Land Governance Support Activity (LGSA): Initial Gender Strategy

The Land Governance Support Activity (LGSA) will support the Government of Liberia (GOL) land rights reform process through four primary components: (1) demand-driven support to the land reform agenda led by the GOL; (2) strengthening the policy, legal, and regulatory framework for land governance; (3) development of a customary land rights recognition model based on the Land Rights Policy; and (4) support of stakeholder engagement in land governance through communications and outreach and enhancing local capacity through the provision of land sector services.

The LGSA must traverse Liberia’s legal landscape of statutory and customary laws, infused with myriad local practices and social norms. While several formal laws uphold women’s rights to use, access and own land, and the Constitution bans sex discrimination, other laws undercut women’s equal right to land and resources. Overall, women in Liberia hold land in significantly lower proportion than do men. Many documents providing evidence of land and property rights are issued in men’s name only. This has been attributed by women’s rights groups to both lingering legal limitations and to women’s low literacy rates (48% compared with 71% for men based on Liberia’s latest Demographic and Health Survey).

Moreover, rural women generally exercise rights to land within customary systems. Under customary systems, women often depend on their kin relations – by blood or marriage – to access, use and control land. Such access can be tenuous, and vulnerable to breakdown in kin relations including those brought about by death or divorce. Communities in Liberia are varied in their approaches and practices generally and around women’s land rights specifically. As such each community’s customs and practices will require careful gender analysis that accounts for the specific context of that community and the realities for the women associated with it.

A key project objective is the achievement of gender equality, as fundamental for the realization of human rights and central to effective and sustainable development outcomes. As a critical social characteristic that shapes the experiences, roles, opportunities, constraints, rights, and responsibilities of men and women, gender and related dynamics underpin governance systems and practices, including those related to land. The LGSA aims to align GOL land laws, policies, and regulations with best practices, particularly around recognition of customary land and the attendant impact on women in that process. It further seeks to inform policy-makers and communities about women’s land rights, and influence the execution of relevant best practices.

This Gender Strategy provides a framework and guidance for a gender-responsive approach to the LGSA. The Gender Strategy directs the project team, implementers, and partners to account for gender differentials in the ways men and women might have varying experiences, priorities, knowledge, interests, opportunities, and constraints. It calls for a more holistic and nuanced approach to reveal complexities and challenges, and present opportunities to capitalize on the nexus between land rights, gender equality, and sustainable development. The Strategy intends to guide both project substance and processes – including monitoring and evaluation – through principles, strategies, and more concrete guidance for implementation.