Throughout the developing world, “and increasingly in Africa and Asia in particular,” the single largest occupation for women is agriculture. Yet although they’re doing much of the work, women and girls (who make up the majority of poor people on the planet) are restricted from actually owning the land they work.
That’s where Landesa comes in. Formerly the Rural Development Institute, Landesa is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping the world’s poor obtain land property. Tim Hanstad, Landesa’s president and CEO, discusses the importance of empowering women.
Tim Hanstad: The majority of poor people in the world are women and girls. In developing countries, where the single largest occupation for women is agriculture, and increasingly in Africa and Asia in particular, women are doing the bulk of the farming yet women are almost always locked out of ownership over the most important asset… land. So it's extremely important that we pay attention to who within the household holds legal rights. The ugly truth is is that it is mostly men who are holding women back. Men dominate the policy arena, men dominate the decision making at the community level, at the household level, and we have to address the misconception that empowering women means you're disempowering men. That's a myth. It's a misconception. Empowering one empowers all. Empowering women empowers men, children, families and ultimately the entire society.
Women's economic empowerment is, it's not a women's issue, it's a societal issue. If we're going to address some of the largest challenges we have, poverty, food security, we're going to have to empower women. They have been underutilized as social and economic change agents; they are the ones doing much, if not the bulk of the farming so their relationship to land and to other productive resources is critically important. So the way that we have gone about trying to fight against I would say the opposition is to get men to understand two things: one, it doesn't disempower men, and two, it's a societal issue, and that if you want to address this societal issue you just have to empower women in the society.
One of the lessons learned for us is that when appealing to men about the importance of empowering women is that we often find more success appealing to them in the interest of their daughters rather than their wives. Most fathers do want the best for their daughters. When you appeal to them in the interest of their daughters they find it I think somehow less threatening than appealing to them in their interest of their wives.
Even in the most patriarchal societies, men understand that women are entrusted to do some of the most important work, that is caring for children, raising children. So you can often appeal to them from where they are coming from. I mean trying to shove some Western notions of equality down the throats of people who see it as threatening isn't always the most effective way, but if you appeal to them in terms of what is the best for your community, what is the best for your broader society, what is the best for your families, you often can address that resistance.
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton