CSW 58: Women’s access to productive resources

Commission on the Status of Women 58 – Panel 3:

Women’s access to productive resources

Moderator: Mr. Mohamed Elbahi, Vice-Chair of the Commission (Sudan)

Panelists: Ms. Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Ms. Mariam Gabala Dao (Côte d’Ivoire), Regional Manager for West Africa at Oikocredit; Ms. Victoria Tauli Corpuz (Philippines), founder and Executive Director of Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education); Mrs. Martha “Pati” Ruiz Corzo (Mexico), founder of the Sierra Gorda Ecological Group and first Federal Director of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, Queretaro

Major Themes and Discussion:


1) Just 1% of the world’s women own land.

  • Improving women’s access to, use of and control over land and productive resources (LPR) is essential for ensuring women’s equality and rights enjoyment – especially their rights to an adequate standard of living, food, housing, political participation and decent work.
  • Women’s inequality in access to LPR is intimately related to gender inequality in other spheres. Boosting women’s access to, use of and control over LPR will reciprocally improve gender equality by improving women’s social, economic and political power.
  • This inter-relationship also means that in order to successfully and sustainably improve women’s access to LPR, it is necessary to take a holistic approach, looking at this issue not merely from the economic point of view, but also tackling legislative, social and cultural barriers to equal access, use and control.
  • Legislative action is absolutely crucial. There are a variety of legislative areas that affect women’s rights to LPR, including: Land law, Anti-discrimination law, Marriage and family law – including marital property rights, which should recognize the equal rights of
    both parties to use, obtain benefits from and manage joint property. Clear consent requirements for transfer or sale should be enforced, as well as equal land and property rights for men and women in the event of divorce and security of tenure guarantees, in particular for women smallholder farmers, Provisions that grant marital power to one spouse/the ‘head of household’ must be abolished.


2) Human rights play an important role in highlighting the following structural and systemic changes needed for women’s economic empowerment and improved access to LPR.

  • Prohibition of gender-based violence, including domestic violence and rape
  • Prohibition of forced eviction
  • Prohibition of early marriage
  • Access to justice
  • Prohibition of gender-based violence
  • Prohibition of impunity for gender-based violence
  • Home countries of business enterprises and investing nations or nations supporting agricultural investments in other nations must ensure that their actions respect and protect human life, according to applicable international and regional human rights norms and standards
  • In order to effect change, laws and legal frameworks must be enforced


3) Women need to be economically empowered

  • Women’s need equal access to loans, credits, insurance and other financial services for access to land, housing and property
  • Women’s unpaid care work needs to be recognized – cooking, cleaning, fetching water and fuel, and direct care of persons. When this work is taken into account, they work more hours than men, for less money and recognition. This division of labor places huge constraints on women’s time and opportunities, perpetuating their political, social and economic inequality and blocking their enjoyment of many human rights, including to paid work, education and participation in public life
  • A large proportion of the world’s food insecure people earn their living from agriculture,  many of whom are women. Social protection should therefore support agricultural livelihoods directly, to improve food security
  • Micro finance cannot be used to make investments that women need to support daily life. The financial inclusion women would mean that they have a variety of resources available at their disposal
  • Banks should offer a range of financial products specific to women’s needs and should not perceive women as a risky investment


4) Fiscal and macroeconomic policies are directly related to women’s access to LPR. States should:

  • Prioritize investment in women and in their rights to LPR, both in national expenditure and in international assistance and cooperation
  • Make public investments both on the production side, for example, in water management facilities and soil conservation, and on the consumption side, in health services, education, water and sanitation, and social protection
  • Make stable and sustainable long-term investment in agriculture in order to address challenges in food security
  • Make investment in the physical infrastructure that allows food producers to be connected to markets
  • Resist the view of land principally as a commodity; rather it should be viewed as a life-sustaining resource. Commodification of land rarely benefits women’s rights, instead leading to land concentration and land-grabbing
  • Land concessions should not be made without an evaluation of the impacts on women’s land and livelihoods and on water resources


5) Indigenous People, particularly indigenous women need to be prioritized by States

  • The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues. It also “emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations”
  • It specifically says that States should protect indigenous peoples’ rights to their ancestral lands  but these rights are the most difficult for indigenous women to negotiate because States do not want to concede these rights
  • Indigenous societies’ laws and traditions are also not friendly towards women, e.g. inheritance laws
  • While national laws allow for delineation of ancestral lands, these laws overlap with other laws and governments usually ask for a review of all intersecting laws before conceding the lands to indigenous people
  • Indigenous women cannot get credit because land caught up in so many laws is not seen as collateral
  • There are some good practices: – women in some countries have formed credit cooperatives. In some places there are credit unions that allow women to access credit to support other livelihoods
  • Cultural values should be central to development-
  • Indigenous women who have cases in court need support
  • States should push community monitoring by women of rights- this would empower women

6) Sierra Gorda – example of protected space managed by locals  hrough a federal decree

  • This biosphere is a major gender project where women have had their voices heard and tap into their versatility
  • This gender forest has 638 communities that have developed a road map for their participation towards specific goals– sanitation, restoration- tourism projects conducted by women, production in homes and now in small businesses such as  ceramics, gardens, cheeses, community museums
  • In Sierra Gorda, women want economic development but they also want to strengthen: communities, water, productive lands, filtration systems, carbon offset plans, soil that produces grows roots, regional resilience, healthy organic food productions, access to ecosystem activities


Submitted by Geeta Desai