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Tenure Security: Women in Nigeria, UK, others feel less secure –Report

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•Evidence from 33 countries (full report)

Jude Johnson

Study has shown that women in Nigeria, United Kingdom (UK), Peru and more developing countries are more insecure than their male counterparts in ownership of land and other household assets.

This was contained in the latest report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), which used household-level data from 33, mostly developing countries (except UK) to analyse perceptions of tenure insecurity among women.

According to the ODI, the report tested two hypotheses:  that women feel more insecure than men; and that increasing statutory protections for women, for instance by issuing joint named titles or making inheritance law more gender equal, increases de facto tenure security.

The findings also show that:women in intact households perceive similar rates of tenure insecurity as men ;in contrast, when households break down due to spousal death or divorce, women are exposed to much greater tenure insecurity than men are; and, changes in statutory legislation are not enough to improve the tenure insecurity of women facing widowhood or divorce – deeper changes in social attitudes and cultural norms are needed.


The data also suggested that improving women’s knowledge of how to defend themselves in the event that their property rights are challenged may help improve their tenure security in such scenarios.

The report noted: “There is a saying, ‘To count, you have to be counted’. For too long, women’s rights to land and other assets, as well as their perception of security in those rights, have not been sufficiently counted, and their voices have not been adequately heard. This was recognised in the Sustainable Development Goal indicators related to poverty eradication (Goal 1) and gender equality (Goal 5), which specifically require counting both men’s and women’s legally recognised rights to land as well as their perception of the security of those rights.1 It is also reflected in wider efforts to generate internationally comparable gender indicators, integrated into the regular production of statistics, for better, evidence-based policies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization’s EDGE project and the World Bank’s (2019) research, Women, business and the law.

“However, we still have a way to go: until now, much of the research looking at women’s land and property rights – whether women have secure land and property rights and what interventions are successfully ensuring women have secure land rights – has focused on only a handful of countries, specifically countries where largescale land projects are underway. While this research is extremely valuable, it is not sufficient for a full understanding of the disparities in land and property rights between men and women, and their impact on development outcomes.However, we still have a way to go: until now, much of the research looking at women’s land and property rights – whether women have secure land and property rights and what interventions are successfully ensuring women have secure land rights – has focused on only a handful of countries, specifically countries where largescale land projects are underway. While this research is extremely valuable, it is not sufficient for a full understanding of the disparities in land and property rights between men and women, and their impact on development outcomes.”

“This report aims to provide answers to three broad questions: Do women feel more insecure than men about their land and property rights? Can women’s tenure security be strengthened and protected through increased statutory protections for women by carving out explicit legal recognition of women as spouses/inheritors and framing this in joint titling/inheritance law? What implications do the findings have for policy to improve women’s tenure security?”

Download full report:

Credits|Research reports and studies by Joseph Feyertag, Ian Langdown and Anna Locke of ODI


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