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Resource Page on Women's Housing and Land Rights

Date: 
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Abstract: 

This page includes information on the right of women to land, including access to  brochures and toolkits about this right as well as relevant articles and reports on related issues.

Globally, women’s land rights are becoming an area of increasing urgency and concern.  In most societies, women have historically managed and fulfilled the responsibilities of domestic labor, family care, and nutritional security. As the definitions of these gender roles and the contexts surrounding them become more tenuous (generating both positive and negative impacts on women), the need for women to be able to secure land and property has become even more critical.

Similar to the cross-cutting nature of other women’s human rights issues, women’s land rights intersect with other problems such as discriminatory inheritance patterns, agriculture and development issues, gender-based violence, the appropriation and privatization of communal and indigenous lands, as well as gendered control over economic resources and the right to work. The interdependence of women’s human rights highlights the importance of women being able to claim their rights to adequate housing and land, in order to lessen the threat of discrimination, different forms of violence, denial of political participation, and other violations of their economic human rights.

While there is a need to strengthen the recognition of women’s right to land, this human right is related to the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to housing and freedom from forced eviction. These rights are recognized by several international documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 17 and 25); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 17); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 11); and UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Articles 13-16). While housing and property rights are guaranteed to women through international documents as well as through constitutions and laws in many states, often the implementation of these rights is overshadowed by existing practices and discriminatory patterns. Thus, for advocates working on these issues, ensuring the centrality of a human rights framework can be an extraordinary challenge while both respecting and mediating the differences and continual change within and between communities and countries.

In order to support further discussion, information-sharing, and collective work, we have begun to compile resources and recent reports on women’s land rights.  We encourage you to send additional materials and comments to the Women and ESCR Discussion Group at: ESCR-FEM@yahoogroups.com.  We are also eager to expand this online resource, continuing to add reports and information by theme and region.  If you have materials that you would like to recommend or share, please send them to rbrown@escr-net.org.

Sections of this resource page include:

 

Tools:

  • Brochures and Toolkits
  • Articles and Reports: by Region-Africa/Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and North America/Europe; by Related Issue-Women’s Housing Rights, Gender-Based Violence, Displaced Women’s Rights and International Agreements

 

Brochures:

The following informational brochures on women’s land rights put together by Consult on Women and Land Rights (CWLR), India Women’s Watch (IWW), Asia Pacific Women’s Watch (APWW), Sathi all for partnerships, Indo Global Social Service Society, and Woman Resource Rights Program (WRRP) are available for download at the end of this page.Women’s Equal Rights to Land, Livelihood and Adequate Housing:
 
  • Understanding Rural Women’s Right to Land, Food and Livelihood
  • Actions for Implementing Women’s Land Rights 

 

Tool kits:

The following toolkits were produced by members of the Habitat International Coalition: Housing and Land Rights Network - Middle East and North Africa and the Housing and Land Rights Network - South Asia Regional Programme, whose websites are also excellent resources.  The shared mission of the Housing and Land Rights Network is “to reach the fuller realization of human dignity and human development toward respect, defense, promotion and fulfillment of the human right to adequate housing and land.”  This mission is actualized through coalition development, capacity building, and advocacy at all levels.
 

 

Articles and Reports

Regions

Africa/Middle East:
 
  • Wanyeki, L. Muthoni (Ed). Women and Land in Africa: Culture, Religion and Realizing Women's Human Rights. London: Zed Publishers. 2003.  An excellent resource that contains written outcomes of a collaborative project between The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) and the Law and Religion Program at Emory University. Royalties from this book’s purchase support the distribution of the book to African academic institutions and African NGOs working on women’s land rights.
  • The Institute of Women’s Law – “Human rights, formalisation and women’s land rights in southern and eastern Africa” (2005): This study discusses the human-rights based approach to development through a gendered lens as it relates to the issue of women’s land rights. It also provides an analysis of the land policy contained within the 2003 World Bank Report.
  • Mazingira Institute, an environmental and human rights NGO based in Nairobi, Kenya, is a member of ESCR-Net and the Habitat International Coalition.  Mazingira has a very useful publication database that is searchable by subjects such as gender and land.
  • Habitat International Coalition/Housing and Land Rights Network - Middle East and North Africa, another member of ESCR-Net, is a valuable resource on issues related to the human right to adequate housing and land.  The shared mission of the Housing and Land Rights Network is “to reach the fuller realization of human dignity and human development toward respect, defense, promotion and fulfillment of the human right to adequate housing and land.”
  • Egyptian Center for Housing Rights focuses on claiming and defending the right to adequate housing, particularly for the weakest strata of the society.
  • The National Conference on Women’s Land Rights and Livelihoods: This conference was held in Namibia from 6-8 July, 2005. The event focused not only on women’s property and land rights issues in Namibia, but also other countries such as Zambia and Zimbabwe. The connection between women’s land rights and HIV/AIDS was also an issue at the forefront of the conference.  A couple articles on this conference are archived on the Women and ESCR Discussion Group Listserv; however, we eager to locate and post further information or a report on this gathering as a resource for other groups.
  • Oxfam Great Britain had compiled a series of excellent resources on Gender and Land in Africa, thanks to the work of Robin Palmer, Oxfam GB Global Land Adviser.  Titles and links to these documents are available in the attached Word document; these resources are also integrated into their larger 'Land Rights in Africa' Website, at: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what_we_do/issues/livelihoods/landrights/index.htm.
The following resources are from Human Rights Watch (HRW), a US-based NGO dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world:
 

 

Asia:

  • Report of the National Workshop and Public Hearing on ‘Women’s Right to Adequate Housing, Land and Livelihood’ (available for download below): The National Workshop and Public Hearing took place in Allahabad, India on 26-27 May 2005. These events were organized by the National Commission for Women in cooperation with Mahila Samakhya Allahabad and Consult for Women and Land Rights.  It was also co-supported by Action Aid India and Indo Global Social Service Society.
  • Habitat International Coalition/Housing and Land Rights Network - South Asia Regional Programme, is a valuable resource on issues related to the human right to adequate housing and land in South Asia.  The shared mission of the Housing and Land Rights Network is “to reach the fuller realization of human dignity and human development toward respect, defense, promotion and fulfillment of the human right to adequate housing and land.”
  • Programme on Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (PWESCR) is a new international initiative focused on gender and economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR).  With an initial focus on the South Asia Region, PWESCR will strive through research, resource development, discourse, and advocacy to bring a gender framework to human rights policy, law and practice at different levels.  For more information on PWESCR, please contact their director, Priti Darooka, at pdarooka@pwescr.org.
Manufacturing Poverty: The Case of the Women’s Market in Manipur (available for download below): This paper details the demolition of the women’s market in Manipur, India, by the Manipur Housing and Urban Development Corporation.  The Centre for Organisation Research & Education (CORE), Manipur, India is a representative indigenous peoples' organization based in Manipur, India, actively participating in the debate on the rights of indigenous peoples during the sessions of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations.
 
Bina Agarwal, a Professor of Economics within the Institute of Economic Growth, University of Delhi, has researched and written extensively on the issue of women’s land and property rights. Two of her more recent pieces are available below.
 
  • “Gender and Land Rights Revisited: Exploring New Prospects via the State, Family and Market.” Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 3 Nos. 1 and 2, January and April 2003, pp. 184-224.
  • “Are We Not Peasants Too? Land Rights and Women’s Claims in India.” SEEDS, Population Council, Number 21, 2002.

 

Latin America:

The Habitat International Coalition-Latin America has a number of resources for adequate housing and land rights in Latin America, available in Spanish.
 
  • Habitat International Coalition – Latin America documents
  • CLADEM (Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights)  – CLADEM is a women’s organization network committed to uniting efforts to effectively defend women’s rights in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Through its national members and its program on ESCR and Globalization, CLADEM is addressing issues related to women’s human rights to land and adequate housing.
  • Centre of Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) Americas Programme (cohreamericas@cohre.org) and Women’s Housing Rights Programme (women@cohre.org) are actively documenting and challenging violations of the right to adequate housing and land, as well as training and producing resources for human rights advocates.   

 

North America/Europe :
 
  • The following links connect to documents authored by The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) and a project they have initiated in Canada, The National Working Group on Women and Housing (NWG). Both bodies maintain websites with valuable resources on women and adequate housing. CERA was begun in order “to ensure that human rights protections in housing would be effective for low income households and to address systemic barriers to accessing affordable accommodation.”
  • National Working Group on Women and Housing (Canada) - A National Housing Policy Inclusive of Women [Eng, Fr]
  • The Poor People's Economic Human Right's Campaign (PPEHRC) is committed to uniting the poor across color lines as the leadership base for a broad movement to abolish poverty. We work to accomplish this through advancing economic human rights as named in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights- such as the rights to food, housing, health, education, communication and a living wage job.  PPEHRC and its member organizations have advocated for the right to adequate housing in numerous venues, including in testimonies before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in March 2005.

Related Issues

Women’s Housing Rights:

The Centre of Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) is an international human rights organization committed to preventing forced evictions and upholding the human rights to adequate housing for everyone, everywhere.  Their multi-faceted work involves housing rights training, monitoring, and advocacy; preventing and documenting forced evictions; research and publication, including this comprehensive resource on women and housing rights.
 

 

Gender-Based Violence and Land/Housing Rights:

  • Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, “Domestic Violence and Housing” (2005)
  • Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights is a non-governmental, non-profit organization engaged in a number of international human rights projects, including the Stop Violence Against Women Website. The following article can be found on this website and highlights the interconnectedness of domestic violence with housing and provides a number of significant resources.
  • Panda, Pradeep and Bina Agarwal. “Marital Violence, Human Development and Women’s Property Status in India.” World Development: Vol. 33, No. 5, pp. 823-850. 2005.  This article was written by Pradeep Panda, of the Population Council in New Delhi and Bina Agarwal of the Institute of Economic Growth at the University of Delhi. The article summarizes what might be the first, empirical research connecting marital (domestic) violence and women’s property status.
  • The Asia Pacific Regional Consultations with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing on, “The interlinkages between violence against women and women’s right to adequate housing” took place on 30-31 October, 2003 in New Delhi, India. Many groups participated and several prepared discussion papers and reports that were presented at the event.  We would be happy to link to any of these papers and reports, or to post new studies or reports on this issue.

 

Displaced Women’s Rights:

(IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council is an international non-governmental body working for better protection and assistance of people who have been displaced within their own country by conflict or because of human rights violations. Their website has an extensive section on issues facing Internally Displaced Women as well as an exceptional resource page on internally displaced women and children.
 
  • The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
  • Forced Migration Online provides instant access to a wide variety of online resources dealing with the situation of forced migrants worldwide. Their website also contains an abundance of information detailing the gendered experience of displacement including a research guide on Gender and Forced Migration written by Anastasia Bermúdez Torres. The website also has a searchable digital library that offers access to a substantial collection of articles pertaining to displaced and refugee women’s rights.
  • The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has an extensive amount of information and a number of resources regarding displaced women on their Women, War and Peace website including a fact sheet, tools, related treaties and UN documents.
  • United Nations Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons, “The Pinheiro Principles” (generated by COHRE) – [Eng]

 

International Agreements:

(note: While gender might not be explicitly referenced in all of the articles highlighted below, each of these international agreements acknowledges—usually in a separate article—that women are not to be discriminated against under any circumstances, which includes situations involving land and housing rights.)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948) – Right to Land/Housing: Articles 17, 25; Non-discrimination: Articles 2, 16, 17, 25 – [Eng, Es, Fr]

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1966) – Right to Land/Housing: Article 17; Non-discrimination: Articles 2, 3, 16, 23, 26 - [Eng, Es, Fr]

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1966) – Right to Land/Housing: Article 11, General Comment 4; Right to Non-discrimination: Articles 2, 3 – [Eng, Es, Fr]

UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1979) – Right to Land/Housing: Articles 13-16; Right to Non-discrimination: Articles 1-3, 5, 13-16 – [Eng, Es, Fr]

Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA, 1995) – Right to Land/Housing: Paragraphs 47, 51, 58, 61, 156, 166, 256, 274; Right to Non-discrimination: Paragraph 213 - [Eng, Es]

UN CEDAW Optional Protocol (2000) - [Eng, Es, Fr]

UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, 2000) Right to Non-discrimination: Paragraphs 6, 19 - [Eng, Es, Fr]

United Nations Commission on Human Rights, 56th Session, resolution 2000/13, Women’s equal ownership of, access to and control over land and the equal rights to own property and to adequate housing - [Eng, Es, Fr] (follow links to access specific resolution)

United Nations Sub-Commission, 50th Session, resolution 1998/15, Women and the right to land, property and adequate housing - - [Eng, Es, Fr] (follow links to access specific resolution)


*We are grateful to Sarah McCoy-Harms for her assistance in compiling these resources from June 2005 to January 2006.

Thematic Focus: 
Areas of Work: