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Land Titling for Women: Sector Results Profile

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Helping Women Achieve Equal Treatment in Obtaining Land Rights: Gender in Land Administration and Land Certification Projects

Helping Women Achieve Equal Treatment in Obtaining Land Rights
Gender in Land Administration and Land Certification Projects


Many people, especially women, often struggle to prove they own the land they work or live on, often denying them the opportunity to earn more by renting out the property or using it as collateral for loans. Through its Gender Action Plan, the World Bank has helped women in Ethiopia, Honduras, Indonesia, Kosovo, Nicaragua, and Vietnam better understand their rights and secure clear land title to their properties, enabling them to get more out of their most important asset.

Full Brief—3 Pages
Helping Women Achieve Equal Treatment in Obtaining Land Rights:
—PDF, March 2011


The importance of providing secure land rights in developing countries is now widely recognized. In fiscal year 2010 alone, the World Bank supported land administration projects around the globe with a total value of around US$1.5 billion. Each project has focused on at least one of the following goals: institutional and policy reform, capacity building, land parcel surveying, titling, registration, conflict resolution, land management, governance, social equity, economic development, and service delivery. The inclusion of women's land rights considerations was negligible prior to the projects' explicit focus on gender issues. Before the impact of a Bank program in Indonesia for example, only about 20 percent of all stakeholders (including women, men and local authorities) had a clear understanding of the range of land rights and protection offered to women under Indonesian law. Limited awareness of land rights also affected women's decisions to regularize their land holdings. This was also the case of women in urban areas in Honduras, who in many cases initiated the land registration process, but did not reach final steps to secure land titles. Even in situations in which the legal framework promoted gender equality, lack of continuous and coordinated campaign efforts to raise awareness represented a barrier for women to exercise and secure their rights. In some cases, like in Vietnam, limited awareness of land rights caused women to assume that male titleholders were entitled to all land rights.


The World Bank has taken special measures to increase women's understanding of their land rights and participation in land programs. The Bank has promoted joint title legislation in Ethiopia, Honduras and Vietnam and has implemented participatory and community-based approaches to land titling to foster the active participation of women in land programs in various countries. For example, a project in Aceh, Indonesia, designed a community-driven adjudication process to land titling in which non-governmental organizations (NGOs) facilitated community land mapping. This community approach was important to establish the location of parcel boundaries which were destroyed by the 2004 tsunami. In Ethiopia, a government-sponsored land certification program explicitly aimed at promoting gender equity using joint land ownership certificates with the picture of both spouses in the certificate, and in Honduras the Bank conducted a project to promote women's property rights while coordinating efforts with community leaders, local authorities, women's organizations and NGOs to conduct capacity building workshops in 11 municipalities and 30 colonies in Tegucigalpa in a short period of time.


The integration of gender in land administration programs have contributed to a number of achievements, including:

Innovative participatory and gender-sensitive approaches contribute to increase the number of joint titles and effective participation of women in land titling programs. In disaster management and reconstruction programs in post-tsunami Aceh, sustained and well-coordinated information campaigns and socialization programs were critical in protecting and restoring land and property rights of all sections of society, in particular women, after the devastation caused by the 2004 tsunami. A total of 222,628 land title certificates were distributed to land owners after the tsunami, out of which 63,181 were given to women either individually or as joint owners with their spouses. The titles distributed under RALAS are equivalent to over 18 years of the government's routine annual titling production in Aceh.

Engendering land administration programs show increases in economic opportunities, entrepreneurship and better household dynamic. In Ethiopia, certification increased the propensity to rent out land by about 13 percent. Since all land is rented under sharecropping contracts and women generally do not work their land due to customary reasons, this effect is believed to directly improve welfare for women landlords. When participants were asked about improvement of land certification for women, 85 percent said that certification would likely create incentives for women to rent out their land. In addition, land certification also increases the propensity to invest in areas that indirectly benefit female participants such as soil and water conservation measures, which increased by around 30 percent. In Honduras, in coordination with an NGO, more than 100 women were using their land titles to access funding and start small businesses. These women have been participating in capacity building activities supported by the Bank project and have already developed 15 commercial products that are currently marketed in urban areas. In addition, a different NGO is helping women with new titles interested in agriculture to buy seed and learn more about agricultural practices.

Similarly in Vietnam, 32 percent of households in Khanh Hoa and 47 percent in Tien Giang have used the titles as collateral for bank loans. About 55 percent of those working in handicraft and businesses, which are primarily women, have used their land titles to access loans. From these findings, it is fair to assume that women are more encouraged to invest time and money since their titles give them tenure security and incentives to produce. Women in the Vietnam project also tended to use their land titles in a variety of activities that would help them improve the overall situation of their families. Forty-four percent of women used part of the profits from their businesses created through loans obtained using land titles to meet family members' basic needs.


[The certificate is] as precious as a child — like my own son. ... I'm happy, I'm proud. [It] made me equal with the men. No one is trying to mistreat me. I have this and now I'm a proud citizen.

— Tewabech Mamo, 52, landholder in Gola Kebele, Ethiopia

There have been significant changes in women's roles and relationships. ... Previously, they couldn't own property, so that really put women in a very weak position to bargain or deal with men in society. Now that's not the case.

— Zewditu Assefa, 35, inherited 3 hectare farm from her father after divorcing her husband

If anything happened to me, I was supposed to leave the home without having anything out of our common property. So I was not really interested in putting any long-term investment in the land. After getting the certificate, I planted eucalyptus and also prepared part of it for grass for fattening small stocks and oxen.

— Tashegu Woretaw, 48, widow in Gola Kebele

Women have come to understand their rights and the benefits associated with them, not only in terms of land, but overall. Land certification gave women real confidence and helped them get out of their traditional kitchens.

— Asresash Hailu, Woreda Women's Affairs Office, Antsokia Gemza district, Ethiopia


Click to see project locations in Honduras:

Map of Land Titling Projects in Honduras

Bank Contribution

IDA and other TF contributions:

  • Honduras Land Administration Project- IDA credit: US$25 million, WB Gender Action Plan: US$203,000
  • Nicaragua Land Administration Project- IDA credits: US$33.55million, WB Gender Action Plan: US$35,000
  • Indonesia Reconstruction of Aceh Land Administration System (RALAS) Project: Multi-donor TF for Aceh and North Sumatra grant- US$28.50 million, WB Gender Action Plan US$80,000
  • Vietnam Land Administration Project- IDA credit: US$75 million
  • Ethiopia Sustainable Land Management Project- IDA credit: US$20million, Global Environmental Facility TF:US$9 million

Moving Forward

Given its proven positive effects on women’s economic empowerment and economic development outcomes, the Bank will continue to include gender considerations in land administration programs and support programs that provide women with equal and equitable access to land. At a policy level, the Bank will work with governments and international partners to ensure that legal and institutional reforms include gender-specific provisions, as well as to provide support for training land administration government officials and project staff, in particular, to eliminate harmful gender stereotyping and preconceptions. At an operational level, the Bank will increase efforts to ensure the inclusion of women in issues concerning community lands and distribution of rights to oft-neglected ethnic, indigenous and other minority groups.