Land reform in Myanmar is integral to ensuring the nation’s development is both sustainable and inclusive. The recent and complex history of land confiscation, acquisitions, and conflict has permeated every aspect of life for many smallholder farmers, leaving them to rebuild and reclaim their livelihoods. While progress has been made to empower smallholder farmers under the National Land Use Policy, formal and informal land governance and tenure systems remain overwhelmingly administered and controlled by men. Rural women have been left out of local decision-making and discourse around land governance. The recent land reform and current land laws have not taken the necessary measures to ensure women’s access to land. Better-targeted policies and approaches to implementation are needed to ensure women benefit equally from land reform efforts in Myanmar.
Namati offers this brief to illustrate how gender affects the lives of smallholder farmers and the paralegals supporting them in Myanmar. We return to this topic as an update to our April 2016 brief, titled “Gendered Aspects of Land Rights in Myanmar,” to further reflect on the experience of Namati’s community-based Paralegal Land Rights and Governance Program. Namati has a database of more than 4500 cases, and this casework data underpins this policy brief In addition, field research was conducted in Bago and Shan to provide further qualitative context and to explore the relationship between customary systems and women’s land rights.
It is an excellent time to return to this topic as the new, NLD-led government has implemented some reforms since 2016 and is in the process of drafting and implementing a series of significant new land laws which should be in line with the National Land Use Policy.
This policy brief explores the land administration and governance system and its effects on women’s land rights, gendered barriers in patriarchal cultures and customary practices, and the role of paralegals in expanding women’s land rights and increasing women’s participation in land governance. We conclude this brief with recommendations for the Myanmar government and civil society.
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