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On Equal Ground: Promising Practices for Realizing Women’s Rights in Collectively Held Lands

Sustainable land governance requires that all members of a community, both women and men, have equal rights and say in decisions that affect their collectively-held lands. Unfortunately, women around the world have less land ownership and weaker land rights than men – but this can change, and this report shows ways how that can be done. The reports serves as a valuable guide to realizing more gender-equitable collective land tenure systems by detailing case studies from five communities around the world showing promising approaches to securing equal tenure rights for women and the conditions that enabled these communities to do so. When women have rights and a seat at the table, outcomes such as increased livelihoods and income, improved forest cover, restored land, improved biodiversity are more likely.

Key Findings

Executive Summary

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes equal and secure land rights for women as integral to attaining the global goals of ending poverty and hunger and realizing a more gender-equitable world. To achieve these goals, policies and investments to secure women’s land rights must target not only their individual rights (or jointly with spouses) to household land but also their group-based rights in collectively held lands and resources, such as forests and rangelands.

This report seeks to advance women’s tenure rights in collectively held lands by documenting promising practices and approaches gleaned from communities where women have recognized and secure rights. World Resources Institute (WRI) partnered with Resource Equity and organizations in five countries to identify and conduct case studies of five communities that have relatively gender-equitable land tenure systems.

WRI, RE, and the in-country partners investigated the extent and strength of women’s tenure rights in the five communities and drew out the main factors or conditions that enabled women to claim and exercise rights. We examined the extent of tenure rights according to three dimensions of tenure security:

  1. Robustness, which includes legitimacy or the recognition of rights in both formal and customary systems and the enforceability of rights against third parties;
  2. Completeness or the scope of rights held, including the right to access, use, and derive benefits from lands and resources, as well as participation in their governance; and
  3. Durability or the length and certainty of rights.

WRI and RE then synthesized the findings to glean major enabling factors for realizing women’s tenure security, which prove to be two sets of factors:

  1. Structural factors, or factors that ensure that women have rights
  2. Operational factors, or factors that create the environment for women to claim and exercise rights

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