On December 8th, ILC Asia member Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD), in collaboration with Landesa and ILC-supported National Land Coalition (NLC) platform, organised a formal launch event of the Stand 4 Her Land (S4HL) Campaign in Bangladesh.
Women’s land rights are closely tied to income growth, better child nutrition and higher educational attainment for girls. This was the key takeaway of the event, as participants from across backgrounds convened and shared their experiences on advocating for women’s land rights.
ALRD is part of ILC’s National Land Coalition (NLC), a multi-stakeholder platform working to secure people-centred land governance at the national level. NLC Bangladesh, known by its members as the Bangladesh Land Rights Network (BLRN), work together to implement the S4HL Campaign at the national level. Under the coordination of ALRD as the leader of the campaign’s Country Coalition, the working group strives to create more opportunities for rural women to claim and exercise their land rights. The Coalition members also include media professionals, indigenous representatives, and other civil society organisations.
Pallab Chakma from Kapaeeng Foundation, who is also a member of the ILC Council, remarked how women's participation at different levels, especially in politics and decision-making processes, is important. Indigenous women in Chittagong Hill Tracts, where the majority of indigenous populations of Bangladesh live, remain marginalised and left out when it comes to making decisions over their land.
In Bangladesh, fewer than 13% of women in rural landowning households have documented rights to land and further, only 4 to 5% have effective control over land, particularly agricultural land.
The Bangladesh Constitution calls for equality regarding property rights, but inheritance laws are based on religion and remain inequitable. This denies most women the ability to gain land rights because most land in Bangladesh is acquired through inheritance. Even in cases where women do inherit land, they rarely receive the share accorded them under the law—and even this share is inequitable relative to men.
To effectively make changes at the community-level to support the recognition of women’s land rights, social norms regarding who should own and control land must shift. Inviting men as allies is one of the key advocacy tools, in the hopes that men will become more aware of the benefits of women owning land and recognise women as farmers and producers and their contributions to their families and communities.
Shamsul Huda, Executive Director of ALRD, acknowledged the gap in policy implementation on the ground, despite there being explicit laws and regulations that uphold equality regarding land and property rights. Mr Huda also expressed his gratitude as Bangladesh has been chosen as the pilot location for the S4HL Campaign in the Asia region and that the Ministry of Planning has committed its political will to strengthen women’s land rights in the country.
Movement building from the ground up is also key to securing women’s land rights in the context of Bangladesh. As Rowshan Moni, Deputy Director of ALRD said, civil society organisations (CSOs) and development partners could extend their helping hand by strengthening the capacity of rural women and ensure that the women themselves take leadership of mobilising and organising their movement.
Diverse participation and inclusivity in the event were one of the goals shared by ALRD and the S4HL Campaign. Ivan Ahmed Katha, a transgender activist who attended the event, highlighted how it's important for the government to work with the Hijra (transgender) community to secure land rights for all.
Prior to the event, ILC member Kapaeeng Foundation, partnered with the Bangladesh Indigenous Women’s Network, organised a workshop on addressing gender-based violence (GBV) as a way to commemorate UN Women’s 16 Day of Activism against GBV Campaign. ILC Asia Regional Coordinator Mirgul Amanalieva remarked how with personal commitments, taking shared responsibility in baby steps, we can create a world where women are safe.