Gender and Drylands Development: Empowering Women for Change




Gender and Drylands Development: Empowering Women for Change

August 15, 2016

Women’s land rights and their importance for women’s empowerment and wider development goals have gained increased attention in recent years. However, gender inequality in land rights in dryland countries and across the developing world more broadly remains pervasive. This is related to discriminatory socio-cultural norms that are found in customary and statutory institutions and practices that differ according to local contexts. In addition, women often lack representation and the authority to make decisions in land management and governance.


Against this backdrop, the UNDP Global Policy Centre on Resilient Ecosystems and Desertification (GPC-Nairobi) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) have commissioned three new studies exploring the issues of gender justice with respect to dryland land rights, governance and resilience.


  • Thematic study 1: Strengthening dryland women’s land rights: local contexts, global change found that significant opportunities exist for facilitating dryland women’s empowerment with respect to land, in international research, policy, dialogue and practical action. There is increased international attention on women’s land rights amongst global institutions and in international development debates. There is growing pressure for progressive legislation on women’s land rights, with increasing examples of practical implementation of such laws across the world, including in dryland countries, where action is being led by women’s movements. Greater recognition of the value of dryland systems, along with more enabling statutory frameworks, presents opportunities to build upon customary and local systems to increase gender equality for land rights in the drylands.


  • Thematic study 2: Gender and drylands governance: empowering women for change found that significant opportunities exist for facilitating dryland women’s empowerment in governance, in the context of wider support for processes seeking greater democracy in dryland governance and values. There is a need to tackle the inadequate representation and recognition of women’s rights in the drylands, and to consider the redistribution of resources to more equitable ends. Effective channels that can be used to support gender justice are increased investment in dryland governance, building upon contemporary trends in the drylands towards democratization and decentralization, supporting current processes for greater dryland citizen engagement and ownership, and opening up new spaces for participation of women in dryland governance specifically.


  • Thematic study 3: Achieving Dryland Women’s Empowerment: Environmental resilience and social transformation found that there are major opportunities to strengthen the resilience of dryland environments and for women to actively contribute to and benefit from sustainable drylands development. For example, investment is needed in climate adaptation, livestock development, education and health services, and social protection programmes, amongst others. Such approaches should build upon the structural variability of drylands, value local knowledge and adaptive pastoral systems and improve the recognition of women – their knowledge, roles, contributions and interests, increase women’s representation in decision-making and redistribute resources in more equitable ways.
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