Equal rights and opportunities for women are not only matters of justice and dignity. When women and girls have equal rights in law and practice, their communities and countries also benefit. Indigenous and rural women make up more than half of the 2.5 billion people who customarily own and use the world’s community lands, yet they have been largely absent from discussions of women’s property rights and broader development agendas.
A new analysis from RRI provides an unprecedented assessment of 80 legal frameworks regulating indigenous and rural women’s community forest rights in 30 developing countries comprising 78 percent of the developing world’s forests.
The report reveals that governments are not providing equal rights and protections to indigenous and rural women, and are failing to meet their international commitments to do so. The findings also show that secure community land rights and the legal advancement of women often go hand in hand. Simply put: legal frameworks acknowledging communities as forest owners also provide the greatest protections for women’s rights.
Indigenous and rural women have made major gains in asserting their rights and strengthening their communities despite the absence of legal protections, yet this progress and the forests they protect are vulnerable. Scaling-up progress to respect community land rights and achieving the host of benefits community ownership provides to global development and climate goals can only be realized if women’s irghts within communities are recognized and respected. Securing women’s rights to community lands therefore offers the most promising path toward peace, prosperity, and sustainability in the forested and rural lands of the world.
Case Studies Accompanying the Report
- Indonesia is one of only two countries assessed that does not guarantee women equal protection under the constitution. Inequitable laws and the expansion of agribusiness threaten the customary practices of many communities who treat women as equals in managing customary lands and resources.
- In Liberia, the promise of Africa’s first female president has fallen short: across the country, community and rural women have been cut off from the decision-making processes that affect them. Many are losing the lands and resources they rely on.
- In Peru, women are raising their voices to call attention to their unique role as forest managers, and advocate for full participation in land titling projects that would affect them.