In 2016, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Land Tenure Project (LTP) in Burma undertook an assessment of the gender dimensions of land use and tenure in Yway Gone Village Tract, Minhla Township, the first of the project’s three pilot sites. This assessment serves as a companion document to an overall land use and tenure assessment completed at the same site in 2015, and is intended to inform continued programming.
The key points emerging from the gender assessment of Yway Gone Village Tract are as follows:
- Women and men work on agriculture together, although men more often take the primary role in certain agricultural tasks, such as plowing and clearing land, while women more often take the primary role in household work, cooking, and child care. Many respondents pointed to this gendered division of labor as a factor that contributes to women having less decision-making power within the household on land-related matters.
- Some residents of each of the four villages in the village tract have a Land Use Certificate (LUC, or Form 7) for their agricultural paddy land. Almost all Form 7s within the village tract are in the name of the male head of household. While a woman’s name can be on the document, it is usually not, unless it is a woman-headed household. A few women-headed households have Form 7s in their names. A woman whose name is not on the Form 7 cannot directly access the benefits of having the form, including agricultural credit, even if her husband is away for a long period of time or disabled. Women within the village tract only recently discovered that it was possible to change the Form 7 to be in a woman’s name if her husband passes away.
- Different respondents had different definitions of what constitutes a woman-headed household. Respondents reported that women-headed households use land in many of the same ways as men-headed households, but that women-headed households have a harder time cultivating as much land because they need assistance in some of the physical labor. Women who head households are reported as having more decision-making power over land than their counterparts in men-headed households.
- There is a high rate of landlessness within this village tract, particularly in San Gyi, Bant Bway Gone, and Yway Gone villages, where most of the residents do not have any access to cultivate agricultural land or taungya land. Respondents thought that women-headed households are more likely to be landless than male-headed households, as women-headed households tend to have access to less labor for cultivation.
- Practices around inheritance and division of land in case of separation, divorce, or abandonment are unclear and seem to be handled according to unwritten principles within the community. Based on the number of potential situations that the village leaders have never encountered and the lack of consistent responses, these seem to be taken on a case-by-case basis.
- Land concessions in which the government has granted long-term use rights to agribusiness operations have negatively affected both women and men within these communities, but in different ways. While loss of available taungya land for cultivation and pasture land for grazing has adversely impacted all members of the households, the loss of forestland seems to have hit women particularly hard since they tend to be primarily responsible for firewood collection and foraging for non-timber forest products (NTFPs).
- Women’s participation in decision-making varies at the household level. While respondents said that men and women usually make decisions together, they also said that many decisions, particularly around land and agriculture, are ultimately taken by the man.
- Residents of this village tract rely heavily on their village leaders to solve disputes within the community and to liaise with government departments and officials. All of the village leaders within this village tract are men. While most agreed that it would be in principle a positive development for women to be more involved in community decision-making, respondents had mixed opinions on the feasibility of achieving increased women’s participation in practice.
- Control over money in the household varied, but was more commonly held by men. Men are also more likely to have access to credit. Villagers also reported difficulties in accessing agricultural inputs, any sorts of training, reliable sources of drinking water, transportation, health services, and, in the case of Heingyu, education.