How do we measure empowerment? As a concept, it is difficult to quantify. However, there are tangible things in life that make us feel secure in our surroundings and provide us with a sense of belonging. Nothing achieves this quite like a place to call home. A roof over our heads may not feel as significant when we have it without question, but for the millions of people around the world who do not have access to land rights or secure tenure, the lack of a home may cost that immeasurable sense of empowerment. This is especially true for women, who make up only a fraction of the world’s landowners and often have little access to or information about property rights under strict national laws. In a time when the state of women’s rights worldwide has been thrown into the spotlight, IHC Global’s new publication, Using Data to Support Women’s Rights: Property Markets and Housing Rights Through a Gender Equity Lens, brings the link between access to property rights and strengthening female empowerment into the conversation. Focusing on our pilot program in Uganda, the paper examines women’s participation in the Ugandan property market — and how access to property rights and credit can further economic development and transform the lives of women, their families, and their communities.

To explore how access to property rights can change women’s lives, IHC Global looked inward. The International Property Market Scorecard, a tool co-created by IHC Global and the Center of International Private Enterprise (CIPE), measures the sustainability of property markets through six core requirements: property rights laws and enforcement, access to credit, efficiency of governance, rational dispute resolution, financial transparency, and appropriate regulations. By applying a gender lens to the scorecard, IHC Global collected an entirely unique set of data. Last July, we had the tremendous opportunity to present this idea at the UN High-level Political Forum Partnership Exchange, and in November, IHC Global put the gender-oriented scorecard into action in Uganda. Collaborating with Uganda’s real estate association AREA-Uganda, IHC Global gathered existing information on women’s access to property rights in the country and used the scorecard to interview a range of women about their experiences working in or with the property market system. The key findings and recommendations developed from the analysis were then presented at the ninth World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The findings reflect the complex nature of a country where equal access to property rights for women is laid out in its constitution, but where cultural practices and the lack of a formally regulated real estate industry have led to less women participating in its property market. This is not an uncommon phenomenon, and thus calls for several changes, from offering basic training for women to enforcing a gender-inclusive code of ethics, are being proposed and debated across the globe. After completing this pilot program, IHC Global plans to continue in this worldwide movement. By applying the scorecard to property markets around the world, IHC Global aims to gain a clearer picture of the inextricable link between women’s empowerment and property rights.