Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

CSW62 Side Event: Land rights and women’s empowerment in rural Africa

12/03/2018 - 17:37
Courses & workshops

Joint EU-Germany-Finland Side Event at the Commission on the Status of Women 2018 (CSW62) on

Transformative approaches to achieve women’s tenure security at scale: the relation between equal land rights and women’s empowerment in rural Africa


Date: 13 March, 10:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m., Conference Room 11 at the UN Headquarters in New York


Worldwide, rural women are dependent on secure access to land and other productive resources in order to ensure their livelihoods and food security for their families. Secure land rights can also increase women’s decision-making at the household level and provide women with necessary insurances in case of divorce, abandonment or death of their husbands.

The links between gender equality and land rights are complex and contextually divergent. Discriminatory practices and norms tend to limit women’s access and control over land so that men have the power to decide over important agricultural issues, even when the woman is perceived to be the land owner with either sole or joint formal land title. Women may be ignorant of their land rights and traditional justice systems may favour men. Women are more likely to farm smaller plots or marginal land of inferior quality, whilst their ability to acquire to agricultural inputs may be limited because their access to land depends on spousal relationships.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize the importance of property rights for women, especially in rural areas. The SDG target 1.4 aims to ensure “all men and women have equal rights to ownership and control over land (among other resources) by 2030”[1].  The SDG target 5.a underlines the necessity to “undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources as well as to ownership and control over land and other forms of property”.[2]

Ensuring equal access to productive resources and markets for women and girls needs to be a dedicated policy priority backed up by transformative approaches which tackle the underlying causes of gender inequality. Without such transformative approaches, it is unlikely that the ambitious goals and targets of the SDGs to achieve gender equality and empower women can be met by 2030.

In the last two decades, many governments have reformed their constitutions and laws to incorporate either gender-neutral language (favouring neither men nor women) or explicitly recognize women’s rights to property and prohibit discrimination based on gender (gender-equal framework)[3]. These laws, however, are not sufficient to guarantee secure land rights for women. Even if statutory laws foresee equal access to land, women can face severe difficulties in realizing their de jure land rights as a result of their lack of awareness and information, or social structures and customary tenure norms. Although the latter can act as a safety net to protect a woman from displacement or arbitrary practices by other members of her household or community, many of these systems have norms that discriminate against women’s land rights.

The objective of this session is to demonstrate how the goal of women’s empowerment, especially from an economic perspective, is closely connected to securing their access to land and how attainment of these rights and their enforcement in practice can be supported. It will serve as an opportunity to showcase successful examples of gender-transformative approaches from Africa that tackle the underlying norms and dynamics of inequality in the context of land tenure and share best practices from implementation.

Moderator:                        Justine Uvuza, Landesa

Opening remarks:            Jean-Louis Ville, EU DG DEVCO, International Cooperation and Development  


  • Stefanie Braun, Konrad Adenauer Foundation Namibia, Project “Strengthening land ownership and land rights of women in sub-Saharan Africa”
  • Joan Marende, OXFAM Programme “Women’s Land Rights for Inclusive Development and Growth in Africa“
  • Venge Nyirongo, UN Women (joint project with Finland on gender and land rights in Kenya and Tanzania)
  • Prisca Mandimika, Special Advisor to the Minister, Ministry of Lands and Resettlement, Namibia

Closing remarks:                               Stefan Schmitz, Commissioner of the “One world – no hunger” initiative, BMZ



[1] Indicator 1.4.2 is “Proportion of total adult population with secure tenure rights to land, with legally recognized documentation and who perceive their rights to land as secure, by sex and by type of tenure.”  

[2] Indicator 5.a.1: (a) Proportion of total agricultural population with ownership or secure rights over agricultural land, by sex; (b) share of women among owners or rights-bearers of agricultural land, by type of tenure;

Indicator 5.a.2: Proportion of countries where the legal framework (including customary law) guarantees women’s equal rights to land ownership and/or control.

[3] World Bank, FAO & IFAD, (2008) "Gender Issues in Land Policy and Administration" MODULE 4 of GENDER IN AGRICULTURE SOURCEBOOK, p. 126. 


Conference Room 11
United Nations Headquarters

10017 New York
United States