Rajesh Prabhakar Patil of the Impatient Optimists agrees with Melinda Gates that data is generally sexist, meaning there is often more research about men than women. He also believes that there is an urban bias — individuals living in rural areas are often excluded from studies.
This means that it can be especially difficult to find information about the plight of rural women. Patil, along with the nonprofit Landesa, seeks to change and gather more information about women’s land rights in India.
The Plight for Women’s Rights
Patil’s passion for women’s land rights in India stems from his personal belief that “land can provide [women] with a powerful tool to fight poverty — [the ability] to create opportunity.”
In rural India, one in 10 families includes a “dispossessed woman” who cannot own property. This could be a woman who is disabled, divorced, widowed or otherwise unable to live independently due to the stipulations regarding land rights for women.
Sometimes, women who are dependent upon their family, but are caught in dysfunctional relationships, cannot escape abuse due to their inability to purchase land and property that could serve as a refuge.
The lack of data regarding rural women in India can have a negative impact on women and their families. The government of the state of Odisha introduced a policy to give government-owned land to rural families in 2005. Unfortunately, due to a lack of documentation, many rural women were not considered as recipients for the program.
Landesa, a nonprofit supported by the Gates Foundation, aims to find and assist women in India and other parts of the world who seek land ownership.
The organization conducts field research and works with local government officials to identify women and families in need of land. In India alone, 1,105,000 families have benefited from Landesa’s work.
According to Landesa’s website, an estimated 18 million families are both poor and landless in India. Their goal is to provide land to these women and lift their families out of poverty. The organization has been working with government leaders from various Indian states since 2000.
“What women do need is to be counted and to have programs responsive to their existence and their needs,” said Patil in a June 2016 post.
Patil appears optimistic about Landesa’s work on increasing women’s land rights in India. Rural women’s quality of life and access to opportunity may see an increase if they’re given the right to own land.
– Carrie Robinson