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Finance & Innovation

If you give a piece of land to a female it will change the world...literally

UN Women Pacific

“In a world…. Where females own land….Girls and women are able to thrive.”

Ok, maybe not the most compelling opening to a movie trailer but it is the main conclusion of a new study. Land ownership is a potent tool in empowering girls and women but in 2016 and some females don’t even have the right to property ownership, let alone actually able to own land.

What a piece of… land people are! (“Land,” totally what I was going to say…)

Here are the facts 

In more than 90 percent of countries world, females’ opportunities are limited explicitly by gender based laws. Gender inequality is found in legislation ranging from laws that govern social status to laws that govern economic status (i.e. the ability to own property). These laws are structural barriers that reinforce cultural barriers and further isolate girls and women from opportunities to succeed.

Social status includes areas of human development and how a female is viewed in social situations, while laws that govern a female’s economic status impede on a female’s identity as a participant in economy.

To truly participate in the economic community a person must be able to own or inherit property, open a bank account, or manage individual assets. Unfortunately, because there are many rules and regulations that forbid girls and women from taking part in these activities, females are often unable to take part in the economy.

When women are shut out of the economy there is a ripple effect across the community as it becomes harder for them to escape violence, sustain a family, educate their children or contribute to pulling the entire community out of poverty.

Sounds overwhelming? Let’s break it down.

With an absence of gender equality in legislation:

1. Fewer girls are enrolled in education

2. Females are are found less often in skilled work settings

3. Less females have access to financial and health services

4. There are higher rates of domestic and sexual violence 

5. Child marriage increases

What does a piece of land have to do with it?

Globally, 1.6 billion females farm to sustain their livelihoods, but they don’t actually own the land they farm on. Females have much lower rates of property ownership than their male counterparts. In some regions, like North Africa and Western Asia, females represent fewer than 5% of agricultural landholders.

Without the title that comes with owning land, female farmers do not have access to credit, subsidies, government programs for seeds, irrigation or fertilizer. They cannot get loans and nor invest to improve their agriculture yields. Because they do not own the land they use to create a living on, females farmers live under a constant threat for eviction.

In India, more than three-quarters of females are farmers however,  less than 13% of land is actually owned by these women. Half of the agricultural workforce in Sub-Saharan Africa is female, yet fewer than one in five own farms.

Phewph. This all sounds like women’s land ownership seem pretty darn important.

Translation: Women should acquire the same land ownership as men and then some because:

1. The number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million if women were in control of land and fully participated in economy because female farmers able to own and invest in their land would be substantially more productive

2. Domestic violence would decrease because females would have economic independence enabling them to move away from bad relationships

3. Children's health and education would improve because empowered mother's are able to support and care for their children better

4. Household resources would increase because land owning women can built equity and capital for the family  

5. There would be fewer child brides because there would be less pressure to marry off young daughters for financial reasons

The conclusion here is that policymakers should start acting more like Oprah and start shouting to all girls and women: “You get a piece of land! You get a piece of land! And you get a piece of Land!”