Excerpts from a Tahsil Level Workshop on Women and Land Rights
Women and Land TAHSIL LEVEL TRAINING JUNE 2012
Why emphasize on land rights to women? Land is indicative, it actually means all resources Women have been primary tillers /fishers /gatherers Lack of other sources of livelihoods, especially for women Women use resources more efficiently / sustainably Their names not included into titles, due to patriarchal norms despite legislation in their favour. Lack of ownership, brings constraints on use and control Women contribute to development but do not benefit
Why emphasise on women’s property? “Women farmers produce food for half the world.” In addition to farming activities, women do most of the household labour, collecting water and firewood, cooking, cleaning and washing. They are also responsible for family care and often care for others in the community. More and more rural households around the world are headed by women and this increases the burden on women.
Why women need land rights? 80% of rural smallholder farmers worldwide are women** Smallholder farmers produce as much as 90% of the food grown in Africa/Asia and 50% of the world’s food but many of them go hungry themselves As men leave the rural areas in search of better work prospects, women have also had to take over the traditional male roles in farming Source**: The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Research indicates.............Following factors come together to generate and reinforce why women are not recognized as equal human beings in society, never mind as farmers. Women are not recognized as farmers by their own families, or communities Patriarchy, stereotypes about men and women’s rights and roles, traditional values and cultures, The current global economic model
Empowering women through land and naturalresource control UN figures in an IFAD report says women own less than 1% of worlds resources. A study done by ICRW found that 33% women in West Bengal and Karnataka owned property and had access to housing. This has reduced violence against these women.
What is the situation of women smallholder farmers? Most women farmers do not own even simple farm tools. Many women farmers know traditional ways of preserving seeds and other genetic material of plants to produce the next crop. They are told that new genetically modified seeds will produce much better crops Forced to buy expensive new seed every season. Most women farmers do not have access to expensive equipment such as ploughs and tractors. Seeds, fertilizer and other inputs are usually packed and sold in big quantities suitable for commercial farms. Cannot afford to buy inputs and difficult for them to get loans. Women are not recognized owners of land they farm and land as collateral for loans is mostly sought.
How governments fail women farmers Fail to implement land reform programs that guarantee equal land rights for women. Support large-scale commercial farming rather than smallholder farming (and most have reduced their budgets for agriculture). Government sells or leases public land to private companies or foreign governments. This is a threat to the rights of smallholder farmers who are farming on public land. During war and other conflicts women are displaced, lose land, and become vulnerable to sexual and other forms of violence.
What do women small holder farmers need? Government policies and laws that protect and promote women’s land rights and prevent discrimination. In all tenure systems, guaranteed access to land and control over land for women. Secure land tenure would be a strong incentive to use farming methods that do not damage the environment. During any land redistribution or resettlement program, an equal and fair share of land should go to women. Special grants and easier credit to enable women to buy land (where possible), and invest in farming. Good alternative land for women farmers who are pushed off their land
Ownership leads to control? It is important not only to see who owns property, but also who controls it, and in relation not only to private property but also communal property. Further gender equality in legal rights to own property does not guarantee gender equality in actual ownership, nor does ownership guarantee control. The distinctions between law and practice and between ownership and control are especially critical in the context of gender.
Poor women stand to benefit! There is a popular misconception that gender-equal inheritance laws can only benefit a few women. In fact, millions of women — as widows and daughters — stand to gain. Calculations based on NSS data for all-India indicate that at least 78 per cent of rural families own some agricultural land; and if we include homestead plots, 89 per cent own land. Although most own very small fields, rights even in these can provide supplementary subsistence.
The BodhGaya Struggle in Bihar Endowing women with land would empower them economically as well as strengthen their ability to challenge the social and political gender inequities. An example is women’s experience in Bodhgaya struggle in Bihar. In 1970, landless households agitated for ownership rights in land they cultivated, under illegal possession of a Math. During the movement, women demanded independent land rights, and received in two villages. In the villages where men alone received titles, women’s insecurity grew, with increase in men’s tendency to threaten wives with eviction in domestic conflict: “Get out of the house, the land is mine now” (Manimala 1983: 15). But where women got titles they graphically described their feeling of being empowered:“We had tongues but could not speak, we had feet but could not walk. Now that we have the land, we have the strength to speak and walk” (Alaka and Chetna 1987: 26)
The Tebhaga movement in Bengal The Tebhaga movement emerged in 1946–47 in Bengal, in the footsteps of the Bengal famine of 1943. Sharecroppers had no occupancy rights and faced constant threat of eviction. The landlords took half the produce while bearing no part of the production costs, levied illegal taxes, and sexually abused the women. The movement, spearheaded by the Bengal Provincial Kisan Sabha (BPKS), demanded reduction of land rents and an end to other forms of exploitation. The women’s self-defence league played a critical mobilizing role among women. Prior to the movement, sexual exploitation was closely linked to caste and economic oppression: Like the mangoes of the [sharecropper’s] trees, like the bananas of his garden, like the gourds of his thatched roof, like the eggplant from his garden, his daughters and daughters in- law were the [landlord’s] property…. If the [landlord] expresses his wish, the daughter or the wife of the [sharecropper] will be sent to the [landlord’s] house. ---(a woman activist, quoted in Cooper 1988: 1