Can you share some best practices organizations can use in addressing socio-cultural norms affecting women’s land rights

This is not an easy question. What works often depends on the context, and social norm change can take a long time. But there are some things we know:

  • The formal law can give the space for social norm change. If the law requires a norm change (daughters inheriting or quotas for local governance) change does begin to occur.[1]
  • When people in government/leadership do not see women’s rights specifically as a goal or see women’s exclusion as a problem that needs to be addressed, overall, gender awareness – or, specifically, awareness that women may have specific needs and expectations from reforms or require specific attention – among the government officials/local leaders can make a difference.[2]
  • Women’s participation in groups, such as self-help groups can change social norms and traditions, particularly those around women’s participation in agriculture[3]
  • Where social norms are deeply entrenched, it is critical to design interventions that include community leaders and those with the power to endorse change (most often men). Successful programs to reduce gender-based violence have enlisted community leaders and have sought endorsement from the broader community).[4]
  • Including women and youth in governance reduces the negative effects of male-only leadership (“similarities between the leadership and the general population in terms of gender and age, and active participation by women and young adults in community groups, alleviate the negative effects of heterogeneity and increase collective capacity, which in turn improves agriculture productivity and welfare.”)[5]
  • When women organise, when they form into groups and connect with others in larger groups, they are better able to make changes in their own lives, in their communities, in legislation, and in restrictive social and norms.[6]

For further reading:  Drivers of change in gender norms: An annotated bibliography


[1] Mansuri, Ghazala Rao, Vijayendra. 2012. Localizing Development: Does Participation Work? https://elibrary.worldbank.org/doi/abs/10.1596/978-0-8213-8256-1

[2] Anne M. Larson, Iliana Monterroso and Pamela Cantuarias, Gender and the formalization of native communities in the Peruvian Amazon, CIFOR, 2019;Kaa

[3] Raghunathan, Kalyani, et al. “Can Women’s Self‐Help Groups Improve Access to Information, Decision‐Making, and Agricultural Practices? The Indian Case.” Agricultural Economics, vol. 50, no. 5, 2019, pp. 567–580. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/agec.12510

[4] Klugman, Jeni; Hanmer, Lucia; Twigg, Sarah; Hasan, Tazeen; McCleary-Sills, Jennifer; Santamaria, Julieth. 2014. Voice and Agency : Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity. Washington, DC: World Bank Group

[5] McCarthy, N., & Kilic, T. (2015). The nexus between gender, collective action for public goods and agriculture: Evidence from Malawi. Agricultural Economics, 46(3), 375-402. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/agec.12170

[6] Hannay, L. (2016). “Peru Case Study,” in Gender and Collectively Held Land: Good Practices and Lessons Learned from Six Global Case Studies. Seattle: Resource Equity. Freudenburg, M. and Santos, F. (2013). “Enhancing Customary Justice Systems in the Mau Forest, Kenya: Impact Evaluation Report.” USAID.