THE ISSUE WOMEN AND LAND OWNERSHIP
Women and land ownership is a major issue as it addresses the need for restoring rights of the land with those who toil on it. In largely agrarian economies such as India, agricultural land, whether owned individually or collectively, is a critical source of livelihood. Therefore, this initiative is about lending voice to the invisible women workers who spend most of their lives on the fields without getting recognition or appreciation for their efforts.
Though women contribute substantially to agriculture and domestic food security, they continue to be denied effective rights to own or control the land that they cultivate. Even in today's age of growth and development, not much has changed for them as they are still unwaged and invisible workers on family farms or work as underpaid farmhands.
With access to more lucrative options in rural and semi-rural areas, increasing number of men move to non-farm jobs. As a result, it is women who pursue agriculture - only 53 per cent of men compared to 75 per cent of women make a livelihood from agriculture. But even among the large and growing body of de facto female-headed households in India - estimated to be about 35 per cent - few have direct access to land in their own rights (Agarwal, 1994, 2003).1 The insecurity felt by a woman, as she owns no productive asset, places her in an extremely vulnerable position at home and in the community.
Independent land rights give women the right to work towards their welfare and those of their families, to increase farm productivity as well as for their overall empowerment. Studies show that women’s independent land rights and control can enhance food security, improve child nutrition, health and education, and even reduce domestic violence (Agarwal, 1994; Agarwal and Panda, 20032).
Women who own land feel greatly empowered and self-confident as well as have more voice, both, at home and in the community. They are in a better position to avail government schemes and institutions. All this leads to enhanced economic and social security. Even if the land possessed by the household is limited and rain-fed, it contributes to enhancing economic security of poor women through both farm and non-farm enterprises.