In 1998, the Ethiopian government initiated the largest low-cost land certification program at the time in sub-Saharan Africa. However, household-level land registration often registered land exclusively in the name of the traditional (male) head of household.
Without the inclusion of their names on land certificates, women’s rights to land remained insecure, especially if they divorced or were widowed.
In 2003, the Government introduced joint titling of land holdings between husband and wife. Joint titling recognized the distinctive challenges faced by women, and sought to capitalize on the positive development effects of empowering women.
Over the years, studies have shown that joint titling has had many positive benefits. It has increased women’s perception of their tenure security, including in polygamous households; improved agricultural productivity; and increased the participation of female-headed households in the land rental market.
However, preliminary studies also indicate significant disparities between women and men in regards to access to information and participation in the land certification process.
Women’s ability to benefit from land certification depends on their awareness of their land rights; their ability to invoke such rights; and society’s acceptance of the laws governing women’s land rights. Further in-depth assessments are needed to ascertain the long-term impact and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the land certification process.
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