Women's property rights:

Lack of property rights is a problem for women around the world. Women's organisations come across this issue over and over again when trying to help women to gain means for a livelihood or to escape from a forced or abusive marriage. In many countries, women cannot own (any form of) property - whether it is land, a house or money - or access loans to establish their own business. They do not have equal inheritance rights or equal rights to matrimonial property. In some countries they themselves are considered to be the property of their male relatives, husbands or fathers, who are their legal guardians and need to approve any contract or financial transaction women conclude.

Property rights and violence against women

The lack of equal property and inheritance rights is not only a violation of human rights by itself. It also is a major obstacle for the emancipation of women and the enjoyment of their human rights. Without property and without access to means for creating their own income, women are not able to make their own choices and to live the life they want. Being dependent on their husbands and family makes them more vulnerable to violence. They are not able to leave a violent relationship, because they cannot own money or a house and have no access to means to secure their economic independence. In the current global economic downturn, this problem is even more exacerbated. Women not only bear the brunt of income and job loss, their husbands bring back home frustrations and anger about their own loss of opportunities, leading to an increased culture of domestic violence within family homes.

In our work on domestic violence, women’s NGOs indicate that changing laws and policies on violence against women is not enough, but that to effectively address violence against women the problem of unequal property rights of women needs to be addressed.

A project to develop a tool to address women’s lack property rights

This is why Rights4Change has taken the initiative to develop a tool that can help NGOs to more effectively advocate for laws and policies that ensure women’s property rights. The tool will help NGOs to:

  • Gain a better understanding of how laws on (lack of) property rights affect the lives of women
  • Make an assessment of the impacts of existing laws and policies on property rights on the situation of women
  • Link the impacts to the government’s human rights obligations
  • Help formulate conclusions and recommendations towards governments on how to address the issue and pressure them into action.

Online questionnaire

As a first step, we started an online questionnaire, in which we ask questions on the property-rights issues organisations working on women's rights come across, and on their needs. Please fill in the questionnaire!

Looking for partners and funding

Rights4Change is looking for partner organisations that want to be involved in the development of this tool. To create a diverse input we are looking for organisations that have experience in:
- Human rights and in particular property & inheritance rights
- Violence against women
- Economic empowerment of women
Organisations can be service providers, advocacy groups or legal experts in the various areas.
We are also looking for donors who are interested in supporting the development of the tool. A draft budget is available.
Interested in working with us on women's property rights? Please contact m.deboer@rights4change.org


Go back



Rights for change
Vredenhofpad 13
1051 LK, Amsterdam
T : +31 20 7370663
M : +31 6 55344791