15 May 2023
Gender, Community & Inclusion
Governance, Policy & Institutional Strengthening
Research & Analysis
Posted15 May 2023
It has now been just under two months since I commenced my internship with LEI and I am pleased to say that I am starting to understand the wonderful world of land tenure a lot more. Not only do I understand a handful of acronyms that were once completely foreign to me, but I have been given some fantastic opportunities to work on projects across more of LEI’s portfolio, meaning I am always gaining new exposure to land administration issues and processes.
One of my recent tasks has been to conduct research into the benefits and disadvantages of joint titling for gender equality. Joint titling refers to the practice of documenting the names of both members of a couple as the legal owners of property obtained in the course of their relationship, in the context of a land titling program. It has become a popular mechanism in the development space in avoiding the default position whereby only the male, or husband, as the household head is registered as the owner of the land. My research found that joint titling can be a really useful tool in securing women’s rights – for instance, in preventing a unilateral sale of the land by her husband, protecting widowed women from losing their house upon the death of their husband, allowing women greater access to credit, and empowering women in both formal and informal decision making processes related to the house, the land, and its uses. Despite these promising advantages, the research suggests that mere titling is insufficient. The ‘stickiness’ of patriarchal custom in some jurisdictions has prevented the benefits of joint titling from being realised. For instance, a case study in Cambodia on joint titling showed that some women felt that despite being formally titled, they did not have the power to assert their rights if a dispute were to arise. This highlights the important difference between the de facto and de jure existence of joint titling. Legal title is only effective if the processes and regulations that underpin it are followed. Therefore, special consideration must be borne in mind when implementing joint titling systems to ensure that women’s rights are actually realised.
In last week’s team meeting I was invited to present my findings on joint titling to the LEI team. What followed was a really engaging discussion about joint titling, with my colleagues – who have an incredible shared wealth of knowledge on the nexus between gender and land tenure – offering feedback, comments, and notes on their experience with joint titling throughout their careers.
I was also fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to join one of my colleagues, Kate, on LEI’s most recent trip to Nauru. Unfortunately, the trip coincided with my university exams and I was unable to join, but I am so grateful that I was offered the opportunity to travel, especially at an undergraduate level as an intern. There are talks about another trip soon, which may provide a really unique opportunity to get involved in LEI’s work in-country.
What I have found so great about my internship at LEI is the continual opportunities I have to learn, seek feedback, and better my own knowledge and skills. No two days here in my role are the same. I am always being introduced to new projects, put on new tasks, and as a result, am diversifying my skillset. For instance, over the past two weeks I have been looking into land policy in Nauru, gender studies in the Mekong region, and land administration in Papua New Guinea and Ethiopia. I am given so many opportunities to read, research, and learn, and I am looking forward to seeing what the remainder of my internship entails.
On another note, I feel like I am coming to see the Illawarra region as my second home. I have fully memorised all 14 train stations between Bondi and Wollongong and enjoy my little escapes to the South Coast on the days I am in the office. For anyone who isn’t from New South Wales, take a look at the view I get from the train window on my commute to work!
In spirit of reconciliation, Land Equity International acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, and community. We pay respects to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.