Embracing Transformative leadership for women’s land rights for sustainable change | Land Portal

In the past decade, the land rights movement, particularly the women's land rights movement, has significantly made progress in strengthening the recognition of land rights in national, regional and international instruments. Despite the progress, translating these recommendations into legislative provisions and practices in countries has been slow or minimal. A comparative analysis of seven African countries conducted by the Institute for Poverty Land and Agrarian Studies found significant gaps between the presence of policies and their implementation on the ground. Many African countries have formulated statutory laws to protect women's land rights. Some of these statutory laws have loopholes or might contradict other sectoral laws, a barrier to fully realizing women's land rights. In some countries, there are discriminatory social norms and rapid changes in the local agrarian systems, which lead to opportunistic and selfish acts in local land governance administration, sometimes ripping local societies apart. These hinder the implementation of progressive statutory regulations and even worsen gender inequality on land.

One of the ultimate goals of securing land rights is to bring about a fair and prosperous society based on fair and sustainable land use management. It is about acquiring rights over land and resources and bringing in the conditions that put land acquired into use for people’s prosperous future. We have learnt that transformative leadership for women's land rights is critical to realize this ambition and counterbalance the hindering factors. Transformative change in land rights is the change that is sustainable and allows to address of deep cultures that cause land inequality for women and other vulnerable communities. Transformative leadership approaches do not only want women, men and local communities to prove they have secure land rights but also to have the power and the courage to change their lives and live without poverty. By doing so, transformative leadership enable us to sustain the positive change in policies, beliefs and practice while addressing power relationship for an equal society.

It is crucial that all land rights projects adopt transformative leadership approaches to achieve sustainable changes. Transformative leadership for women’s land rights transforms power relations and structures and allows the leadership potential of women and other groups to access, control, manage, and own land and land-related resources. Transformative leadership for women's land rights demands the engagement of the communities and building their agency to ensure sustainability even after the project. Transformative leadership for women's land rights brings communities together and enables men, women, and all vulnerable groups to meaningfully participate and engage and ensure that their dignity is respected regardless of their power.

 

Farmers field school in Busia District, Uganda. Photo credit: Oxfam in Uganda communication team

Farmers field school in Busia District, Uganda. Photo credit: Oxfam in Uganda communication team

 

Land tenure registration is important, but if it does not address gender and power imbalance in land ownership and control, it is harmful. In many societies, women and youth do not own land due to deep-rooted culture and historical power imbalances such as colonial legacy. If the power and gender relationships are not challenged,  land inequality is reinforced. Adopting transformative leadership approaches may be challenging in certain circumstances, have cost implications, or be time-consuming. Yet, if we want sustainable change for land rights work, transformative leadership for women's land rights is a way to go. Beijing +25 process, which marked the birth of the Generation Equality Forum, taught us that, despite the strength of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995, there was a slow or no progress on strengthening women's rights. The Generation Equality Forum Action Coalition decided to adopt principles of transformation, feminist leadership and intersectionality for change to happen and deliver concrete game-changing results for women's rights.

Experience in transformative leadership for women's land rights has taught us that initiatives to project land rights should first seek to ensure the vulnerable group within the communities have secure land instead of starting with registering the tenure of rights of the people who have land. Most people who own land in the communities are powerful, and women, youth and other vulnerable groups do not own land; this must be addressed before registering and strengthening tenure. The Land at Scale project in Chad is an example of an initiative which has received quick results from the project which embraced transformative leadership from its beginning. At the beginning of the Land at Scale programme, the programme organized a workshop for project implementers from several countries worldwide to learn and discuss what elements would bring transformation to land rights through the programme. While results may seem slow in many transformative leadership projects, we have seen transformative change within a short time in the case of the Land at Scale project in Chad. The Land at Scale project in Chad: Land reform based on rapid evolutions and present crisis started in 2021. The project supports a women's land rights campaign at the national and local levels. As a result of the campaign, traditional authorities in the province of Moyen Chari have granted women and youth more than 1800 ha intending to strengthen their economic wellbeing and livelihood for the communities. The land rights project in Chad uses a transformative women's leadership approach to enter into a dialogue with local statutory and traditional authorities to secure women's youth land rights and combine it with support to the institutional and technical strengthening of women's cooperatives to use land, produce, transform and commercialize. Allocation of land responds to land-sensitive principles, such as avoiding land under conflict, sacred areas, or corridors of transhumance and is based on overall community formal agreement regarding the allocation of these lands. The dialogue process, led by women and youth through collective organizations, involving and respecting local decision-making authorities, is part of the transformative process.

To deliver successful rural development, addressing the imbalance in accessing, controlling, and ownership of land is crucial. It is not about strengthening the land situation by providing certificates but also about applying intersectionality to engage people meaningfully. Transformative projects identify land inequality and mitigate any potential unintended negative consequences, such as resulting in the intended support to benefit a few powerful individuals who own land, while the majority can fail to be part of the project because they do not own land. Transformative leadership on land rights programmes imply a bold commitment to consider and act upon power inequality and intersectionality in all our activities. Hence by embracing transformative leadership, we are contributing to the wellbeing and prosperity of women, youth and indigenous people's land rights, as well as societies at large.

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