Realizing women's rights to land and other productive resources

Published: January 2013

The purpose of this publication is to provide detailed guidance for lawmakers and policymakers, as well as civil society organizations and other stakeholders, to support the adoption and effective implementation of laws, policies and programmes to respect, protect and fulfil women's rights to land and other productive resources. It is based on the results of an expert group meeting held on 25-27 June 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland, during which papers were presented from various sectors and regions. These papers, and the discussions which were informed by them, helped to bring to the surface many of the critical issues facing women today in relation to the enjoyment of their land rights. The publication also incorporates additional case studies submitted by key experts, as well as extensive thematic research.

Key Findings

  • In many communities gender disparities with regard to land and other productive resources are linked to assumptions that men, as heads of households, control and manage land -- implicitly reflecting ideas that women are incapable of managing productive resources such as land effectively, that productive resources given to women are "lost to another family" in the event of marriage, divorce or (male) death, and that men will provide for women's financial security. Challenging these discriminatory ideas is critical.
  • There is a positive correlation between ensuring women's rights to land and other productive resources and improved household welfare, as well as enhanced enjoyment of a broad range of rights for women.
  • In the context of HIV, women's rights to inheritance and property are "...a crucial factor in reducing women's vulnerability to violence and HIV, as well as empowering women to cope with the social and economic impact of the epidemic at the household level."
  • Even in countries where good laws exist, women frequently do not enjoy their rights to access and control productive resources. Implementation is too often hindered by sociocultural norms and women's lack of knowledge of their entitlements.
  • Land is key to a life with dignity and a basis for entitlements which can ensure an adequate standard of living and economic independence and, therefore, personal empowerment.
  • Just 1 per cent of the world's women actually own land.
  • In order to ensure that women enjoy their rights in practice, a broad conceptualization of land rights and access to productive resources that is pro-poor, gender-inclusive and responsive to human rights is vital.
  • Various human rights instruments (enumerated in this article) guarantee women's equal rights related to access, use and control over land.
  • Solutions must reflect international human rights standards, take due consideration of the specific needs of women, promote women's rights, ensure that women are able to meaningfully participate at all stages, guarantee that women are empowered to know and claim their rights, and provide for accountability and access to remedies in cases where rights may have been violated.
  • Women's access to, use of and control over land and other productive resources are essential to ensuring their right to equality and to an adequate standard of living. These resources help to ensure that women are able to provide for their day-to-day needs and those of their families, and to weather some of life's most difficult challenges.
  • Barriers which prevent women's access to, control and use of land and other productive resources often include inadequate legal standards and/or ineffective implementation at national and local levels, as well as discriminatory cultural attitudes and practices at the institutional and community level.

Populations Women

Complementary Outcomes Women's Rights

Publishers OHCHR, UN Women

Funded by OHCHR, UN Women