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Increasing women’s participation in land governance

“Gender equality is not Equality of Outcomes but equality of Rights, Resources and Voice. Gender roles are shaped by ideological, religious, ethnic, economic and cultural factors and are a key determinant of the distribution of responsibilities and resources between men and women. Being socially determined, however, this distribution can be changed through conscious social action, including public policy aimed at both sexes. Every society is marked by gender differences, but these vary widely by culture and can change dramatically overtime.(Hazel and Sally, 2002)

Despite of the existence of numerous human rights frameworks and its enshrinement in the Ugandan constitutions, the terrain of rights remains a dynamic, political arena where some interest groups’ rights compete and conflict with others. Whose rights take precedence when conflicts emerge? Rights and policies that protect the women and improve their lives do not come in neat packages either, but rather are part of dynamic, sometimes messy, processes of resistance and change that work to engage and transform relations of power.

Customary practice and socially defined gender roles usually dictate that collectively held land is governed through traditional decision-making systems and structures, which are most often male-dominated. When women are not meaningfully involved in governance, their interests are often ignored, and their rights to the land and resources can be weakened or lost. Meaningful participation goes beyond mere presence at a meeting; it must include the space and knowledge to speak safely, the opportunity to have their voices heard and also respected equally with others, and the confidence to speak their own thoughts that are free from social or familial influence or pressure. The timing, place, and style of conducting meetings can also exclude women, who might not have the same availability or engagement style as men.

Much participation work over the recent past has focused on and made gains in enabling communities and groups to analyze their reality and to define and carry out solutions to local development problems. In addition, some programs that advance participation have helped to increase sensitivities about gender and other differences and have influenced changes in attitude and behavior. However, participation is often framed narrowly as a methodology to improve project performance, rather than a process of fostering critical consciousness and decision-making as the basis for active citizenship. Rarely is participation implemented as a mutual decision-making process, where different actors share power and set agendas jointly. Participation, in this sense, involves conflict, and demands a capacity to analyze and alter unequal relations at all levels. Besides a vision of participation as a methodology and decision-making process, a critical analysis of different spaces of participation is becoming increasingly important to building effective rights-based change strategies.

LANDnet values participation that seeks to:

  • Include marginalized groups as protagonists and decision-makers and foster their critical consciousness and ability to influence and transform power dynamics as well as the norms, systems and institutions that affect their lives.
  • Go beyond perfunctory consultations in externally imposed project and policy processes so that local groups can be involved in agenda-setting, decision-making and structures to hold government and donors accountable.
  •  Build new leadership, strengthen local organization, expand strategic and political experience, and foster a sense of active, informed citizenship.
  • Change public decision-making structures and processes to be more inclusive of citizens’ interests as well as promote individual and group awareness of rights.
  • Unpack prevailing myths and unstated assumptions about all stakeholders being equal in power and poor communities being homogeneous.
  • Support grassroots efforts to challenge power hierarchies within their own communities and organizations.
  • Link rights efforts to concrete, relevant problems and solutions.
  • Weave in expert knowledge into strategies and analysis, where needed, so that communities can deal more effectively with a range of institutions and policies shaping their choices and livelihoods.
  • Create a sense of individual empowerment, dignity, and autonomy as a basis from which to engage with dominant forms of power and knowledge and to negotiate with existing power structures.
  • Recognize the differences between closed, invited, and claimed policy spaces of participation so that communities and NGOs use their resources strategically to affect change rather than being co-opted by official agendas that have little impact.

LANDnet aims to address barriers to women’s land rights by building capacity and awareness among community leaders and community members to (a) safeguard and promote women’s rights of voice and participation in community decision making; (b) increase the participation of grassroots women in local and regional organisations through movement building; and (c) to provide support and guidance to community/clan/tribal groups in developing and/or amending their internal governance instruments.

Strategic Objective 4: By 2022 LANDnet will have strengthened women’s participation in land governance at community, local and national level


  • Increased women’s access, use and control over land and other productive resources
  • Increased rural women’s involvement in land tenure governance in their communities

Key activities

  1. Developing and implementing a training programme to build capacity among rural women on gender equality, leadership, land rights, and prior consultation and negotiation.
  2. Facilitating an exchange of experiences among rural women leaders on land governance and gender equality.
  3. Supporting the participation of indigenous and peasant women in local and regional organisations, advising them as needed to improve the content and presentation (through training on public speaking) of their participation and to cultivate their leadership skills.
  4. Increasing community awareness of the importance of the participation of women leaders and community leaders in community governance structures.
  5. Supporting rural communities in the development and modification of community governance instruments (particularly Community Statutes) to safeguard women’s rights to participate in decisions and to own land.
  6. Preparing and disseminating studies on women’s and men’s access to land to elucidate the formal aspects that enable or impede women’s access to land.
  7. Supporting local and regional exposure visits, and sharing strategies for incorporating national, regional, and local public policies on land governance and women.

Strategic Objective 5: By 2022 LANDnet will have enhanced the active participation of women land professionals in land governance at various levels


Increased number of women professionals engaging in land governance at national and local level.

Key activities

  1. Recruiting at least 2 young women professionals from institutions of higher learning as interns in LANDnet annually.
  2. Influencing the recruitment of land professionals in the land sector to meetat least the 1/3 quota number for women.
  3. Provide career guidance in secondary schools to increase the number of women joining the different land professional courses at university.
  4. Taking affirmative action in capacity development programs to include more women than men professionals
  5. Create a network for women land professionals in Uganda.