Women’s Leadership, Agency, and Voice

Promoting Gender Justice Within Community-based Tenure Systems in Bolivia and Zambia

Author: Clark University

Date: May 24, 2017

Land tenure security has become a major focus of donors, policy-makers, and the media in the past ten years, as land and forest resources are under a series of socio-economic and environmental pressures and related demands. How women gain access to and maintain control over land and forest resources in this dynamic environment depends both on existing institutional frameworks and on efforts to promote gender justice within customary tenure systems.

This report synthesizes research findings on gender dynamics and the implications for gender justice in community-based tenure systems in Zambia’s Eastern Province and two Bolivian TCOs (Tierra Comunitaria de Origen/Native Community Land). It highlights how women’s leadership and mobilization for access to resources differ, how access is conditioned by different levels of power and authority as well as relationships with other local, regional and national actors.

  • Key Findings
  • Related Materials

Key Findings

  • In the communities studied in Zambia and Bolivia, customary tenure systems have had a mixed record in terms of women’s increased access to and control over land and forest resources.
  • It should not be assumed that women’s statutory rights will be respected by traditional leaders in their administration of customary laws.
  • Women can and do mobilize and organize to protect land rights but rarely challenge male authority in their households and communities.
  • Consulted women leaders and women’s organizations consistently noted the need for greater transparency, access to information, and support in analyzing information related to the administration of collective lands and natural resources.
  • Investments in grassroots and indigenous women’s organizations and networks, leadership development and rights education are critical to the gender justice agenda. Women must know their rights in order to fully exercise their rights.
  • The presence of outside interests/pressures on collective lands/territories creates a particular challenge for women’s access to land and natural resources.
  • Respect for customary rights by outsiders and various state agencies is important.
  • There is no sex disaggregated data available in either Zambia or Bolivia documenting how land is allocated and/or registered in customary systems.


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