Strategies to Get Gender Onto the Agenda of the “Land Grab” Debate

TitleStrategies to Get Gender Onto the Agenda of the “Land Grab” Debate
Annotated RecordAnnotated
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsDaley E
Place PublishedRome, Italy
Key themesCivilSociety-Donors, Formalisation-titling, Gender, MarginalisedPeople, Policy-law

The International Land Coalition (ILC)’s Commercial Pressures on Land initiative aims to support the efforts of ILC members and other stakeholders to influence global, regional, and national processes to enable secure and equitable access to land for poor women and men in the face of increasing commercial demand. Its global research contains a careful and focused analysis of the gendered impacts of commercial pressures on land (CPL), and especially the impacts on women.


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Overall relevance: 

The author asserts that there are four central dimensions of female vulnerability which act to compromise their equitable access to land. The paper then structures four main policy recommendations around these four vulnerability themes in an attempt to broaden the scope of the gender equality debate within emerging commercial pressures on land. The aim of the brief is to contribute to more nuanced and effective gender based research tools which better address the root causes of gender inequality. Whilst the paper is brief, it is a good entry point into the complexities and challenges of creating gender equality within land governance.

Key Themes: 
  • Civil society and donor engagement in land issues - Donor funded and civil society initiatives that seek to include a gender perspective in their land programs and global advocacy often risk developing over-simplistic “gender sensitive” tools that are seen as an imposition of foreign norms and sometimes inappropriate to local contexts. Women’s groups, and their engagement in broader social movements, have met complex challenges indicative of various competing ideas about how best to advocate for gender issues within broader coalitions. While these challenges continue to be debated, positive collaborations are possible through lateral engagement between women’s groups and the broader donor landscape. Importantly, gender sensitive tools must acknowledge the complexity of gender issues, and they must be relevant and appropriate in a local context if they are going to affect any positive change.
  • Land rights recognition/formalization/titling/collective tenure - Programs that seek to enhance the productivity of “marginal” or common lands through increased regularisation often threaten the fluid and informal rights that women have with productive resources. Women are often losers in programs that seek to increase security of tenure through the formalisation of land titles, because of their socially subordinate positions in largely male dominated village structures. Their tenure arrangements are largely informal, and when a decision is made about who ultimately ‘owns’ the land they cultivate, there is an embedded assumption that a male’s claim is more legitimate.
  • Marginalized people's land rights and access: ethnic minorities, poor and women - Inheritance rights, discrimination against non-heteronormative household structures, and a general lack of interest from authorities in gender equality together comprise the invisible dimensions of power that prevent women from accessing land, creating a landscape of gender inequality that is very difficult to shift. Assumptions and assertions about the ‘naturalness’ of these dominant/subordinate relations further entrench ideas about the inevitability of gender inequality. In the context of increasing commercial pressure on land, women as a group are disproportionately more likely to be negatively affected than men. The author highlights the four-fold vulnerability that women contend with vis-à-vis men, including: systemic discrimination related to land access, ownership and control
  • Land policy and land law - Women face constraints and systemic discrimination which affects their access, ownership and control of land, including the level of legal protection of their land rights. Even when existing policies and laws attempt to implement gender equality, these do not address socially and culturally embedded inequalities, which are the source of subordination. The generality of laws and policies make them weak and ineffective, as they are not developed to challenge the root causes of gender inequality.
Research basis: 

The brief is based on a series of case studies carried out by researchers working for the International Land Coalition (ICL) in specific countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa.