This editorial was originally published on the Voice of America Website.
Changing property and inheritance laws “may be the most critical” step in ensuring “women’s full and free participation in local economies.”
The right to own property is a key necessity to fully integrate women into a nation’s economy. Speaking on a Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative panel, better known as W-GDP, to announce new projects, Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump noted that changing property and inheritance laws “may be the most critical” step in ensuring “women’s full and free participation in local economies.”
USAID Administrator Mark Green also affirmed the importance of land rights in women’s economic empowerment: “We talk about the journey to self-reliance and helping countries lead themselves. No country is self-reliant if it isn’t tapping into more than half of its population.”
CEO Chris Jochnick from Landesa, an NGO that is implementing a land rights project, said W-GDP funds put in Liberia, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, and Ethiopia will ensure women’s property rights through revised laws and regulations. The project will affect the ability of millions of women to own, inherit, or use land across Africa. “Approximately 100 million women live in these five countries,” said Mr. Jochnick, “and this project should go a long way to bolstering their entrepreneurship and economic opportunities.”
There are 90 countries where, either by law or by custom, women can’t own, inherit, or manage land. As a consequence, these women are relegated to second class citizenship and life in a constant state of vulnerability:
If we want to empower women we have to start with this fundamental inequity. . . .mostly women living in poverty live off the land. Land to them is a home, survival, an income, a chance to feed and clothe and house and educate their children. Land is also a chance for entrepreneurship.”
A recent success story is Cote D’Ivoire, where a new marriage law will now enable women to inherit and acquire property, said Advisor Trump:
“This is great work being done on a local level, actually, through funding with local NGOs and advocates in Cote d’Ivoire and [Millennium Challenge Corporation]. I visited there this spring and reinforced the essential nature of changing this law.”
Learn More about other USAID’s works on Women’s Empowerment
MAST IMPROVES WOMEN’S ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT
MAST empowers women to understand and exercise their land rights. It provides trainings to help women understand their rights and formal titling, and engages women and men as community surveyors and land committee leaders.