Without Land Rights, Women Around the World Suffer

One persistent challenge facing global human rights activists is how to leverage the greatest asset in the developing world — land — into something that can uplift nations rather than be yet another avenue of colonial exploitation.

In rural communities, land ownership is typically transferred through marriage or inheritance and via cultural norms that prevent daughters from inheriting land. The non-profit global development organization Landesa explains the problem like this:

For example, in India a daughter is often regarded as an economic burden, especially to poor and landless families, because it is customary that the family must pay dowry to her husband’s family for her to be married. Dowry is seen as paid in lieu of her inheritance. In fact, “it is estimated that the average dowry today is equivalent to five times the family’s annual income and that the high cost of weddings and dowries is a major cause of indebtedness among India’s poor.” Likewise, in many countries in Africa, a daughter’s value may depend on her ability to fetch a bride price, paid to her family by her husband’s family. In both cases, the daughter does not have access to the assets that were transferred for the marriage, leaving her beholden to her husband and his family for her well-being.

This means the added income, nutritional benefits and mobility associated with land ownership is often out of reach for young women in the developing world. Sadly, this damages not just their individual prospects for economic betterment, but their entire community’s prospects as well. That’s because research shows that when women and their daughters secure rights to land and property the results are positive: an increase in net household income, increased expenditures on food and education, a decrease in the likelihood of domestic violence and a greater chance of preventing HIV/AIDS infection.

It’s an uphill battle though. For too long the prevailing wisdom has been that it’s simply too difficult to address deeply entrenched cultural practices which limit a girl’s access to important economic assets, including land. And when we factor in the prevailing wisdom from the conservative movement of this country that girls have inherently less value than boys and carry those values over to a global network, the nature of the challenge becomes only more acute. A President Romney, with the backing of a Tea Party Congress would not just make advancing land ownership reforms abroad more difficult, they would advocate against them all together.

That means the next president can and will help drive the direction of our global response to poverty generally and our fight for equal rights specifically. It’s not just lives of women in this country that may change dramatically for the worse after this election, it’s the lives of women and girls across the world.

 

Related Stories:

Closing the Gender Gap in Global Land Rights

A Letter To Mothers In The Developing World

Women’s Land Rights Bring Wide Benefits

 

Photo from hdptcar via flickr.

105 comments

Jane Warren
Jane Warren3 years ago

You are wrong, at the end of your piece, when you state: "It’s not just lives of women in this country that may change dramatically for the worse after this election, it’s the lives of women and girls across the world."
Because "an increase in net household income, increased expenditures on food and education, a decrease in the likelihood of domestic violence and a greater chance of preventing HIV/AIDS infection" will improve ALL lives across the world.



Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

This is the TRUE war on women!

John S.
Past Member 3 years ago

Unfortunate.

G S.
v s.3 years ago

Women who are single or widowed need to own their own land in America also! Just think what a single parent could do with a place they could call their own! They could sell it and have enough money to move into a smaller home later in life & use the money saved to put their children through college. Think on this, you will soon see, sometimes we focus on these poor women and forget we are actually in the same situation!

Jutta N.
Past Member 3 years ago

sadly noted

Lisa W.
Lisa W.3 years ago

These women need to be able to able to own land, land provides the ability to grow food, build shelter, and have permanence, give them the ability to be INDEPENDENT!!

Cheryl I.
Past Member 3 years ago

Noted, thank you.

Diana Roth
Diana Roth3 years ago

Why are so many men so afraid of a woman that is self-sufficient?

Frans Badenhorst
Frans Badenhorst3 years ago

women deserve it... our MOTHERS, our caretakers, our nourishers, ...without women, no human exists, easy to understand hey???, so, treat them as such...

Robert O.
Robert O.3 years ago

Thanks Jessica.