Africa: Measuring Progress in Women’s Land Rights


On International Women’s Day, eyes turn to the need to #pressforprogress towards gender parity in all areas, including women’s access to land and property.

There is real excitement about the opportunity to unlock women’s economic, social and political potential by strengthening the land rights and tenure security of half the world’s population, despite persistent barriers.

Evidence continues to underscore the importance of secure access to land for women’s empowerment. The level of interest is reflected in a dedicated discussion stream on women’s land rights at the World Bank’s forthcoming annual Land and Poverty Conference.

But how do we measure whether progress is being made in strengthening women’s land tenure security? Several reviews (see here) have highlighted the clear lack of sex-disaggregated data on women’s ownership and control of land, making it hard to establish causal relationships between access to land and empowerment, and other indicators of progress, such as gender differences in agricultural productivity.

Most data focuses on land rights at household level with little attention paid to gender roles (see recent review by IFPRI). What data there is tends to be country-specific ‒ or focused on a particular region within a country ‒ and snapshots of specific periods of time.

A recent blog by M. Mercedes Stickler of the World Bank highlighted this as a barrier to designing programmes to strengthen women’s land rights more effectively. It also flagged possible inconsistencies between measurements of tenure security when equated with indicators such as land documentation or influence over decision making and perceived tenure security.

Where perceptions of tenure security are increasingly recognised as being important drivers of decisions and well-being (see SDG indicator 1.4.2 ) it is vital that we can collect gender-disaggregated data across a significant number of countries – data that can be compared and tracked along time.

This is where PRIndex can play an important role. PRIndex ‒ the Global Property Rights Index ‒ is an initiative to develop and roll out the first global measurement of peoples’ perceptions of their land and property rights.

PRIndex will provide governments, businesses and civil society with a global baseline, measured every two-three years, to evaluate domestic and global levels of land tenure security.

Importantly for this discussion, PRIndex will be collecting gender-disaggregated data on tenure security, building on our initial test results and further refining our measurement of women’s tenure security as we roll PRIndex out to 33 countries in 2018.

This data will be publicly available in an accessible format. For those working to improve women’s land rights and secure access to land, this represents a huge opportunity to make change happen.

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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