In early October, members of the International Land Coalition (ILC) from across the globe gathered in Arusha, Tanzania, for a global learning exchange and training on gender-transformative approaches to securing women's land rights.
The three-day event brought together seven members of ILC Asia from five countries; KPA from Indonesia, ALRD and Badabon Sangho from Bangladesh, National Land Coalition (NLC) Nepal and NLRF, WGWLO from India, and ARNow! from the Philippines. Participants were expected to share their national-level case studies on advancing women's land rights in the framework of gender-transformative approaches. All of these lessons are meant for replication and adoption by ILC and other development agencies to advance secure women's land rights with a special focus on indigenous, rural, and pastoralist women.
What does 'transformation' of women’s land rights mean for ILC members?
Women demand their rights to land and fully enjoy them. This means being able to fully use, control, own, transform and make decisions about their land and resources independently.
In the mapping exercise, participants reflected upon their vision of when land rights for women have been 'transformed'. Many said that in an ideal world, all people – men and women - are aware of the benefits of women owning land and recognise women as farmers and producers and their contributions to their families and communities. But what exactly Gender-Transformative Approaches mean, and why are they important to help secure women's land rights in intersecting contexts?
According to the event co-organiser, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), gender-transformative approaches challenge the underlying barriers that sustain gender inequality, such as norms and institutional structures. Rather than addressing the symptoms (e.g. unequal income), the approach proposes to identify factors that enable and catalyze transformation to achieve more equitable involvement of women and girls in decision-making, control of resources, and control of their own labour and future.
The existing approaches to address gender inequality, in general, are limited and sometimes do not bring substantive or lasting empowerment, only temporary changes. They have addressed visible gaps in women’s access to knowledge, services, resources, and markets related to women’s individual agency and access to resources. However, they did not bring attention to or address institutions, power relations, gender norms, or any other underlying root causes of gender equality, which allows inequalities to persist and return.
Instead, transformational changes aim at fostering enabling environments that ensure change is deep, lasting and pervasive.
ILC's Global Advisor on Women's Land Rights, Esther Muiru, explains more about this in our video interview.
Moving forward, participants from Asia have committed to taking the lead in the formation of the Asia Women’s Land Rights Forum. The decision came as a reflection of the previous regional platform on women’s land rights as a way to strengthen the dedicated commitment of ILC members to advancing women's land rights at the national level, which could then be scaled up to the regional level.
ILC Asia members have agreed to make the Forum as flexible as possible while continuing to use Gender-Transformative Approaches in its formulation. This learning exchange has significantly strengthened the commitment of ILC Asia members to further advancing women’s land rights in the region, either through evidence-based policy advocacy at the national level or knowledge-sharing exercises.
The Forum would serve as a learning space for members and women's land rights experts to share their experiences. For example, ILC members ALRD and NLRF, as both the exchange participants and the country lead of the Stand 4 Her Land (S4HL) Campaign in Bangladesh and Nepal, respectively, could share their experiences in the Forum in the hopes that the Campaign would be replicated in other countries. ILC members also emphasised strengthening peoples’ organisations as the key to advocating for policy changes at the national level of the respective members’ countries.
At the event, ALRD Programme Officer Shanjida Ripa shared with us the achievements of NLC Bangladesh members who influenced an amendment of the Land Distribution Policy (Khas public land) to lift discriminatory clauses that prevent single women and widows from claiming public land.