CARE India partners with Landesa to Increase Women’s Land Literacy

It’s a commonly cited statistic that women do about 60-80% of the farm work in the developing world, but own less than 2% of all property across the globe. Land is the most critical capital for agriculture production, and lack of access, control, and ownership is an obvious impediment to the productivity of female farmers. Land tenure insecurity also impedes women in other ways—preventing them from accessing formal credits and services. 

Land allocation and redistribution programs to poor and marginalized groups, including the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, is a priority for India but also a socio-economic and logistical challenge. Ensuring that landless women benefit fully from the programs is particularly difficult.

India has a number of land legislations that create specific focus on women – HSA 2005 and others. Efforts have been made to ensure land to women through joint titling, tenancy reforms, and inheritance. However, joint titling legislation is limited to government land distribution and not inheritance (mainly farm land). The methods for landless identification have not been gender-segregated, and the revenue bureaucracy has not been adequately sensitized to the needs of landless women, especially within households.

The greatest impediment to increasing women’s access to and control over land in rural areas is women’s lack of legal land literacy.  Many women lack awareness about existing laws and regulations and their legal rights to own and inherit land. Without being identified through landless registration programs, they are also missing out on health and social safety net programs for which they are eligible.

Improvements in women’s land literacy can have a major impact on their potential to access and benefit from numerous opportunities and improve their overall well-being, ultimately reshaping their role in their family and rearranging power relationships. 

To work on women’s land rights issues in Pathways villages in India, CARE India is partnering with Landesa. This collaboration builds upon the existing partnership between CARE Tanzania and Landesa, through which Tanzanian women’s land rights are being expanded. The CARE India/Landesa project will be implemented in 108 villages of 9 blocks in Kalahandi and Kandhamal districts of the Odisha state in India. The focus of the collaboration is on developing the capacities of women, with special focus on women’s Self-Help Groups and other collectives, issues related to the access to land, land titling, and government documents, and how women can protect or retain their land rights from being illegally transferred or alienated.

The project’s overall strategy will be to assess land issues in the communities, identify gaps and opportunities for improving legal literacy on land rights for women, develop a user-focused training, and create an awareness-raising program that focuses on the best means and methods to reach the target beneficiaries.  The project will use a ‘training of trainers’ model to cascade the training down to target beneficiaries and include a evaluation of the training and its impact. Some of the key outcomes expected from the project are that women from different collectives and households: will be trained, educated, and empowered to negotiate with revenue officials for their rights, can ensure land in their names or at least through joint titles, suffer less domestic violence relating to land, develop capacities to ensure land ownership for single women, especially widows, and can access and reap the benefits from livelihood and social security programs even if deserted and unmarried.

This initiative of working jointly with Landesa will lead CARE (under the Pathways program) to address its global objective of enhancing women farmers’ income, capacities, and rights. Pathways is a multi-country initiative by CARE to work on women and agriculture in six countries which includes India. During Landesa’s previous discussions with CARE, it was agreed that Landesa would collaborate to develop the capacities of the women in the project villages along with building the capacities of CARE and its partner NGOs. Over the course of two years, it’s expected that approximately 2,000 leaders of collectives will have received master training on land rights. Through their follow-on training with groups, women leaders will gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence to negotiate for land ownership by single women and women headed households, to pursue joint-titling processes, and to have better access to different livelihood and social programs for which they are eligible.

Contributors: Emily Hillenbrand, Technical Advisor for Gender and Livelihoods & Rekha Panigrahi (CARE India)