Across the globe, indigenous and local community women make invaluable contributions to their communities and toward global sustainable development and climate goals. They use, manage, and conserve the community territories that comprise over 50 percent of the world’s land and support up to 2.5 billion people.
Despite indigenous and community women’s crucial roles as forest and household managers, food providers, and leaders of rural enterprises, women’s land and resource rights remain constrained by unjust laws and practices. Even as these women take on greater leadership due to men’s out-migration from communities and mounting external threats to community lands, they are often locked out of decision-making processes at all levels.
In 2017, RRI’s global analysis of 30 low- and middle-income countries, Power and Potential, provided an unprecedented assessment of the status of developing countries’ legal frameworks regarding women’s community land rights. Some of the report’s key findings include:
- National laws are failing to protect indigenous and local community women’s rights to forests.
- Protections for women’s inheritance rights and decision-making power—such as voting and leadership rights—are particularly inadequate.
- The legal advancement of women and their communities often go hand in hand, suggesting that community-focused laws can serve as powerful tools for advancing the rights of women.
Recognizing and securing women’s land and resource rights—in law and practice—benefits women, their communities, and their countries. While many women have made positive strides without secure legal land rights, recognizing these rights is essential to their livelihood and self-determination, and to greater stability in the face of climate change and food shortages. This means that securing women’s rights to community lands offers a promising path toward prosperity and sustainability in the forested and rural lands of the world.
RRI works to encourage rights recognition through the synergistic combination of: global analysis and tools; policy and advocacy support; strategic convening and networking with key allies at different levels; and narrative-building to promote women’s leadership and voice within community lands.
Indigenous and rural women as agents of change
Indigenous and local community women are increasingly leading in community and civil society spaces, as well as running for political office and winning. Just a handful of stories and resources from across the RRI Coalition demonstrate that these women are fighting for their land and resource rights, and using their traditional knowledge and leadership to contribute to a host of development goals, including climate change mitigation, food security, and better water and forest management.
Land governance rights—some of the least adequately protected—underpin women’s ability to participate in decision-making affecting their personal agency and economic security, and the future of the planet. More critical reflection on why and how some initiatives succeed in strengthening these rights can help unpack lessons for future engagements impacting community lands. A 2019 RRI analysis aggregates learning from 18 organizations’ work in 10 low- and middle-income countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America to distill 10 contributing factors underlying successful initiatives that strengthened women’s governance rights regarding community lands.
- Power and Potential: A Comparative Analysis of National Laws and Regulations Concerning Women’s Rights to Community Forests
- Legislative Best Practices for Securing Women’s Land Rights
- Strengthening Indigenous and Rural Women’s Rights to Govern Community Lands: Ten Factors Contributing to Successful Initiatives
- Blog showcasing a handful of stories and resources from across the RRI Coalition
- RRI’s monthly digest on gender justice in community lands and forests (sign up here!)
For questions, please reach out to Silene Ramirez, Gender Justice Manager, at genderjustice [at] rightsandresources.org.