‘There is no single solution to women’s land rights challenges in India’: National Workshop on Women’s Land Rights

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A singular approach or a one-track solution is not possible to address  the issue of women’s land rights in India. This was the basic conclusion that emerged from the two-day National-level Workshop at Jamshedpur (Jharkhand, India) in October 2017 as a part of the Commitment-Based Initiative on Women’s Land Rights of International Land Coalition. The workshop was hosted by Swadhina.

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The National Workshop gave an excellent scope to inspect and understand the basic flaws, challenges and scope of implementation of women’s rights over her land in India.  Having representatives from the indigenous community, farmer’s rights initiatives, land rights organizations and local government representatives, the workshop provided an excellent and in-depth study of the women’s land rights situation in India. Not just discussions, the workshop was enriched by in-depth presentations from different organizations working on the issue of land rights and social justice.

The socio-legal challenges: As  veteran land activist Jagat Narayan well explained in his opening remarks, land rights for women cannot be judged from a single perspective. It needs to be analysed from religious, constitutional /legal and social perspective. He said that in India, women’s land or property ownership is guided by the laws which is religion-dependant. Hence the rights of a Hindu woman differs greatly from that of a Muslim woman and vice versa. In this context he clearly explained the differences in ownership as per the provisions in one’s religion. He felt that there is a strong need to reanalyze the laws based on the current context where women are to be treated as equal citizen’s of the world.

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Echoing his feelings, most of the participants felt that the differences in legal rights based on religion often made it challenging to build awareness – making it difficult to explain different legal rights to different set of communities.

Mariam Masih of Samekit Jan Vikas Kendra, who works with indigenous women’s groups explained her helplessness saying that often discussions about granting equal rights to women, especially land rights, lead the communities to believe that the social worker has come to instigate the women against their communities or custom.

Social Conditioning: Panchayat leader Sukurmoni Hembram said that land rights of women was often curbed by social reasoning which is based on social conditioning. Since a girl is ‘given away ’in marriage with a huge dowry, it is often argued that the dowry is given ‘in lieu’ of land or property with the expectation that she will not return to her parents house to claim her property. In fact this is often the reasoning put up by the male relatives of the girl’s family that she cannot claim her share because it has already been sold away to arrange for her dowry.

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Social activitist Lalita too emphasized on the need to look into addressing the problem in a holistic manner rather than focus only on legal rights. ‘ It is often the women who express their reluctance to claim a share of their husband’s property or her father’s piece of land’, she explained. Whatever is theirs is mine as well – is the common argument put up by them. Hence when the same woman is widowed or left by her husband, she cannot counter argue her own explanation since she is socially conditioned to believe that it is her destiny to be dependent on the men-folk.

Land rights of Indigenous  women- custom versus need: One thing that emerged as a whole was that the issue of land rights among indigenous communities should be looked at with utmost care and with a perspective beyond the legal parlance. David Murmu, having been a tribal voice for years, explained how the indigenous rules of land ownership was originally developed as a means to protect the tribal land from being vested to non-tribals. He explained that the tribal land laws focus on protection of land as a community, hence back then the issue of separate land demarcation or rights for women was not seen to be necessary since the question of survival and food security was the responsibility of the total community. The obstruction to separate land rights to women was a means to protect the scheduled area for the tribals. However with changing times, it is essential to find out how widows and single women could be protected within the purview of customary land laws.

Yashoda Mardi, a tribal grass-root leader pointed out yet another challenge of tribal land laws – absence of proper documentation. “ The khatiyan is often in the name of the great grand father and there is no change of name done in the land document so technically even the man is not the land-owner as per papers, so the question of division of land of claiming the land in the name of the woman comes to a dead-end solution”.

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Land Documentation and records- a big hurdle: Vijendra representing organization BJSA from Uttar Pradesh highlighted the issue of absence of proper land documentation and land records. In rural areas, land demarcations, land boundaries, land ownerships are often a matter of verbal understanding rather than any written records. Either the land documents are not available or are lost over the period of time.  M.A.Khan from FES, Odisha was of the same opinion. “Most of the land divisions do not have any written records, in such circumstances it becomes extremely challenging to earmark land for women or even for families.” Additionally, he felt that the land records maintained by the government departments are also not adequate or accessible. This poses a huge challenge in case of redistribution of land of commons too. A lot of land for redistribution among the landless and women’s groups is often available but due to the absence of proper information as well as lack of proper documentation, the distribution policy is affected. A system of proper maintenance of land records would ensure that the women would be able to access data on available land for collective use.

Land acquisition and compensation: Land acquisition for welfare purposes often benefit the men-folk rather than women. Apart from the fact that it leads to displacement which affect the women more, the compensation is often beneficial for the men rather than the women.

Being associated with Social Audit, Jagat Narayan explained how the different rules and regulations were often unknowingly gender discriminatory.  He cited an example where a woman was the land owner but when her land was taken by the government for welfare purpose, she was offered a compensation. But since did not have a bank account or the requisite documents to have a bank account, the money went to her husband who had a bank account. So, inspite of being the legal owner, the technical challenges prevented her from getting what was rightfully hers.

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Recognition as women farmers: Jacob Nellithanam, long associated with farmer’s rights initiatives, throwing in a debate as to whether owning a land legally would actually translate into land rights of a woman ? Or is it merely a power entrapped in documentation ? When we are talking of women’s land rights, are we also thinking of her recognition as farmers ? He said that when we are talking of equal land rights in an indigenous situation we need to be cautious that we do not disturb their farming techniques.  He gave examples as to how the tribal communities, where majorly women do the farming, are falling prey to the modern system of growing cash crops rather than food crops. This is against the tribal culture. He felt that along with their right over their land, women should be empowered and recognized as farmers. This would enhance their decision-making power and they would then be able to protect their indigenous agro-system, including protection of their seeds.

Those present also felt that recognition of women as farmers is long due. Adequate support to women farmers, granting schemes exclusively for them and helping them improve their productivity and decision-making power are important.

Mariam Masih, drawing from her own experience of working amongst the tribal communities and helped more than 300 women have their kitchen garden, said that encouraging women to have their own kitchen garden was a very emphatic way to point out to the society how successful women can be in farming. It is a small but symbolic gesture of social recognition of women as farmers. She also placed the inclusion of women in village gram sabha and farmer’s committees, co-operatives and groups to be important step towards a gender-inclusive agricultural system.

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Steps towards a gender-balanced land and agricultural system: The discussion and feedback from the participants presented a number of steps to ensure a gender-balanced land and agricultural system.

1) There is a need to revisit and analyse existent land laws to find out possible scope of incorporating the rights of women within the structure.

2) There are laws but definite lack of awareness on the laws as well so awareness is the key to ensure that the laws are implemented as well.

3) In the same lines, there is a need to strengthen advocacy at the macro level so that there are genuine efforts on behalf of the local government and administration to ensure that right to land for women are adequately protected.

4) A wide study -reaching to different communities, different contexts and encompassing different strata of the society- must be undertaken nationwise so as to analyse the actual reach and implementation of land laws, land and property related schemes which directly benefit women.

5) There is a need to improve the land documentation process – tying loose ends, helping families locate their land documents, maintaining a proper data-bank of available land for redistribution, land of commons available for collective usage of women and most of all, ensuring that common people, especially women have access to that information.

6) Efforts should be made on behalf of the government so that land-ownership is always considered joint and for that compulsory marriage registration process must be strengthened.

7) Rights of women should be tied to other social processes so that ‘’ownership’’ and women can be visualized as a socially-acceptable terminology – like having housing schemes for women, electricity connection in the name of women etc.

8) Encouraging more village women’s groups, encouraging inclusion and participation of women in village collectives and decision-making bodies like Farmer’s Groups, Co-operatives and regular participation of women in Gram Sabha where major decisions are taken.

9) Changing the social mind-set is not easy but certain rectifying actions can be taken like encouraging allotment of a piece of land in the name of the girl during marriage instead of giving dowry. This would provide her a financial protection, as well as stop vices like dowry system.

10) Emphasising the role of women as farmers – adequately supporting them and helping them have access to knowledge and monetary power.

11) Forming a network of NGOs, CBOs , like-minded groups which work on the issue of land rights to come together to help strengthen the gender perspective of land rights and develop a collective workplan.

The workshop concluded with the pledge to continue with activism on the issue, using this platform to continue with this network of NGOs, activists and local government representatives.



Enhancing Women’s role in Community Forest Management : Community Training in Pursat Province, Cambodia

ILC Asia members in Cambodia, STAR Kampuchea conducted four gender trainings in 4 communes in Krokor district in Pursat province. A total of 135 participants attended the trainings.

The basic idea of the trainings was to develop a gender perspective in the community’s approach towards forest management.

The gender concept were integrated in the gender training materials and modules . The trainings helped the communities evaluate the scope of evaluating the role and responsibilities of women in the context of their existent situation. There were group discussions separated as women’s group, men’s group and multi-group (women and men group) to talk about the gender roles on community forestry management .

During the training it was emphasized and brought out through discussions how women across Cambodia can achieve greater participation in, and assume greater responsibilities in Community Forestry management. It can be done through strengthening their institutional including financial management knowledge, document keeping, and equipment maintainance. It was brought out that  especially that community forestry women’s committee members could strongly contribute to community forestry fund  collection from members.  Through the training exercises the community forestry members were confident about the women’s committee members which they can support  their members by managing income generation and controlling local access to resources: they were thought to be able to manage fund more security than men-committee members.


The training helped women understand their necessary roles and responsibility in community forestry as to improve women’s participation in forestry. It was felt that there is a need for capacity development and to promote the decision-making when they have attended the meetings/trainings.

With few resources, women-community forestry committee acquired legal protection of the forest, established patrol teams, demarcated forest boundaries, raised environmental awareness among local communities, organized community patrol volunteers, developed co-management committees with men community forestry committee.


Key messages reflected from training:

  • The high level of institutional management of community forestry by women’s group and -related financial management, document keeping, and community fund collection from members is a positive outcome of involving women in community forestry management.
  • Women linked to forest patrolling activity leads to cost effectivity.
  • Women provide quality output when it comes to negotiation and coordination with key stakeholder for community forestry document formalization development in local communities.

Women in Managerial Positions in Cooperative: Outcome of a Successful Leadership Training in Indonesia


A Community-based Leadership Training was conducted on 4th of October 2017 in Banten Province in Indonesia under the facilitation of organization RMI.

The event was conducted involving 32 women and 20 men in indigenous community (or adat community – as it is called-namely Kasepuhan Karang) located in Lebak Regency, Banten Province. The objective of the event was held was:

– To strengthen the community understanding in women’s role and rights in relations with the natural resources governance

– To strengthen the role of management of the cooperative planned by the community.

The understanding of the role of women grass-root leadership was not only strengthened through theoretical aspect of  training but the event eventually witnessed the win of the basic ideology of women’s leadership through the decisions taken in the process.


As an outcome of the training, the community agreed to choose all women on the cooperative managerial position. 5 women were elected as the head of the cooperative, 2 treasurers (1 accountant and 1 cashier), secretary and vice head of the cooperative. This is the first women-led cooperative that would exist in Kasepuhan communities, which consists of 522 communities in Lebak Regency.

This cooperative’s main task is to provide loan for the community members whose agro-forestry garden is located in their newly-launched customary forest, after decades of struggle against st-claim of the state that it was a state forest. Together with RMI, this management team of the cooperative will prepare the cooperative’s statutory that will be inclusive to women.

Enhancing Grass-root Leadership through Capacity Building: Strengthening Women’s Land Rights in Nepal


A Two day Leadership Training entitled “Women’s Land Rights and Gender Justice Leadership Training” was organized by Community Self Reliance Center with the assistance of International Land Coalition (ILC-Asia) on September 17th & 18th 2017 at Kathmandu. The aim of the training was to develop leadership skills in women and men from various districts of the country along with various polices related to land rights. It is hoped that the training program would contribute in raising awareness on women’s land rights and increase the participant’s expertise to analyze and deal with the issues. The training was a two day program which consisted of various leadership training presentations and exercises, presentations on policies and land reform rights, development of strategies. Participants were from various areas of Nepal and some of them are even leading the land reforms activities, assisting people in their village, raising awareness at the village level.

The objectives were:

  • To develop farmers (women and men) skills to tap into existing opportunities to voice for their rights (leadership/management behavior and practices).
  • To increase knowledge on various policies related to land rights.


                                   LEADERSHIP TRAINING – DAY 1

All the participants were welcomed by Kalpana Karki, Campaign Manager at Community Self Reliance Center (CSRC). The session started with a song “we shall overcome” and lighting the candles. The session had a purpose as lighting the candle meant understanding the leadership within oneself and spreading the knowledge within the community.

It was then followed by introduction session which was followed by ice breaking session named Champions, where the total numbers of participants were 16 and they were paired into two and they neededto introduce their partners.

After the break, there was a video session, “Tough Talk with Shristi K.C” after which the participants discussed on the positive aspect of the video. As the training progressed, there was a session which involved identifying leader within the participant themselveswhich was termed self-assessment test.This was followed byMs. Karki giving a briefing on various roles of women on land rights and the importance of dual citizenship.

This was followed by a presentation by Lyam Darji on “How to lead a team and what the basic features a leader needed”.



The second day of the program started with the reflection of previous day’s activities which was followed by three presentations on “Social movement and leaders” facilitated by Jagat Basnet, “Advocacy and factors important for advocacy as a leader” was facilitated by Jagat Deuja  and “Land rights of women – Khas land policy of Bangladesh” facilitated by Subash Kattel. The session also included various exercises where the participants were divided into two groups.


There was break before the presentation on ILC toolkit, where brief introduction were provided on each tools prepared by International Land Coalition – Asia (ILC-Asia). The session was followed by exercises on developing strategy: participants were divided into four groups based on their districts. Participants were tasked to come up with: 1) their experience as a leader 2) strategies needed to develop their community.

The session was followed by post-test assessment to understand their level of knowledge after the training. The workshop ended with some concluding remarks by Kalpana Karki and vote of thanks by the participants.


Outcome of the Training:

  • Brought out a clear idea on woemn’s land rights laws, policies and implementation practices in different areas and situations through Women’s land Rights Toolkit.
  • Developed clear strategies for the trainees to take active part in implementation of women’s land rights, especially in implementation of Joint Land Ownership Strategy.
  • Developed a timeline and activity module for implementation of activities related to promotion of women’s land ownership.


Reported by: Kalpana Karki /Rojvin Pradhan

A more detailed report is available here: NEPAL LEADERSHIP TRAINING REPORT

National Workshop on Women’s Land Rights: Dhaka, Bangladesh: 27th September 2017


A National Advocacy Workshop under Commitment Based Initiative-4 Asia of International Land Coalition was organized jointly by ALRD – member of CBI-4 initiative and Sangat- a South Asian Feminist Organization, on 27th September 2017 at the CIRDAP auditorium Dhaka for future strategy building. The workshop titled on “Women Access to Resource and Property” was presided over by the Sangat Bangladesh Coordinator Ms Khushi Kabir. A presentation was made by Ms. Rowshan Jahan Moni, executive director of ALRD based on the findings of the ground works, while Dr. Meghna Guhathakurta, member of National Human Rights Commission; Dr. Simeen Mahmood, Head of the Gender Studies Cluster, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development and Shamsul Huda were the distinguished commentators.

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Speaking on this occasion, Ms.Khushi Kabir rightly pointed out that the gender disparity present in Bangladesh was due to the fact that women were not given their due rights on land property.

Endorsing the views of Ms.Khushi Kabir, Ms.Rowshan Jahan Moni too highlighted how women, the major contributors to agricultural economy were the most deprived when it came to land ownership. With a huge contribution of 64.4% to agriculture-based economy, their land ownership was pegged at 2-4%. This was an empirical evidence enough to highlight the pathetic situation of women’s land ownership.

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This workshop successfully engaged Bangladesh Human Rights Commission member,women activists, grass-root leaders and partners, ILC members in country, journalists, researchers, academics, and youth to discuss and solidify issues gathered from the four local level consultations/meetings.


A link to the media coverage on the issue:


(Reported by: Sanjida Khan Ripa, Bangladesh)

Grass-root Leadership Training: 18th to 20th August 2017, Jamshedpur (India)


A Leadership Training was organised between 18th to 20th August 2017 at Jamshedpur in Jharkhand, India. About 40 participants took part in the training. The training was held as a part of CBI-4 initiative of International Land Coalition.

The participants mainly comprised of grass-root leaders working in interior rural, indigenous areas. Coming from 3 different states and representing 10 rural areas, the participants took active part in the learning process, as well as shared experiences of practical challenges from field areas.

Being conducted in three different languages, the training focussed on three aspects:

1) Basic ideas on leadership and applicative leadership 2) Land laws governing women’s rights 3) Responses as leaders to women’s land rights.

All the trainees representing areas of indigenous-majority population, the focus was given on customary land laws and the gender-sensitiveness among different tribal communities and customs.

Apart from plenary discussions, the training included group discussions, group presentation, as well as creative exercises like poster development, activism songs and street theatre. These creative avenues gave an excellent learning to the participants on how to develop awareness and motivation at the field level.

A highlight of the training was explaining the presentations from different countries on their efforts to promote women’s land rights – Nepal, Bangladesh and Cambodia.

The  resource persons of the training included Saswati Roy (Secretary of Swadhina), Supriti Murmu (Tribal Land Rights Leader), Sukurmoni Hembram (Panchayat Head), Diptendu Mukherji (Consultant Trainer-Netwroking Alliance for Voluntary Actions), Nirmala Sahu (Women SHG Leader, Orissa). Guest Facilitators included Director of Jan Vikas Kendra (Jamshedpur) and Director of Jesuit Social Service Centre ( Andamans).

Four women village leaders, who had received leadership training earlier in Kolkata, were invited to this training to be group moderators and group resource supports. This was a very good scope for them to utilise their training to practice as leaders and they fulfilled their role with excellence.


The sprawling campus of Vikas Bharati Training Centre offered not only an excellent training venue but the accompanying organic farming demonstration areas too gave the participants a lovely scope of field exposure.

(Reported by: Smriti Sarkar)



Grass-root Leadership Training on Women’s Land Rights: 21-23 July 2017

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Goodbyes and more: As the final four participants pressed their faces against the window rails of the train to say their goodbyes, it was a moment amalgamated with a whole lot of emotions.  For the last three days we had all bonded together – over discussions, over tea, through sharing of a room. Having 58 participants, covering 9 states of India and 4 countries together wasn’t an easy task to handle but at the end of the three day event we were like one big family. As our fingers clutched each other for the final good-byes there was this one common line which we all expressed – phir milenge – will meet again. Because we knew that this was just the beginning of a long camaraderie towards a common goal – ensuring land rights for women!



When Experience meets Youth: The Leadership Training Programme for Grass-root Women was unique in more ways than one. One of the prime features of the training was the variety of participants. On one hand there was Sukurmoni Hembram – a popular tribal Panchayat Head from Jharkhand, Panchayat Pradhan Ratnammma from Andhra Pradesh, veteran land activists like Sherbahadur and Ghanshyam Bhai ; on the other hand there was young tribal girl like Panjan Murmu from Orissa, vibrant Mamoni Das from Bihar, Dhara – a young activist from Gujarat who works for the Maldhari community. This gave a wonderful scope of mixing experience with learning.  While on one hand the ones who were just getting into the foray of land rights issues for women were provided the scope of learning, those who had been working for the issue for a long time were encouraged to reap in the rich benefit of their direct, field-level experiences.


Knowing each other: The introductory session itself was a learning process. The candidates were divided into ‘friend circles’ of three each. They were then asked to interact with each other over a cup of tea. The ‘new friends’ then introduced each other to the rest.  With participants coming from different backgrounds, speaking different languages things seemed like a hurdle in the beginning. But gradually they warmed up to each other – attempting to understand each other’s body language, way of expression they soon understood each other beyond the barriers. As a result, Hirawati from Uttarpradesh could fluently introduce her friends Rathnamma from Andhra Pradesh and Tapasi from Jharkhand without knowing a word of Telugu or Bengali!


Understanding Leadership :  Having participants from two different strata, the training focussed on two major aspects of Leadership – 1) Understanding the basics of Leadership and 2) Finding the Challenges of Leadership. The participants were divided into four groups. Three language based groups under the leadership of a Group Resource Person focussed on understanding the basics of leadership – qualities aspired in a leader, functions of a leader etc. The fourth group – comprising of veteran grass-root leaders focussed on discussing about the challenges of leadership as they experience in their own areas. They then shared their concerns with the other participants – making them aware of the challenges they might face as grass-root leaders.


Explaining the challenges of leadesrship, veteran grass-root activist Deepamala said, “ If we, as women, become grass-root leaders, the easiest way the society uses to suppress our voices is to raise finger at our character. It does not come as a surprise that every woman leader is branded as a ‘notorious and spoilt’ woman”. Adding to this, another activist Dheeraj Kumar said that more often than not, the society at large always questions the intention of a grass-root leader. “How much money do you get to do this work is the common question we are asked”, he explained.

Having  learnt about the different qualities of a leader, Nirmala from Orissa best summed it up during group discussion, “All of us are not born leaders. But many of us have the potential in us to be good leaders. Somewhere, somehow the spark is in us. Capacity building programmes give us the scope to hone our skills and become able leaders.


Dealing with Land Issues:  One of the crucial aspects of the training was understanding the basic nuances of land rights. Four major land issues were dealt with during the training: effective leadership effecting women’s  land rights, forest rights and it’s impact on women, land of commons as a process of collective empowerment of women, the loopholes in land laws affecting women’s empowerment process.

Having organised grass-root meets for women on land rights for the first time, Seema from Bihar, shared the fact that most women she interacted were clueless about equal land rights for women and even if they were aware, they were plagued with the social stigma of married women never claiming a right to their father’s property!

Providing feedback on Forest Rights Act, Ghanshyam from Madhya Pradesh, said that Forest Rights Act was supposed to be the simplest of laws, providing support to the forest-dependant indigenous communities. But he rued the fact that this was one of the most abused and misused laws.



Tapasi from Jharkhand shared a strong story of women’s collective strength in her group while discussing on Land of Commons. The local women’s committee to which Tapasi belongs, had leased out the piece of Common Land that was provided to their women’s committee. The ones who had taken the land on lease, began to misuse the rocky piece of land by setting up a stone quarry in the area. The group soon realized their mistake. Being always covered with a layer of stone dust, their health suffered, their land productivity declined.  They felt that it was enough! The women, being led by Tapasi, then collectively went to the owner of the quarry and withdrew the lease agreement – forcing the outsiders to shut shop and leave their village!

Highlighting the problem with land rights issues among the indigenous community, veteran activist Supriti, explained how within their own group women were hesitant to change the customary land laws which did not guarantee any land rights to the women belonging to the indigenous community.  Shobana from Uttar Pradesh added more this by explaining that it is not that the women do not want rights but they are conditioned and brought up in a way that they are ready to give up their rights and their expectations from land.

Speaking on the loopholes, the group felt that one of the biggest loopholes in Indian laws favouring women was that the land rights were perceived in terms of a woman’s marital status – as someone’s wife, as someone’s daughter or as someone’s sister. It is time to visualise a woman as a singular entity and ensure laws to protect her rights as an individual.

Inspiring Movements- Inspiring Change:  One of the major highlights of the training was the inspiring presentation from across the region. This gave an excellent opportunity of knowledge exchange.



A moving documentary on the land rights movement in Nepal and an excellent follow-up presentation on women’s land movements in Nepal by Kalpana Karki from CSRC moved the participants immensely. Watching women march with flags, staying together, negotiating with government officers gave the participants the much needed boost. A very vibrant Kalpana egged on the participants to shout out the slogan of : Andolan me Mahila; Zamin chahiye pehla (Women in Movement take a vow  , We want our Land Rights Now!). She also took the special effort to make her presentation in the local language of Hindi!

Rowshan Jahan Moni, from ALRD –Bangladesh, gave a wonderful presentation on the Khas Land movement in Bangladesh.  Having the same land situations in India, the participants could relate to the land movement in Bangladesh – especially related to the common land called khas zamin. Having had a long standing experience in the land rights movement in Bangladesh, Moni gave a vivid description on how often the khas land which is supposed to be a support system for the landless ends up in wrong hands. To connect better with the participants, she too took special initiative to explain her points in the local language of Hindi.

Chea Sokleang from Star Kampuchea-Cambodia gave a wonderful insight into the situation young women are in , in their country. She also explained how Star Kampuchea was using the power of women to lead their talks and negotiations with the government. The Gender  based social study within their communities, in the lines of Gender Audit  or Social Audit  was especially a very interesting aspect for the participants. Despite her young age she showed her total involvement in the cause by providing a very in-depth analysis of women’s rights situation in their country.

The question-answer session that followed the guest presentations was witness to the fact that the presentations had deeply touched the participants.

Learning through Group Activities:  One of the best, yet subtle way of learning is through Group Activities.  The participants were divided into four teams – Trees. Birds, Land, Sky. It began with preparing group songs using the name of the group as the central theme. In many rural circumstances, social songs are a proven way to initiate movements or to build awareness. The group songs presented was a proof of immense the talent possessed by the participants.



The next task was equally interesting. The groups were asked to develop a poster each, comprising of different catchy slogans and phrases related to women’s land rights. The myriad slogans and phrases coined spoke of the immense involvement of the participants in the issue of women’s land rights. One among the many which stood out was: “Aadhi duniya Naari hai, Zamin ke adhikaari hai”-

“We comprise half Earth’s might, Owning Land is our Right”

Added to this there were fun events like making a chained garland using coloured paper streamers. As the participants enthusiastically decorated the meeting hall with colourful chains, they were made to understand that every community comprises of varied ideologies, opinions, ideas – just like the varied colour streamers. A good leader is one who is able to tactfully put together all the varied ideas and opinions and channelize into a singular objective of brining a positive change.

Enriched ideas through Women’s Land Rights Toolkit: One of the important sessions was a detailed discussion on Women’s Land Rights Toolkit – developed by ILC. The Toolkit which was available in English was translated into Hindi for better understanding. The discussion on tools to ensure women’s land rights gave the participants a wonderful opportunity of understanding the different applicative procedures by different organisations all over the world to ensure women’s land rights.

Learning about the tool of Earth Festivals, Kavitha from Andhra Pradesh exclaimed, “This is a good process of using local culture to spread message on women’s land rights.”



Sharing a piece of culture:  Cultural expressions were an integral part of the training. Amidst cheers and clapping, songs were sung in varied languages. Never mind the language, Shobhana, Nirmala, Rina, Lata cheered on as Karmi Kisku sang her Santhali Song. Similarly Nirmala’s Oriya song was well appreciated by all. But the real fun was when the group of indigenous women present showed their moves to a tribal song. The camaraderie and the situation was so positively infectious that one by one the others joined them too. As soon as the music died down, Bhavna from Gujarat suggested they try out the steps to the Gujarati beats of Garba. So, the group then matched their steps to the beats of Garba. Never having danced to the tunes of Garba, each one attempted her own way – adding to the spirit of oneness.



Those moments reflected the exact spirit of the training – an attempt to unify the diversities and channelizing the spirit of collective effort towards one common goal – ensuring equal rights for women!



(The training was a part of the Commitment Based Initiative of International Land Coalition. Organised by ILC partner Swadhina, the training took place at Kolkata, India from 21st to 23rd July 2017 and was attended by 58 participants )









29 climbers from 22 countries of Africa climb up Mount Kilimanjaro to shout out one demand: Land Rights for Women- NOW! A Toolkit specially designed for Women’s Land Rights! And these are just two examples of how members of ILC have been relentlessly battling for the issue of women’s land rights.

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Photo Source:www.landcoalition.org

On 8th March 2017, International Land Coalition chose to celebrate Women’s Day in a unique way – by honouring the tireless efforts of ILC Members who work relentlessly to ensure
that women have equal access to land through it’s website.  Here is a link to that web-page. Click on the link below and read on, to know and revel in the unique ways by which ILC members across the globe, fight on to ensure equal rights to women:



Swadhina is the Focal Point of Commitment Based Initiative of Gender Rights for the Asian region. Apart from communicating with the member organisations, Swadhina as an organisation has taken up the following efforts:

1.Introductory  Planning Meet:

An Introductory Planning meet was organised on 10th of December 2016. The objective of the meet was to give the members of Swadhina Core Team, a detailed idea on the contents of the Commitment Based Initiative -4: Women’s Land Rights. 11 members, of Swadhina working group took part in the meet. At the meet Saswati and Srichandra of Swadhina shared details about the project and invited the members to provide their feedback about the project planning.

  2.Swadhina Women’s Working Group:

Swadhina had planned to form a special group as Women’s Working Group in the lines of Women’s Working Group of ILC. The group was formed through a special


The Meeting

meet on 10.12.2016. The objective of the group is to:

-Overlook into the activities of the CBI-4: Women’s Land Rights programme.

– Discuss and present opinions, ideas and advice on the diverse issues on Women’s Land Rights at the local, regional and global level.

– Decide on issues that needs to be escalated in order to promote women’s land rights.

– Participate in meetings, events, seminars, workshops on issues pertaining to Women’s Land Rights.

– Participate in advocacy process to strengthen land rights movement.

– Monitor activities and movements related to ensuring of land and property rights of women.


Saswati & Smita shares notes

Based on these objectives, a working group of 13 members –both men and women- have been formed. The members include women’s rights activists, women farmers, teachers, economists, communication specialists, government officers, other than member representatives of Swadhina. Smita Mukherji – a teacher and a former student leader was selected to be the convenor of the group.

3.Meet of the Swadhina Women’s Working Group:

The first meet of the group took place on 11.02.2017. Attended by 11 members of the Women’s Working Group, the meeting had the following agenda:

1) Understanding Commitment Based Initiative on Women’s Land rights

2) Discussion on Gender segregated report -I:  Study and Recommendations on Khas land in Bangladesh carried out by ALRD, Bangladesh.

3) Discussion on Gender segregated report -2:  Campaign on Joint Land Ownership of Women in Nepal undertaken by NLRF and CSRC, Nepal.

4) Discussion on Gender segregated report -3: Campaign on Land of Commons carried out by Swadhina, India.

5) Feedback and though-sharing based on the Gender Segregated Reports.

6) Process of dissemination of gender segregated report : Suggestive Proposals.

The Women’s Working Group, being represented by members of different strata of the society, it was interesting to see an amalgamation of different feedbacks and ideas.

Following the discussion on gender segregated reports, the members observed how the premises of discrimination in terms of gender and marginalized sections of the society was similar among the three countries.

It was also observed how the issue of land grabbing and corruption had similar hues when it came to the issue of Khas land in Bangladesh and Land of Commons in India – both being available land under the control of government.

The Working Group also commended the movement to ensure Joint Land Ownership of women in Nepal – especially when the constitution of the country was in an interim phase.

Highlighting the problem areas, the issues that came up were:

* Extreme lack of awareness and clarity about land laws exists at every level and among every category of population – be it a rural area or an urban city; be it a rural farmer or an urban property holder.

* Lack of proper land mapping, access to land data, land identification of land of commons, available land for distribution etc.

* Existence of extreme gender bias in any issue related to land stems from customary practices and social beliefs.

*Women’s land rights and property rights are often interconnected issues – with discrimination of one, leading to discrimination of the other.

* Many incidences of violence against women are linked to her ownership of land and property – where violence is often used as a tool of subjugation and negative branding of women.  Branding women as witch (Dain) is often a clever ploy to grab her land


Village Voices at the Meet

The group also came up with a set of possible actions for the future to push forward the movement to ensure women’s land rights:

* It is important to use different IEC tools to promote the different land laws among the masses – especially making best use of creative forms of IEC materials.

* Ideas to enhance the land mapping, identification of Land of Commons etc can be put and pushed forward to the government level. (For e.g: the government may be advised to carry out Participatory Resource Mapping with the help of local population for land mapping; land map of an area using colour codes  for better understanding among the illiterate /less literate population may be displayed in the wall-board of every Panchayat.).

* It is very important to disseminate case studies or good practices from other areas /countries /regions among the local people as well as government policy makers. (For e.g: the studies discussed during the meet needs to reach out to the general masses as well as the government for getting a variety of perspectives on women’s land rights movement.).

gender proj 1

Subhadip shares MIS ideas

* There is a requirement to generate support to push forward bills, amendments, legal actions which would promote women’s right over land in a big way. (For eg. The current status of Women Farmer’s Bill 2011 may be enquired about).

* A global push for the movement is possible through a common platform and sharing and exchanging of ideas, just as this meet through which the participants got a fair idea about the situation of land rights movements in other nations.

 4)’ She-Land’: The web portal:

A web portal ‘She-Land’ has been developed as a global e-platform for sharing of knowledge and information on women’s lad rights movement across the world.

 5) Translation of  Gender Segregated Studies / Data:


A brief on study on the Joint Land Ownership movement by CSRC and the study and recommendations on Khas land in Bangladesh is being currently translated in Hindi and Bengali for distribution to the grass-root level as well as to different member partners for their respective dissemination. Translation to Oriya and Tamil would also be undertaken soon. Copies of the studies would be sent to different NGOs/CSOs, as well as to different government organisations.

6) ‘Rights through Splash of Colours’:


As an effort to garner interest on the issue of women’s land rights as well as to draw attention to the immense contribution of women to her land and agriculture, a series of paintings is being developed on the issue of : Women and Land. The paintings, being done by renowned artist Sri Saumitra Chowdhury , would be exhibited at different areas – with an aim to build conversations around the paintings on the issue. It would also be used as a premise to build advocacy on the issue.


(To know more contact: swadhina_org@yahoo.com / mainoffice.swadhina@gmail.com )


A Gender Based Working Group has already been developed through the ILC Secretariat in Rome. A call was issued among the members of ILC in the month of April 2016, inviting them to be a part of the group.

A TOR was also developed by the members of the ILC Secretariat, led by Sabine Pallas and Elisabetta Cangelosi. It was highlighted in the TOR that the objective of the working group was to:


It was also decided that apart from Quarterly interactions through initiatives like Skype Calls, a biennial meeting of the group members would also be organised. Accordingly the first Skype Call  was organised in the month of July, followed by another call in October 2016 and a third one in March 2017. It gave an ample scope for the participating organisations to put forward their basic issues in relation with the working of the group.

Gradually this platform would be used for active knowledge exchange – sharing of experiences, facing challenges, strategies adopted etc. The working group would also give scope for the member organisations to identify the areas where they may collaborate with each other – for eg: addressing an issue through workshop collaborations, issuing joint statements, strengthening signature campaigns etc.

Being aware of each other’s strategic positions, it would help the organisations develop common and collaborative strategies with regard to women’s land rights.First face to face meet of a select group of members of the Working Group would take place between 4th to 6th of April 2017 at Rome. Two member representatives from each region/caucus is expected to meet and exchange experiences and ideas during the meet.

(To know more about the group contact: Elisabetta Cangelosi  (e.cangelosi@landcoalition.org) / Sabine Pallas (s.pallas@landcoalition.org)