Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

Zambian woman holds land titles.

Women’s land rights are human rights.


of the world’s economies limit women’s property rights

44 of 191

countries do not provide female and male surviving spouses with equal rights to inherit assets

1 in 5

women feels insecure about her land and property rights

USAID is securing and strengthening women’s land and resource rights across the developing world. Having secure rights to access and control land, and the benefits that come from using land, is central to determining household income and opportunity and can provide a powerful pathway to improved wellbeing, livelihoods, and resilience. For example, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, if women had the same access to productive resources as men, farm output would increase by 20 to 30 percent. Today, although women play a critical role in food production, they are less likely than men to own and control land.


Why Women’s Land Rights Matter

Ownership and control over assets are central to women’s economic empowerment and their ability to contribute to local, national, and global economies. For many women, the most valuable of these assets are the land and natural resources from which they earn a living, provide for their families, and invest in their communities. Evidence suggests that strengthening women’s land and resource rights can have a positive impact on their bargaining power and decision-making, particularly around important household-level decisions such as expenditures for children’s health and education and intergenerational transfers, including inheritance.  Through programs, partnerships, research and policy reforms, USAID is working on the ground to address  the barriers women face to accessing and controlling land, as well as the benefits that secure land and resource rights bring to women, their families, and communities. 

Our goal is to improve women’s access to and control over land and natural resources in order to expand their concrete and inclusive economic, social, and political opportunities. 

Working with women, men, governments, traditional leaders, communities, and the private sector, USAID’s land and resource governance programming include strategies to:

  • Support law and policy reforms to formalize and strengthen women’s land and resource governance rights;
  • Promote gender and social inclusion in land documentation and registration;
  • Enable gender and social norms change;
  • Promote inclusive land use planning;
  • Integrate women, and their unique needs and concerns, into agricultural supply chains;
  • Raise awareness and advocate for equitable land and resource governance;
  • Empower women through agency-based trainings;
  • Gather and disseminate evidence, best practices, and lessons learned.

Where USAID is Working on Women’s Land Rights

Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Liberia, Mozambique, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Zambia

Blog Posts

Women’s Land Rights Champion: Catherine Tembo, Ph.D.

Each month, we will feature a Women’s Land Rights Champion within USAID to learn more about their work. This month’s Champion is Catherine Tembo, Ph.D., USAID/Zambia’s Natural Resources Specialist in the Economic Development Office.  Tell us about yourself. I currently serve as USAID/Zambia’s Natural Resources Specialist in the Economic Development Office. My work involves providing...Read More

Women Farmers get the Recognition they Deserve

An innovative USAID-PepsiCo partnership is supporting women potato farmers in India to see farming as a future Last year, if you had told Bulti Porel that she would become an official potato supplier for multinational food, snack, and beverage corporation PepsiCo and expand her farming enterprise in the process, she would have been incredulous. Women...Read More

In Her Own Hands: Empowering Rural Women Farmers in Mozambique

A USAID partnership with agriculture company Grupo Madal is improving productive land use and providing new economic opportunities By: Thais Bessa, Gender Advisor, USAID Integrated Land and Resource Governance (ILRG) program Joana Albrinho Ajudante and her neighbors started growing rice, sweet potatoes, and cassava on land that is owned by the Mozambican agricultural commodity producer...Read More

In Her Name: securing land tenure for women in Zambia

(Please note: This blog includes sensitive content regarding violence. It was originally published by the International Institute for Environment and Development here.) By: Thais Bessa, Global Gender Advisor, USAID Integrated Land and Resource Governance (ILRG) program While Ruth was still mourning the sudden loss of her husband, his younger brother arrived on her three-acre farm...Read More

USAID Advancing Gender Norms Change for Increasing Women’s Land Rights

In recent years, countries around the world have adopted and strengthened laws that support women’s land rights, creating a foundation for greater gender equality. While this is good news, we know that women need more than laws and policies to fully realize their rights and have an equal say in decision-making about the management of...Read More

Zambia’s Chiefs Champion Gender Equality in Land and Natural Resource Governance

Originally published on the International Institute for Environment and Development blog. Zambian land is governed through statutory and customary systems. Under the statutory system, the Zambian Constitution states that men and women have equal rights under the law, and the 2014 National Gender Policy gives traditional leaders a central role as champions of gender equality in...Read More

Increasing Women’s Access to Land through Public-Private Partnerships in Ghana

This blog was originally published on Agrilinks. By Jenn Williamson In Northern Ghana, women face many challenges accessing and owning land. Customary lands, which make up an estimated 80% of the country, are managed by traditional authorities and governed under cultural lineage and inheritance systems. In Northern Ghana, this system is largely patrilineal, which means...Read More

COVID19, Food & Nutrition Security, and Gender Equality

This blog was originally published on Agrilinks.  How women, gender equality, and social norms are critical to recovering from the COVID19 crisis — and building back better. The World Food Program says that the number of people facing food crisis will likely double as a result of COVID19. A combination of disrupted markets, lack of international trade,...Read More

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Evaluations & Research

Gender Disparities in Customary Land Allocation: Lessons from USAID Impact Evaluation Data

This report presents the final results of the CEL Gender and Land Allocation (GLA) research activity. The objective of GLA is to investigate the extent to which customary land allocation systems exhibit gender bias in order to inform policy and programming intended to provide secure land rights for women To this end, GLA utilizes secondary household datasets that have been collected for impact evaluations of previous USAID land tenure projects in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

Intimate Partner Violence and Land Tenure

The US Government is committed to preventing and responding to gender-based violence (GBV). This commitment is articulated in policies, laws, and other guidance documents. For USAID, addressing GBV is one of the three pillars of the Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy (2012). By preventing and responding to GBV, USAID can help protect the human...Read More

The Effectiveness of a Social Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Strategy in Changing Social Attitudes on Equal Rights to Property for Women – The Case of Kosovo

The society in Kosovo is considered patriarchal and patrilineal, where property inheritance is traditionally transferred to men (Joireman, 2015). Even though the laws on Gender Equality and Law on Inheritance are considered egalitarian, the social norms continue to encourage patriarchal values that exclude women from property inheritance. This paper will address the social context and...Read More

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Tools & Resources

Mobile Applications to Secure Tenure (MAST) Learning Platform

The MAST Learning Platform provides a variety of tools and resources to support application of the MAST process, a collaborative, participatory approach that builds local capacity to efficiently map resource rights and secure land tenure.

Intimate Partner Violence and Land Toolkit

Each year, millions of women are physically and sexually assaulted by intimate or domestic partners. The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 30 percent of women have experienced this kind of violence (2013), making it the most common form of gender-based violence. The U.S. Government (USG) is committed to preventing and responding to...Read More

Effective Engagement with Indigenous Peoples: USAID Sustainable Landscapes Sector Guidance Document

This sector guidance document is based on desktop research about SL related issues among Indigenous Peoples, international standards, and USAID program experiences. It is also based on interviews with USAID development professionals. This guidance complements and is informed by the programming guidance within the USAID Policy on Promoting the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (PRO-IP) and is one part of USAID's collection of sector-specific guidance documents on engagement with Indigenous Peoples.

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