BONN, March 07 (IPS) – The following op-ed is part of a series celebrating International Women’s Day, March 8. When it comes to land, gender inequalities are pervasive. Today, women make up nearly half of the global agricultural workforce, but fewer than one in five landowners worldwide are women 1. ?
Women’s land rights are essential for their economic empowerment and the sustainable development of rural communities. However, women still face significant barriers to access and control over land resources, limiting their ability to participate fully in agricultural production, improve their livelihoods and contribute to broader economic growth.?
In addition, the lack of access to land and other means of production has a negative impact on women’s enjoyment of human rights.
Gender equality remains an unfinished business in every part of the world, according to a landmark study by UNCCD. For example, in more than 100 countries, women today cannot inherit their husband’s property according to customary, religious or traditional laws and customs.
Discrimination related to land tenure, access to credit, equal pay and decision-making often prevent women from taking an active role in maintaining the health of the country. When they do have property rights, women often own smaller plots of land and less fertile land than male landowners.
And when land is degraded and water becomes scarce, rural women tend to be the hardest hit, often skipping meals in favor of other family members. ?
Women worldwide already spend a combined 200 million hours a day fetching water. In some countries, a one-way trip to fetch water can take more than an hour. Droughts make the situation even more difficult – they tend to increase the burden of unpaid care and housework on the shoulders of women and girls.?
But women are not alone on the frontline of the impacts of climate change and land degradation; they may also be key players in global efforts to restore land to health and increase drought resilience.?
There is evidence that when women and men have equal fundamental rights, women are more likely to invest in soil conservation and sustainable land management. For example, in Ethiopia, land certification and registration carried out in the early 2000s increased property security for women and men and increased the opportunity for landowners to invest in soil and water conservation measures by 20-30%.?
Gender equality is essential to take sustainable, progressive and meaningful action to promote sustainable land management. The recognition of women’s land and resource rights will accelerate land restoration efforts by opening doors to markets and financing, training and other services, and gender-appropriate tools and technologies for sustainable land management.
It also empowers women to contribute more to climate and biodiversity goals, limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C and restoring at least 30% of degraded ecosystems by 2030.
Women worldwide are already using traditional knowledge and innovative solutions to tackle desertification, land degradation and drought. In India, irrigation systems developed by female farmers rely on rainwater harvesting. In Jordan, a plant nursery run entirely by women using state-of-the-art methodologies and protocols produces high-quality indigenous seedlings for land restoration.?
The UNCCD has a long track record of placing gender equality at the center of its work as an essential catalyst for progress. Gender-sensitive land restoration is an obvious way to reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
When women are given a say in decision-making on land affairs, entire communities and societies benefit, and these benefits can be passed on to future generations.?
We urgently need to change the way both women and country are treated. We need to invest more in women as custodians of healthy land and thriving communities. It’s time for women and girls to take the lead in land restoration.
This requires governments to take action to review and reform legal and regulatory frameworks, promote gender-sensitive policies and public services, and support successful programs that advance women’s rights to land and resources.
Ending discrimination against women in their access to, use of, and control over land and other resources is critical. This is how we can create a fairer and more sustainable world for everyone.
Andrea Mesa Murillo is Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Prior to joining the Convention, she served as Minister of Energy and Environment for the Government of Costa Rica. She has more than 20 years of expertise in sustainable development and has worked in more than 15 Latin American countries to formulate government policies, participate in international negotiations and implement climate, conservation and restoration projects.
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