The year is 2017. There are 7.4 billion – and counting – people in the world. The World Health Organization and the World Bank report that the global life expectancy of the average person has dramatically increased over the past 100 years, and the global youth literacy rate rests at over 90 percent. On top of that, exponential changes in medicine have led to profound improvements in global health. Yet as we commemorate International Women’s Day on March 8, women – who constitute half of that 7.4 billion – according to USAID, compose a fraction of landowners and remain the most affected by land access issues.
With great victories in global development and women’s rights over the past few centuries, it can be easy to forget the immense barriers – both legal and customary – that women around the world still face today in accessing land and secure tenure. In Uganda and other parts of Africa, tribal laws grant all land governance to men, while women’s participation in property decision-making is often contingent on their marital status. Even in regions where successful policy reform should increase access to land for women, cultural or customary barriers still prevent women from owning land and achieving tenure security at the same rate as men. According to the UN Women, in India equal access to secure tenure is guaranteed by both the Married Women's Property Act of 1874 and the Constitutional Fundamental Rights adopted in 1950; however, what is written into the national law in India is often superseded by customary laws.
Secure tenure for women is not just a problem in low-income countries, nor is the problem secluded to rural areas. Women in middle and high-income countries as well as in urban areas also face financial and social hurdles to living free from the fear of eviction. In his New York Times best-selling book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, author Matthew Desmond describes the current state of secure tenure for women in the United States and found that evictions disproportionately affect women. "Within the eviction records, women were disproportionately represented among tenants, men among landlords."
Gender parity has, time and time again, been shown to correlate with economic improvement, increased educational attainment, and improved health outcomes – all important indicators of prosperous and healthy cities. In short, secure tenure and property rights for women are critical in changing cities for good, which is why they encapsulate one of IHC Global’s key areas of focus.
Founded by Habitat for Humanity International and the National Association of Realtors, IHC Global – a coalition for inclusive housing and sustainable cities – was born out of the desire to connect civil society with the private sector for the greater goal of creating equitable urban societies. We work with our partners to create awareness about current urban crises; we reach out to experts and strategists in urban development to search for solutions; we convene policymakers and policy influencers to share ideas and solutions; and we strive to make the global population more aware of how important cities are for our future. Most importantly, we work to establish that urbanization is inevitable, but urban poverty doesn’t have to be.
The Solid Ground campaign has set out to make gender equality in land ownership and tenure security a reality. As a supporting partner in the campaign, IHC Global is determined to make women’s property rights and tenure security an urban priority. We’ll press forward until secure tenure is the global norm.
To find out more about IHC Global and how you can contribute to our coalition to advocate for more equitable urban development around the globe, visit ihcglobal.org and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
IHC Global is an independent, non-profit global membership coalition of national and international NGOs, civil society organizations, private sector companies, corporations, and individuals committed to equitable urban development and sustainable, inclusive cities. IHC Global is committed to the principle that greater income equality and greater prosperity for all result from an integrated, resource-supported plan for the development of a spatially, socially and economically inclusive city.