The implementation of radical reforms in the 1990s resulted in profound changes in legislation and public policy around land rights, contributing to Vietnam’s rapid economic growth. The 1993 Land Law created a land market and prompted a sweeping land redistribution program; within seven years, 11 million Land Use Rights Certificates (LURCS) were issued to rural households. Although this law was supposed to be gender neutral, more men benefited and received a larger portion of the LURCS. The 2003 Land Law corrected some of the gender inequalities by requiring LURCs to record the names of both spouses, as opposed to only the head of the household. However this supportive legal framework is thwarted by both men’s and women’s general lack of awareness of Vietnam’s property rights laws and lack of resources to enforce women’s property rights at the provincial level. Reports on the status of land rights in Vietnam suggest that the allocation and distribution of land is under the discretion of provincial authorities who may be influenced by customary practices which reinforce gender inequalities. As a result, violations of women’s land use rights persist.
To address these complexities, the Land Access for Women pilot program combined commune-level legal rights counseling and education with advocacy efforts. Based in two provinces in Vietnam – Hung Yen in the North and Long An in the South – the program strengthened the reach and efficacy of land rights for farmers, particularly women farmers. Research indicates that community-based paralegals are invaluable resources for poor and disadvantages persons to access legal systems to resolve property disputes.
The centerpiece of the program was the mobilization and training of 60 volunteer paralegals from four communes across the two provinces. The paralegals conducted land rights awareness-raising activities and provided legal counseling to individuals, mitigated land disputes and offered referrals to navigate the existing legal structures. Paralegals’ community education activities and delivery of local legal assistance was complemented by advocacy conducted by civil society and mass organizations to promote more effective integration of gender into the content and implementation of current land law and any future reforms.
- Increase farmers’ awareness of existing land rights under current legislation, especially women
- Facilitate female farmers’ ability to access their land rights
- Generate evidence about gender specific barriers to realizing land rights in rural areas
- Increase the capacity of civil society organizations and mass organizations to advocate for gender equitable land reform
- Approximately 60 commune-based paralegals identified, trained and commissioned to raise awareness and provide legal aid for land related rights for farmers, particularly women. Of the total number, at least 50% of paralegals will be women
- Increased awareness of land rights and protection mechanisms under the current law among farmers in the project area, particularly women, as evidenced by an increase in the use of legal mechanisms for the protection of land related rights by women
- Increased recognition of women’s land related rights within the communes and provinces, as evidenced by an increase in the issuance of land use certificates jointly to spouses, and to individual women
- Increase in the gender responsiveness of land administration and management structures and procedures. A proxy measure of this outcome is set at the activity level: number of officials trained on women’s land rights
- Increased knowledge of the challenges to secure land rights among women farmers in the intervention area and how to mitigate those challenges
- Increased capacity of civil society organizations to demand gender responsive land laws, policies and practice
- Formulation and delivery of recommendations for concrete strategies in integrating gender into the implementation of the new law at the national level