Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

The fiscal year 2011 alone (“About Landesa”).

The origins of Landesa lie in Roy Prosterman’s “land to the tiller” program in Vietnam. From 1970 to 1973 the program gave land rights to 1 million tenant farmers. In the years to come, this program would create the framework for his most successful non-profit, Landesa, as well increase rice production by 30 percent, and decrease Viet Cong recruitment by 80 percent (“Our History”). Since its creation in 1981, Landesa has managed to help secure land rights to more than 105 million families in 45 countries – 3.4 million families in fiscal year 2011 alone (“About Landesa”). A large part of Landesa’s success has resulted from a particular focus on education. A partnership between Landesa and the government of West Bengal, India found that, in combination with switching one- name land titles to two, “educating officials about the benefits of women’s land rights led to the inclusion of women’s names on the majority of titles” (Markham). When USAID worked with Kenyan communities to “educate women on their land rights and train traditional leaders on the importance of these rights, women were elected as tribal elders for the first time in history”(Markham). After the project had ended the number of elected female elders in the community continued to increase. Today, “chiefs and elders require spousal consent (with witnesses) for all land transactions, including leases – giving women greater security over their land” (Markham).Such improved land rights for women have been seen to result in significantly improved nutrition and food security, family health, education, and access to loans. Simultaneously, improving land rights for women decreases vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and potentially reduces domestic violence (“What We Do”). Greater access to land and resources even leads to greater crop yields and more sustainable farming practices (Markham). Having control over assets like land and property is a vital source of power in communities and within households. Control over their own land empowers women with the right to decide how their land will be used, as well as allowing women “greater bargaining power and economic opportunities including access to capital, credit, markets and leadership opportunities” (Markham). Recent research has shown that when women’s land rights are secure, “there is a ripple effect of positive development outcomes” (Markham). This may be because with more secure rights to property, women are “more likely to be active members of their communities,” and as a result “community institutions themselves are more likely to be responsive to the needs of women” (Giovarelli). Even with so many benefits to improving women’s land rights, women still struggle to secure their right to land. Historically, implemented systems of land tenure intended to provide a more efficient system of land distribution actually stripping many women of their access to land. Today, navigating Africa’s complex culture and traditions make it difficult to use the law to legitimately grant women access to land. Thankfully, there is hope for disadvantaged women throughout Africa. People are beginning to recognize their struggle, and NGOs are emerging as a way to effectively better women’s access to land. Hopefully, women’s land rights will continue to improve, providing women with greater safety and security.

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