Equal Land Rights for Women
Ensure gender justice in relation to land, taking all necessary measures to pursue both de jure and de facto equality, enhancing the ability of women to defend their land rights and take equal part in decision-making, and ensuring that control over land and the benefits that are derived thereof are equal between women and men, including the right to inherit and bequeath tenure rights.
ILC’s commitment to promoting equal land rights for women is at the core of our work. Ensuring gender justice in land rights is a cross-cutting concern in all other commitments and ILC also encourages members to link and work together with women’s rights organisations to ensure that land rights are part of equal human rights for women.
ILC has supported members’ advocacy efforts with human rights treaty bodies – in particular, on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) – to hold governments accountable on their international commitments. Members have mobilised in NES platforms to report specifically on the status of women’s land rights, led by Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) in Bangladesh (2016 and 2018), Fundapaz in Argentina (2016 and 2018) with support from other ILC member Programme on Women's Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (PWESCR), Coordinación de ONG y Cooperativas (CONGCOOP) in Guatemala (2017), and Centro de Investigacion y Educacion Popular (CINEP) in Colombia (2017), while Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) reported on indigenous women’s rights in Thailand (2017). This work has already proved influential, and the convention committees have based recommendations to governments on alternative reports from ILC members. At the same time, joint alternative reporting has increased attention to and reinforced cooperation on women’s land rights among members in NES platforms.
Commitment-Based Initiatives (CBIs) focusing on Commitment 4 cover a variety of approaches and best practices for achieving equal land rights for women. The Kilimanjaro Initiative, launched in Central and West Africa in partnership with ActionAid, is a notably successful example of land actors influencing the agendas of key decision-makers. Mujer Rural y Derecho a la Tierra, in the LAC region, has been successful in connecting and mobilising relevant actors, and is now focusing on influencing decision-makers. Ensuring Gender Justice: Enriching Land Rights Movement, in Asia, is bringing together a patchwork of national organisations to form a regional network with its own objectives and practices.
The CBIs in these three regions make up a significant component of the ILC commitment to promoting equal land rights for women, along with the formation of the ILC Women’s Land Rights and Gender Justice Working Group, which has been defining an agenda based on equal land rights for the Coalition network.
In 2016, ILC published the results of a long-term project on Islamic inheritance laws and their impact on rural women. This is an important first step in supporting work by members on Commitment 4, including in partnership with GLTN, in areas where Islamic law is applied. ILC was also able to facilitate a partnership, led by PROPAC and Oxfam, which won European Commission funding for an initiative to support women’s land rights in Africa.
In addition, ILC launched a Women’s Land Rights Toolkit based on a review of tools and approaches created or adopted by members to promote, protect, and strengthen women’s rights. The toolkit aims to encourage mutual learning – one of the main benefits of being part of a network like ILC – on five tools that have been successfully used by Coalition members. One of the main characteristics of the tools is their adaptability to different contexts and areas of work. They are presented in an easy and accessible manner, with concrete examples of how they have been used and links for members to access further information to replicate them.
The Kilimanjaro Initiative
The Kilimanjaro Initiative was launched in 2012, in partnership with ActionAid, to draw attention to the precarious nature of women’s land rights in Africa, and to give women across the continent a common platform for their voices to be heard. The goal of this civil society initiative is to influence land policies at global, national, and regional levels in favour of rural women and to develop an African charter for women’s land rights.
In October 2016, with financial support from ILC, around 500 women from 22 African countries participated in the Kilimanjaro Initiative, which culminated in 29 women climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Augustina Takah, a representative from Cameroon, reached the very peak of the mountain.
Later, the participants presented a Charter of Demands to representatives of the African Union, the African Development Bank, and other organisations and government agencies. The initiative was supported by ILC, ActionAid, Oxfam, WILDAF, PLAAS, and TGNP Mtandao, among others. In January 2017 the Charter was presented by the chair of the African Union Commission (AUC) at the AU summit, where it was endorsed by the AU Heads of States.
Kafui Kuwonu, a member of the Kilimanjaro Initiative Support Consortium and Programme Officer at WiLDAF-AO, said, however: “Despite the endorsement of the Charter of Demands by the AU, the fight for women’s land rights is just beginning. The next phase of the initiative has to do with pushing governments to make good on their promises, working alongside 30 women’s rights organisations in the seven participating countries.”
Vanessa Adoko-Hounzoukin, Programme and Communication Assistant at WiLDAF-AO, said: “Without the financial support of ILC, the results that have been achieved to date would have been impossible. ILC’s technical assistance through the Africa office has also played a decisive role. With this support we have been able to actually evangelise for the Kilimanjaro Initiative across Central and West Africa.”
In 2018 three advocacy modules were created, which included an advocacy tool and an “image box” which serves as a news portal. In addition, capacity-building workshops to train rural women to advocate for adoption of the Charter are being organised in Benin, Togo, Senegal, Cameroon, DRC, and Burkina Faso.
There is more work left to do however: “In the next one to five years, we are looking at pushing for greater space for women to engage in land decision making processes,” says Ms Catherine Gatundu, a Kilimanjaro Initiative Support Consortium member and Policy Advisor at Action Aid International.
Globally, women own less than 20% of the world’s land. In Africa, across 10 documented countries, only 12% of women on average own land individually, compared with 31% of men. Moreover, women continue to face challenges in accessing land, including gender-based violence. Secure land rights could catapult women to economic success, stronger bargaining authority, and financial independence, which could potentially reduce the risks of GBV. The Kilimanjaro Initiative believes that inclusive decision-making and empowerment of women can reduce such gaps.