Assets & Property Rights

Assets and Property Rights

The issue: Women's Assets and Property Rights

In various regions of the world, rural women often tend to crops that are used to nourish their families or sell in the marketplace. Yet just 1 percent of the world’s women own land.

Although laws to protect women’s property rights exist in most countries, many women still cannot realize their rights. The disconnect is due in part to low awareness and understanding of the laws and in part to there being multiple and sometimes contradictory rules – law, culture and customs, and religion – that affect women’s property rights. Many policies reinforce inequities between women and men.

Research evidence demonstrates that women are better poised to improve their lives when they own land and other assets, such as livestock or small farm equipment. Women can use these assets to earn an income and as collateral to access credit. Property and credit also ease hardship during a financial crisis by softening the shock of how much income is available to meet a family's basic needs.

When women own land and manage earnings, their agricultural productivity also increases and their children eat healthier. Even more, ICRW has found that owning property changes the power dynamics between women and men at home. In some households, having property gives women greater bargaining authority, which helps reduce their vulnerability to domestic violence and HIV infection.

Our role

ICRW is gathering evidence to demonstrate the spectrum of women’s property rights – including their ownership, use and control over land, housing and other assets. Our efforts aim to further establish how women’s property ownership might buffer them from shocks such as domestic violence, loss of income and HIV. We also are working to identify policy recommendations that recognize women’s rights over land and assets. And with our partners, ICRW is implementing and evaluating programs designed to provide women and their communities with the tools and resources to help them realize their legal rights to assets and property.

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