Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

Zambian woman holds land titles.

Women’s land rights are human rights.


of the world’s economies limit women’s property rights

44 of 191

countries do not provide female and male surviving spouses with equal rights to inherit assets

1 in 5

women feels insecure about her land and property rights

USAID is securing and strengthening women’s land and resource rights across the developing world. Having secure rights to access and control land, and the benefits that come from using land, is central to determining household income and opportunity and can provide a powerful pathway to improved wellbeing, livelihoods, and resilience. For example, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, if women had the same access to productive resources as men, farm output would increase by 20 to 30 percent. Today, although women play a critical role in food production, they are less likely than men to own and control land.


 Why Women’s Land Rights Matter

Ownership and control over assets are central to women’s economic empowerment and their ability to contribute to local, national, and global economies. For many women, the most valuable of these assets are the land and natural resources from which they earn a living, provide for their families, and invest in their communities. Evidence suggests that strengthening women’s land and resource rights can have a positive impact on their bargaining power and decision-making, particularly around important household-level decisions such as expenditures for children’s health and education and intergenerational transfers, including inheritance.  Through programs, partnerships, research and policy reforms, USAID is working on the ground to address  the barriers women face to accessing and controlling land, as well as the benefits that secure land and resource rights bring to women, their families, and communities. 

Our goal is to improve women’s access to and control over land and natural resources in order to expand their concrete and inclusive economic, social, and political opportunities. 

Working with women, men, governments, traditional leaders, communities, and the private sector, USAID’s land and resource governance programming include strategies to:

  • Support law and policy reforms to formalize and strengthen women’s land and resource governance rights;
  • Promote gender and social inclusion in land documentation and registration;
  • Enable gender and social norms change;
  • Promote inclusive land use planning;
  • Integrate women, and their unique needs and concerns, into agricultural supply chains;
  • Raise awareness and advocate for equitable land and resource governance;
  • Empower women through agency-based trainings;
  • Gather and disseminate evidence, best practices, and lessons learned.

Where USAID is Working on Women’s Land Rights

Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Liberia, Mozambique, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Zambia

Blog Posts

Zambia’s Chiefs Champion Gender Equality in Land and Natural Resource Governance

Originally published on the International Institute for Environment and Development blog. Zambian land is governed through statutory and customary systems. Under the statutory system, the Zambian Constitution states that men and women have equal rights under the law, and the 2014 National Gender Policy gives traditional leaders a central role as champions of gender equality in...Read More

Increasing Women’s Access to Land through Public-Private Partnerships in Ghana

This blog was originally published on Agrilinks. By Jenn Williamson In Northern Ghana, women face many challenges accessing and owning land. Customary lands, which make up an estimated 80% of the country, are managed by traditional authorities and governed under cultural lineage and inheritance systems. In Northern Ghana, this system is largely patrilineal, which means...Read More

COVID19, Food & Nutrition Security, and Gender Equality

This blog was originally published on Agrilinks.  How women, gender equality, and social norms are critical to recovering from the COVID19 crisis — and building back better. The World Food Program says that the number of people facing food crisis will likely double as a result of COVID19. A combination of disrupted markets, lack of international trade,...Read More

Traditional Leaders in Zambia Shift Gender Norms and Strengthen Women’s Land Rights

Originally published on the International Institute for Environment and Development blog.   By Patricia Malasha Across much of Africa, land is not allocated and inherited under statutory law but through customary practices rooted in kinship. In patrilineal systems, land belongs to men’s families and is inherited through the paternal line. In Zambia, many ethnic groups follow...Read More

New USAID Study Examines Gender Bias in Customary Land Allocations: Findings Have Important Implications for Advancement of Women’s Land Rights

Land access and ownership for women remains severely unequal compared to men despite the fact that women are active participants in the agricultural sector and provide the majority of agricultural labor in much of sub-Saharan Africa. A recent USAID gender analysis of customary land allocations found that female-headed households in Ethiopia and Zambia not only...Read More

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Evaluations & Research

Gender Disparities in Customary Land Allocation: Lessons from USAID Impact Evaluation Data

This report presents the final results of the CEL Gender and Land Allocation (GLA) research activity. The objective of GLA is to investigate the extent to which customary land allocation systems exhibit gender bias in order to inform policy and programming intended to provide secure land rights for women To this end, GLA utilizes secondary household datasets that have been collected for impact evaluations of previous USAID land tenure projects in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

Intimate Partner Violence and Land Tenure

The US Government is committed to preventing and responding to gender-based violence (GBV). This commitment is articulated in policies, laws, and other guidance documents. For USAID, addressing GBV is one of the three pillars of the Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy (2012). By preventing and responding to GBV, USAID can help protect the human...Read More

The Effectiveness of a Social Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Strategy in Changing Social Attitudes on Equal Rights to Property for Women – The Case of Kosovo

The society in Kosovo is considered patriarchal and patrilineal, where property inheritance is traditionally transferred to men (Joireman, 2015). Even though the laws on Gender Equality and Law on Inheritance are considered egalitarian, the social norms continue to encourage patriarchal values that exclude women from property inheritance. This paper will address the social context and...Read More

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Tools & Resources

Mobile Applications to Secure Tenure (MAST) Learning Platform

The MAST Learning Platform provides a variety of tools and resources to support application of the MAST process, a collaborative, participatory approach that builds local capacity to efficiently map resource rights and secure land tenure.

Intimate Partner Violence and Land Toolkit

Each year, millions of women are physically and sexually assaulted by intimate or domestic partners. The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 30 percent of women have experienced this kind of violence (2013), making it the most common form of gender-based violence. The U.S. Government (USG) is committed to preventing and responding to...Read More

Effective Engagement with Indigenous Peoples: USAID Sustainable Landscapes Sector Guidance Document

This sector guidance document is based on desktop research about SL related issues among Indigenous Peoples, international standards, and USAID program experiences. It is also based on interviews with USAID development professionals. This guidance complements and is informed by the programming guidance within the USAID Policy on Promoting the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (PRO-IP) and is one part of USAID's collection of sector-specific guidance documents on engagement with Indigenous Peoples.

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