Strengthening Indigenous and Rural Women’s Rights to Govern Community Lands: Ten Factors Contributing to Successful Initiatives

Author: Rights and Resources Initiative

Date: April 12, 2019

Historically, the injustices confronting women with regard to community land rights have been widespread. They are commonly perpetuated by patriarchal community-level practices, customary laws, and formal laws passed by governments, all of which either overlook or directly discriminate against indigenous and rural women’s tenure rights.

While women and men are increasingly challenging and positively transforming patriarchal customs at a local level, research demonstrates that across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), women’s rights to substantively participate in decisions determining the use, management, conservation, allocation, and inheritance of community lands and resources remain inadequately protected under national-level law.

Encouragingly, grassroots groups and a wide range of development organizations are devising successful initiatives to advance the land governance rights of rural women and their communities, generating stories of progress that underscore women’s agency, power, and potential. However, successful support processes remain under-reported and insufficiently analyzed. This report begins to address these gaps by identifying factors that have contributed to the success of local, national, and regional initiatives employed in LMICs to strengthen indigenous and rural women’s governance rights concerning community lands.
  • Key Findings
  • Related Materials

Key Findings

10 Contributing Factors Underlying Initiatives that Successfully Strengthened Indigenous and Rural Women’s Land Governance Rights

  1. Community-wide engagement is essential for sustainable, wide-spread progress: Successful processes and interventions aiming for sustainable and wide-spread change empower women and strengthen their governance rights as part of an ongoing and collaborative process involving the entire community.
  2. Engage community leaders: Successful projects often receive the support of male and female community leaders.
  3. Provide culturally appropriate support: Successful activities implemented by organizations external to communities are designed alongside community members, resonate with communities’ cultural norms, and prioritize communities’ agency.
  4. Recognize that social change takes time: Successful activities allow enough time to transform patriarchal attitudes towards gender roles and for normative changes to manifest in favor of women’s land governance rights.
  5. Highlight the valuable contributions that women already make to their communities: Render visible the positive impact of women’s work on the management and conservation of community lands.
  6. Demonstrate the community-wide advantages of securing women’s governance rights: Successful initiatives empowering women also benefit—and are presented as benefiting—the entire community.
  7. Use information to empower women as community leaders and decision-makers: Successful activities use the sharing of information with women as the foundation of women’s leadership and decision-making capacity.
  8. Establish meeting spaces, activities, networks, or institutions that are exclusively for women: Successful initiatives often facilitate women-only networks, institutions, activities, meeting-spaces, or agreements.
  9. Create self-sustaining, multilevel networks of women leaders: Successful activities create networks of women leaders who engage in mentoring and information sharing to maximize results.
  10. Build and leverage strategic relationships with a variety of stakeholders outside of communities: Successful initiatives effectively communicate and build relationships with a wide variety of external actors to garner their support.


Related Materials