Lorena Aguilar, an independent consultant for the United Nations Convention to Combat Deforestation (UNCCD) has said women's access to land still remains a challenge with less than 20% having land rights globally.
This was said during a virtual media briefing with journalists across Africa this week at the UNCCD conference in Abidjan.
According to Aguilar, there are major gaps with regards to women’s land ownership across regions. For example, less than 20% of all landholders globally are women.
Aguilar said only 44 countries accord women the same inheritance rights as men in both law and practice, while 29 countries do not grant female surviving spouses and daughters the same rights as their male equals to inherit land and non-land assets.
She said this is one of the world’s strongest markers of disadvantage, which is why reducing inequality is fundamental to achieving the SDGs and other internationally agreed-upon goals.
"Insecure tenure rights are frequently cited as contributing to land and forest degradation. Not having land titles that can be used as collateral, or the lack of secure tenure, hinder women’s access to loans and credit, and limits their access to extension services and training."
“However, equitable land governance and land security tenure are critical to enabling land restoration efforts led by women, for example for making investments for sustainable land management such as soil conservation and augmentation, terracing, tree planting and establishment of buffer zones," Aguilar said in her speech.
“Likewise, insecure tenure rights are frequently cited as contributing to land and forest degradation. Not having land titles that can be used as collateral, or the lack of secure tenure, hinder women’s access to loans and credit, and limits their access to extension services and training,” she added. "Consequently, there is no gender equality without women’s rights to land, and addressing women’s land rights is imperative to any effort related to land degradation, desertification and droughts."
Edward Thole from Landnet, an organization championing for women access to land said that likewise, Malawi land rights remain a challenge for women.
He said that patrilineal societies are very protective of their land from being taken over by incoming in-laws based on current inheritance laws and as such, women as either wives or sisters, are not granted exclusive right to own land.
“While women are taken as gatekeepers for land in matrimonial societies, the right is limited to usage while ownership and control remains in the hands of men as uncles. In a nutshell, there is no land tenure for women.
“As remedies, awareness activities target women to buy and own their own land which is possible in some parts of central and southern Malawi, but it is an impossible thing in the northern region where women are not allowed to own land due to inheritance laws,” said Thole.
The Head of States and Government Official’s representative at the convention are expected to agree on several declarations, including gender issues and land tenure, which are spearheaded by the Ivory Coast government.
The UNCCD conference is meant to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of droughts in countries experiencing serious droughts particularly in Africa and the theme is; land, life, legacy; from scarcity to prosperity.
This story was produced as part of the 2022 UNCCD Virtual Reporting Fellowship, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Robert Bosch Stiftung. It was originally published in Leyman Publications on May 20, 2022. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Banner image: Officials at the UNCCD conference in Ivory Coast, Africa / Credit: Leyman Publications.