by male family members, former in-laws or neighbours. Without the security of a home or income, women and their families fall into poverty traps and struggle for livelihoods, education, sanitation, health care, and other basic rights.
In recent years, international agreements have repeatedly reiterated the importance of women’s land and property rights.
- The Beijing Platform for Action affirmed that women’s right to inheritance and ownership of land and property should be recognized.
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has underscored it, referring to rural women’s rights to equal treatment in land and agrarian reform processes.
- Women’s property rights are an implicit part of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, specifically Goal 1 on eradicating extreme poverty and Goal 3 on gender equality.
UN Women advocates for women’s land and property rights as part of its core strategy to enhance women’s economic security and rights and reduce feminized poverty. There is a strong focus on ensuring that women benefit from equal rights to property under the law, as well as in actual practice at the grassroots level.
- In Aceh, UN Women’s gender advisor worked with the Agency for Recovery and Reconstruction for Aceh and Nias (BRR) to implement a joint land titling policy so women and men are included on titles.