There is a correlation between socio-economic development, human rights and the empowerment of men and women to participate at all levels of decision making. Secure land rights are an important precondition for the achievement of these goals, including and the realisation of a broad spectrum of human rights: adequate housing, equality, food, health, work and education.
This study identifies and analyses the interrelations between land tenure security and key socioeconomic development aspects in the Arab region, drawing information from literature review, consultations and indepth field assessments conducted in Palestine, Tunisia, Iraq and Kuwait. The results of the field assessment are disaggregated by sex and analysed to describe the gender-related patterns in the region.
The research shows the extent to which women and men have access to land tenure security and land-related resources that contribute to their empowerment and the realization of their rights. It also assesses the perception of land tenure and how this affects their feeling of security against external shocks. The study finds a positive correlation between tenure security and improved living conditions, particularly access to healthcare, education and services, protection from gender-based violence, increased decision-making and freedom of movement, and better resilience to unforeseen shocks.
In line with the available literature, however, the study shows that gender gaps and challenges in securing land rights persist in the Arab region to the detriment of the more vulnerable, the poor, the women. Conflict and instability compound the existing fragilities. Community dynamics and families’ understandings of rights and gender equality shape the gender gap in accessing and benefitting from land. The survey confirms that, for men and women, inheritance is the primary avenue to acquire land and properties in the Arab region. This pattern is particularly clear for women, as over 70 per cent of respondents declare to have inherited their land. Purchase is the second most common way, more accessible to men than women. These patterns reflect women’s lesser purchasing power and exacerbate women’s dependence on their male family members. This also magnifies the negative impact of the widespread inheritance renunciation practices in the region. The study shows that men are more likely to have land registered in their name and as individual owners, while women are more likely to hold joint ownership, particularly in Tunisia and Palestine. Ownership alone is not synonymous of decision-making power and financial control: female landowners are more likely to delegate land-related economic activities male relatives, which is likely to have an impact on the distribution of financial resources within the family and reinforce gender roles that see men as breadwinners and women as unpaid domestic care providers.
Awareness is a crucial step towards securing land tenure rights; from the research it emerges insufficient knowledge and awareness about land tenure rights and their positive impact on human development. This negatively affects women and men’s land tenure security, particularly the landless and in case of forced eviction or in the absence of adequate documentation. Women’s land tenure security heavily depends on social factors and their economic and civil status. Women are more likely to lose their house, land and property in the event of divorce or death of the husband. This results in disadvantaging further those who already are in a position of weakness. As a diverse group, women’s vulnerability, and barriers to accessing and enjoying their right to land and the deriving benefits are heightened during high-risk situations such as extreme poverty, displacement, disability, and lack of family support.
Land tenure security is also heavily influenced by policies, national economic strategies, the international markets and agricultural investment patterns. The escalation of armed conflicts and organized violence, military assaults, wars, and land annexations are other important factors hindering the delivery of land tenure security at the community level.
The study provides recommendations on awareness and advocacy, research and data, gender-responsive reforms, women’s inheritance rights and participation.
Authors and Publishers
Authors: Sawsan Al-Sarsour and Do’a Zayed
Reviewers and contributors: Mariam Barghouti, Hind Bata, Joseph Schechla and Sina Schlimmer
Task managers: Ombretta Tempra and Eleonora Francesca Serpi
Editing: Mary Ann Llanza and Nikola Stalevski
Cover photo: Union of Agricultural Work Committees
Layout: Stefanie Heereman
Strategic partners: Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) of the Federal Republic of Germany, Swedish International Development Cooperation
The Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) is an alliance of global regional and national partners contributing to poverty alleviation through land reform, improved land management and security of tenure particularly through the development and dissemination of pro-poor and gender-sensitive land tools.
Secure land tenure and property rights are fundamental to shelter and livelihoods as well as the realisation of human rights, poverty reduction,economic prosperity and sustainable development.
UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future.