Webinar Recap : Women’s Participation in Land Governance in the Mekong - Moving Beyond Quotas to Meaningful Inputs and Influence | Land Portal

This webinar took place on February 15th, 2024, under the title “Women’s Participation in Land Governance in the Mekong : Moving Beyond Quotas to Meaningful Inputs and Influence”. The webinar  featured panelists from researchers to youth representatives and was jointly organized by the Land Portal Foundation and Mekong Region Land Governance (MRLG).   

Sr. Elizabeth Daley, Independent freelance consultant and Chair of the Land Portal Foundation, moderated the panel, which featured the following speakers: 

  • Natalie Campbell, Regional Customary Tenure Adviser, Mekong Region Land Governance (MRLG)
  • Dr. Hue Le, Senior Researcher, Vietnam National University, Hanoi 
  • Maithin Yumon, Co-Chair, Global Indigenous Youth Caucus
  • Dr. Sochanny Hak, Senior Researcher, Analyzing Development Issues Center, Cambodia
  • Dr. Micah Ingalls, Team Leader, Mekong Region Land Governance (MRLG)
  • Phouvone Thammavong, Deputy Director, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Investment Promotion Department, Lao PDR


Today’s webinar will shine special light on two groundbreaking reports concerning gender and land governance in the Mekong region. The reports are, first "Outlook on Gender and Land in the Mekong Region" and, second, "Towards Gender-Equitable Land Policy and Law Making in the Mekong Region". Can you please introduce the MRLG programme and give us an overview of the key findings of these two new reports from MRLG?

Micah: Although at the national level, all four countries have women-focused institutions that broadly address gender equality issues, it is unclear the extent to which these institutions, and the policy-making domain in general in the Mekong region, prioritize women’s land rights. For instance, in Laos, despite the longstanding existence of the Laos Women’s Union, women’s participation in decision-making about land and natural resources remains very limited, both in numeric terms and in their ability to make meaningful and effective contributions, especially at higher levels of government.

At the sub-national level there are some differences between the Mekong countries. In Cambodia, there are no specific quotas for the appointment of women in land management and administration committees, nor quotas for the appointment of women in land dispute resolution committees such as Commune Dispute Resolution Committees and Maisons de la Justice, which operate at the subnational commune and district levels. This is despite the fact that politicians have begun discussing the general role of women in politics and leadership roles. In Myanmar, the 2016 National Land Use Policy (NLUP) stipulates that committees of the proposed national land use councils shall consist of representatives from all ethnic nationalities, experts, women, and elders, but sets no specific quotas to ensure either any minimum level of representation or meaningful and effective participation.

Major common regional barriers include, at national level, the perception that these were men’s domains, and that women are not confident in their knowledge – nor is it valued. Furthermore, the way in which consultations are conducted is not conducive to genuine participation. Consultation with communities remains top-down and comes after a new law or policy has been adopted and women’s participation tends to be equated with women being represented or ‘present’ in consultations, with insufficient attention paid to ensuring their participation is both meaningful and effective. Finally, presence does not guarantee that either the consultations or the policies and laws arising will be gender-sensitive or gender-equitable, due to the overall power dynamics within the participatory process (i.e., due to the differences between different men and different women as well as levels of knowledge). 

In order to explore the community impacts of land tenure challenges a bit further. Channy, can you please tell us briefly about your work on participatory research on contract farming in Cambodia?

Channy:  With MRLG support, we conducted a three country study on women’s engagement in law making processes in the region and tested the use of a feminist oriented consultative approach. In Cambodia, we looked specifically at how contract farming was conducted with agricultural cooperatives in two provinces, Kampong Chhnang (central part of Cambodia) and Kratie (northeastern part of Cambodia). The agricultural cooperatives were selected based on their experience in engaging in contract farming. We studied the gender dynamics of agricultural cooperatives in each community, gender relations in agricultural cooperatives, and how these relations shape opportunities for inclusive consultation.

According to the results of the contract farming study, none of the women in the two agricultural cooperatives were invited to consultation meetings on draft law on contract farming or contract farming conflict resolution guidelines. Members of the management committee of an agricultural cooperative in Kampong Chhnang said they attended a dissemination workshop on the contract farming conflict resolution guidelines led by an NGO and that they have closely collaborated with them. Our study revealed that while at the sub-national level (provincial, district, commune, and village), there is a growing number of women participating in decision-making (for example, government district offices) at the national level, the participation space in leadership positions is limited. Although many women attend in managerial positions, their duties and responsibilities are often perceived as day to day administrative management positions.  

In one of the interviews, an Executive Director of a Cambodian NGO stated that she is often invited to participate in consultation meetings with mostly NGOs working in the same sector such as domestic violence or human trafficking, or any work that is related to women and children. She expressed her willingness to participate in other work, including land governance, but said she was rarely involved in such opportunities. We also uncovered that MOWA (Ministry of Women Affairs) did not attend the process of drafting contract farming law. 

Why is women's participation in land governance important to you, and what are the major challenges in Vietnam regarding their involvement? 

Dr. Hue: CEDAW and the CEDAW Committee's General Recommendation No. 34 on the rights of rural women, the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on the Governance of Land Tenure and the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights Gender Guidance require the creation of effective mechanisms and institutions to ensure gender equality by promoting the participation of diverse groups of women in all stages of law and policy-making processes. 

Women are both policy makers and subjects of land governance policies and in addition, policy makers -both men and women- need to be able to contribute to policy such as law-related skills and their understanding of the situation related to land governance. Women are the subjects of policy and, when they participate, they have a voice and thus can contribute ideas that are more suitable to their aspirations.  Furthermore, women aim to develop environmentally and socially friendly laws and policies, and often aim for greater harmony with groups with conflicting interests in land governance.  

Some of the major challenges with regards to their participation in land governance include lack of clear criteria for assessing whether legal drafting is gender-equitable, the fact that consultation meetings often provide little opportunity for influence, men dominating consultation processes and the fact that the Vietnam Women’s Union lacks authority on land and agricultural issues.  



Related content: 
Women's Land Rights in the Mekong
15 February 2024
South-Eastern Asia
Land Portal Foundation
Mekong Region Land Governance

Join us in a webinar that will shine light on two groundbreaking reports concerning gender and land governance in the Mekong region. The reports, "Outlook on Gender and Land in the Mekong Region" and "Towards Gender-Equitable Land Policy and Law Making in the Mekong Region," were produced in Phase II of the Mekong Region Land Governance (MRLG) program. This is the first webinar in the series ‘State of Land in the Mekong region.’ This series highlights the evolving environment of land governance in this dynamic region.

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