Research Topic

Women's Communal Land Rights

About this Research Topic

An increasing number of states are recognizing customary land tenure in their legal and policy frameworks. Key actors in the Global Food Sovereignty movement are also advocating for the legal recognition of communal land rights as secure access to land is key to sustainable food systems. Yet, there is an important research gap in relation to women and communal land, for at least four reasons. First, efforts by development actors have focused on enabling women to acquire or work on the land individually, while a lot of land is under customary tenure, and access to collectively held land is essential to women’s livelihoods. Second, women are not recognized as having independent rights to land and they rarely participate in decisions about communal land governance. In addition, traditional norms that used to ensure that women would have access to land are no longer enforced or in place. Third, communal land rights are increasingly being turned into individual plots that are sold to investors, triggering intra-household competition, and ‘family land grabbing’. Fourth, efforts to provide secure land tenure for communities through the formalization of communal land ownership often have negative outcomes for women.

This Research Topic will critically analyze efforts, by a range of actors, to advance communal land rights in different spaces and at different levels, and what this means for women and youth.

We are interested in receiving submissions exploring:
• Efforts by various actors to advance communal land rights (CLR), and what this means for women and youth, considering that different categories of women/youth may be affected differently, in line with an intersectional lens;
• Gender dynamics associated with communal land and land for agroecology;
• Efforts by various actors to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants (UNDROP), in particular, the right to land, seeds and natural resources;
• Legal mobilizations (initiatives that seek to advance legal change) around communal land rights and associated gender dynamics;
• The differentiated impacts of the privatization and commodification of communal land on different categories of women, youth and marginalized groups;
• Family land grabbing and more generally, competition for land within households or extended families;
• Tensions between statutory and customary law, both in theory and in practice, and strategies deployed by women and youth to advance their land rights;
• Evolving and contested customary practices/norms, and how these advance or limit women’s communal land rights;
• Role models and success stories of women or collectives who have gained control over communal land governance;
• The use of participatory action research (PAR) methodologies to advance women’s communal land rights (WCLR);
• The impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic on efforts and struggles to advance WCLR, including how grassroots organizations that are working on WCLR are responding to Covid-19, and how their ongoing activities are affected in the immediate/longer-term.


Keywords: gender, customary rights, commons, peasant, pastoralist


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

An increasing number of states are recognizing customary land tenure in their legal and policy frameworks. Key actors in the Global Food Sovereignty movement are also advocating for the legal recognition of communal land rights as secure access to land is key to sustainable food systems. Yet, there is an important research gap in relation to women and communal land, for at least four reasons. First, efforts by development actors have focused on enabling women to acquire or work on the land individually, while a lot of land is under customary tenure, and access to collectively held land is essential to women’s livelihoods. Second, women are not recognized as having independent rights to land and they rarely participate in decisions about communal land governance. In addition, traditional norms that used to ensure that women would have access to land are no longer enforced or in place. Third, communal land rights are increasingly being turned into individual plots that are sold to investors, triggering intra-household competition, and ‘family land grabbing’. Fourth, efforts to provide secure land tenure for communities through the formalization of communal land ownership often have negative outcomes for women.

This Research Topic will critically analyze efforts, by a range of actors, to advance communal land rights in different spaces and at different levels, and what this means for women and youth.

We are interested in receiving submissions exploring:
• Efforts by various actors to advance communal land rights (CLR), and what this means for women and youth, considering that different categories of women/youth may be affected differently, in line with an intersectional lens;
• Gender dynamics associated with communal land and land for agroecology;
• Efforts by various actors to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants (UNDROP), in particular, the right to land, seeds and natural resources;
• Legal mobilizations (initiatives that seek to advance legal change) around communal land rights and associated gender dynamics;
• The differentiated impacts of the privatization and commodification of communal land on different categories of women, youth and marginalized groups;
• Family land grabbing and more generally, competition for land within households or extended families;
• Tensions between statutory and customary law, both in theory and in practice, and strategies deployed by women and youth to advance their land rights;
• Evolving and contested customary practices/norms, and how these advance or limit women’s communal land rights;
• Role models and success stories of women or collectives who have gained control over communal land governance;
• The use of participatory action research (PAR) methodologies to advance women’s communal land rights (WCLR);
• The impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic on efforts and struggles to advance WCLR, including how grassroots organizations that are working on WCLR are responding to Covid-19, and how their ongoing activities are affected in the immediate/longer-term.


Keywords: gender, customary rights, commons, peasant, pastoralist


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

19 April 2021 Manuscript
19 May 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

19 April 2021 Manuscript
19 May 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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