Women’s land rights are intrinsically and vitally linked to gender equality. They are key enablers of women’s economic autonomy and decision-making. They are a major factor in rebalancing unequal power relations within homes, communities, and institutions. This makes land rights a central issue for the accelerated achievement of both the Sustainable Development Goals and the Beijing Platform for Action.
Yet, far too often, this powerful economic asset rests in the hands of men alone. In half of the world’s countries, women are still unable to assert equal land and property rights. Less than 15 per cent of all landholders in the world are women.
The denial of women’s rights to land impacts everyone. It leads to increasing land degradation, desertification, and water scarcity. Global events are already demonstrating how vulnerable we all are to changes in agricultural and energy supply. Recognizing the interlinked nature of the current multiple crises, the Commission on the Status of Women in March this year called for policies, programmes, and resources on climate change to respond to the resulting heightened vulnerabilities faced by women and girls.
Our solutions must also account for the negative impacts of COVID-19 on women’s land and property rights. For example, research by USAID finds that the pandemic aggravated women’s already-limited rights to customary land in southern Africa.
We must address the barriers to women’s land rights across the life cycle. Young, working-age, and older women face particular discrimination. Laws alone are not enough to solve this. Deeply rooted traditional and social norms strongly affect women’s access to and ownership of land and property, including being denied rightful inheritance.
One of the most powerful tools we have for these kinds of changes is Generation Equality and its dedicated Action Coalitions on Economic Justice and Rights and Feminist Action for Climate Justice. This multi-stakeholder global initiative seeks to radically accelerate progress on gender equality by 2026, connecting across different sectors to mobilize the necessary action and to amplify women’s voices.
I am encouraged by the formation of a Collective Commitment on Women’s Land Rights under Generation Equality. This will work on a large scale to secure land, natural resources, and other property rights for those most often left behind. This includes 100 million rural, urban, grassroots, and indigenous women and youth.
Today, I salute you for joining this movement. To achieve the progress we need, we must all work together, putting women at the centre of the solutions, restoring their rights, and giving our planet its chance to thrive.