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Ensuring effective implementation

  • Drafters should pay careful attention to terminology in land laws and how the general public may interpret them. For example, language in land and housing laws should avoid reference to the “head of household” but rather reference “women and men,” or “both spouses.” (UN-HABITAT, Shared Tenure Options for Women, 2005) 
  • Legislation should provide for procedural guidelines to facilitate effective implementation, such as developing a model title certificate with space for both spouses’ signatures.

Illustrative Example:

It is important that legislative mandates translate into resources and administrative procedures to implement the law. Vietnam’s 2003 legal reforms requires Land Use Right Certificates list both the husband and wife’s names, but the actual certificate provided insufficient space to list both names. Consequently, only 3 percent of land certificates bear both names. (See: UN-Habitat, Policy Makers Guide to Women’s Land, Property and Housing Rights across the World Policy Makers Guide to Women’s Land, Property and Housing Rights across the World,2007) Effective consultation in the planning process and monitoring of implementation will help facilitate gender equality in land and tenure reform.

Ensuring Female Participation and Representation

  • Legislation should provide for continuous participation from women and widows in the planning, implementation and evaluation of land and legal reforms.
Promising Practice: The Justice for Widows and Orphans Project (JWOP) in Zambia uses mock tribunals for advocacy, public awareness and accountability. Community stakeholders and experts hear cases on various topics from individual claimants, render a decision and a recommendation. It provides widows and orphans with a venue for challenging discriminatory traditions and practices. After the tribunals, JWOP follows up on each case until property is returned to the widows. JWOP also provides other services during the tribunals. For example, at one session in Kafue District widows received professional counseling and all those who attended the tribunal received education about the Zambian Succession Law. After the mock tribunal, JWOP worked with the local leadership in the district to continue to pursue cases of property grab­bing in the area. (See: Christine Varga, The Case of the Justice for Widows and Orphans Project in Zambia, ICRW, 2006; Profile of Partners, Democratisation, State and Civil Society – Good Governance Programme: Zambia, GTZ; Huairou Commission, Tools for Securing Land and Property, 2011)
  • Laws should require local and national land administration bodies have proportionate female representation. Legislation should provide for the development of guidelines and regulations for these bodies and ensure they address equality for women and widows.

Promising Practices: The Tanzania Village Land Act provides for female representation on the village adjudication committee (at least four of the nine members) and village land councils (at least three of the seven members).  The village adjudication committee or office is to treat women’s rights “to occupy  or use or have interest.. in land not less favourably than the rights of men or agriculturalists to occupy or use or have interests in land.” Article 57(2). Regarding an application for customary right of occupancy, the village council is to respect equality and “treat an application from a woman, or a group of women no less favorably than an equivalent application from a man, a group of men or a mixed group of men and women; and (ii) adopt or apply no adverse discriminatory practices or attitudes towards any woman who has applied for a customary right of occupancy (Article 23(4)(1)). 

Rwanda’s land reform process has led to significant gains for women in land-holding. As a result of reform of the land registration process, in 2012 it was reported that individual landholdings were 5% men, 11% women, and 83% jointly titled married couples. When land ownership is registered, both members of the married couple must attend and men and women are registered with equal rights on the land. Both parties received documentary evidence of their rights. When land transfers are made, there is a standardized template used nationwide which provides space for both owners to sign.  In the case of jointly owned marital land, both the husband and wife must be present and sign at any transfer. See: Thierry Hoza Ngoga, Empowering women through land tenure reform: The Rwandan experience, UN Women Expert Group Meeting – Good practices in realizing women’s rights to productive resources, with a focus on land (Geneva, Switzerland, 25-27 June 2012).

Public Awareness
Reforms should also be conducted with legal literacy training for the public, particularly for women, widows and traditional leaders. Legislation should provide and support gender-sensitive education for land authorities, officials, community leaders, women and widows. Public awareness activities should educate women and men about women’s rights to co-own and manage land on an equal basis as men and the necessary legal procedures. Such educational initiatives should be carried out in consultation with women’s advocates and organizations. 

For example, under Rwanda’s land tenure reform process, prior to any registration exercise, local public meetings are conducted and in many cases separate meetings for women will be organized to respond to their specific concerns. A long term commitment to ongoing public education is a critical aspect of any land reform programme.  

Monitoring
Legislation should provide for ongoing monitoring to review land and law reform and its impact on women and widows. Laws should provide for a monitoring body on the local and national levels to evaluate implementation and effects on women’s land rights. Legislation should provide for the collection of data that is disaggregated by indicators, such as sex, marital status and household status. (See: Monitoring of Laws on Violence against Women)In many countries, this monitoring function is carried out by a national land commission and local land boards. Laws should ensure that women are represented as members of these bodies and that mainstreaming of gender equity into land policy is a part of the mandate of these types of bodies.