“Land tenure status of African women"

As mentioned in the introduction of the paper, “a primary focus of this paper will be an examination of how women’s rights to land are changing and evolving. However, descriptions of the nature of women's rights – how they are obtained, whether they are secure or insecure, exclusive or inclusive – do not give a full picture of how women are exercising their rights. For example, women may gain rights through marriage, but if few women are marrying, then these rights are meaningless. It is important that researchers go beyond characterizing women's land rights and focus on the incidence of their exerting their rights. When discussing land tenure in general (i.e., referring to men) this distinction is not seen as important, except for the occasional paper warning of incipient land concentration. Instead the focus is exclusively on rights- their movement from communal to individual, multiple to exclusive, non-transferable to alienable. With women, changes in rights may be overwhelmed by changes in the incidence with which rights are exercised.
Gray, Leslie and Michael Kevane
Source publication: 
background paper for a project on Gender and Property Rights in Africa, The World Bank. Available at