Women’s Rights to Land, Housing and Property in Post-Conflict
Situations and During Construction
Press Announcement by Habitat
Personalities: Wendy J. Woodbury Straight
Women and Science: some facts, some impressions
by Marysa Demoor, Belgium
Women’s Rights to Land, Housing and
Property in Post-Conflict
Situations and During Construction
Press Announcement by Habitat
The Land and Tenure Unit at Shelter Branch in the
United Nations Centre of Human settlements (Habitat) is pleased to
announce the online publication of " Women’s Rights to Land,
Housing and Property in Post-Conflict Situations and During
Construction". This research study was conducted with the support
of the Government of Sweden.
The publication is available on line and can be
downloaded on word format in the web site of the Global Campaign for
Secure Tenure: http://www.unchs.org/tenure/
and then follow the link "publications".
The international community is beginning to
recognize that women’s lack of rights in, access to and land control
over land, housing and property constitutes a violation of human
rights and contributes significantly to women’s increasing poverty.
Despite the importance of land, housing and
property to women, women generally lack security of tenure. This is
largely a result of
- gender biases laws which are at their best only protecting
married women and at their worst do not protect women at all;
- legal systems which are inaccessible to women or which privilege
customary law over statutory law;
- land and property titling systems which grant title to men
rather than women or which require payment for land/house which
women cannot afford; and
- discriminatory lending or credit policies.
If women’s enjoyment of their rights to land, housing
and property is obstructed during times of relative peace, their enjoyment
of these rights during conflict situations is nearly prohibited. In the
first place, conflict draws men away from their communities and requires
women to perform all the functions of the head of household, which is
particularly difficult under wartime conditions where access to food, water,
labour and transport is obstructed. Second as a result of the economic
hardship and violence associated with conflict, women often have to flee
their homes and any land or property. third, on the post-conflict era, women
either face the same lack of access or be confronted by customary laws which
in turn increase the status of homelessness and landless of women in
post-conflict situations and during reconstruction.
The post-conflict reconstruction phase offers an
opportunity to redress women’s lack of rights in, access to and control
over land, housing and property. However, this seldom occurs. Women find
that upon returning home, their new roles are retrenched, and their
pre-conflict, social roles are reinstated. In part, this is because women
are excluded from decision making processes relevant to reconstruction
(e.g.: peace agreement or land reform negotiations). This results in
reconstruction legislation which does not consider or address women’s
rights to land, housing and property. For instance, there is a worldwide
movement, particularly in the post conflict context, toward the
privatization of customary land tenure schemes which rejects community
ownership of land in favour of a system where land and houses are purchased
and owned by individuals, regardless of sex. While this might appear to be
an improvement over customary law, it is not. In fact, for women,
privatization of land tenure and housing creates a vicious circle where
women cannot purchase land, housing and property in private-market driven
schemes because they are poor, economically marginalized and have no access
to capital. And, of course, women cannot access capital without land as
collateral to secure a loan or to generate an income
The publications offer at the end a set of
recommendations to be implemented at the local, national and international
levels. among others, a recommendations calling for supporting the efforts
of the Global Campaign for Secure Tenure towards eradicating poverty.
For further information please contact Sylvie.Lacroux@unchs.org
Wendy J. Woodbury Straight is a licensed land
surveyor in the state of New York in the United States of America.
Because her office is only 30 miles from Pennsylvania, she is
licensed in that state as well. In USA land surveyors are licensed
by each of the fifty states, not by the country. Surveying standards
and procedures vary somewhat from state to state, mostly due the
different historic circumstances under which land was developed in
each state since colonial times, but also due to ongoing differences
in modern land development regulations from state to state.
"To become licensed in one state", Woodbury
Straight explained, " we must meet the education and experience
qualifications to sit for the two-day examination. Then, we must pass the
examination. After that, one does not need to take two more days of tests in
other states. To become licensed in Pennsylvania, for example, I was only
required to prove that I was already licensed by New York state, and then I
was required to pass a 4-hour examination about Pennsylvania
Prior to becoming a land surveyor, she was a teacher of
mathematics and English. After receiving her land surveying license,
however, Woodbury Straight replaced her father as the owner and operator of
Woodbury Surveying and Geomatics in Dunkirk, NY. That was 17 years ago, and
her father and mother are still enjoying their retirement. Her practice is
based in the northern portion of Chautauqua County in the western end of New
York state. The firm is over 75 years old, and has the survey drawings and
the related title information for the past 50 years. For the past few years,
most of the paper files have turned into digital records, a project which
has greatly facilitated the daily use of the old files. "Since the
history of the boundary is important when retracing it", Woodbury
Straight said, "we find that the old information is very valuable as a
cost saving device for our clients, because it saves time for us."
Woodbury Straight is a past member of the board of
directors for the Niagara Frontier Land Surveyors Association, and active in
the Allegany Plateau Association as well. Those organizations are both
sub-groups of the New York State Association of Professional Land Surveyors.
As an active member of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM),
she serves as a program evaluator for the accreditation of college and
university surveying and geomatics programs. She has also been retained as a
columnist for CE News magazine, a trade journal for civil engineers. Her
column features news and business advice for surveyors.
With the encouragement of friends, Woodbury Straight put
together the Forum for Women in Surveying for ACSM the same year that she
took over her dad’s practice. Mary Feindt served as the first president.
"At that time, women in surveying were faced with terrible advertising
that featured pictures of women in bikinis or lace nightgowns (or
less)", Woodbury Straight pointed out, "the women were shown with
surveying equipment, and female surveyors were therefore greatly insulted.
At first, the industry resented our presence, and some male surveyors
greatly resented our efforts to raise our field to a more professional
level. In time, though, we gained much more respect, but we never
compromised or gave up our right to point out injustices wherever we found
them. One of our most successful outreach programs has been the private
newsletter Progress and Perspectives, which my husband and I produce every
other month with the help of several friends and industry colleagues."
Progress and Perspectives covers anything that may affect women and other
under-represented persons in the surveying and mapping profession.
Woodbury Straight’s husband is a professor of mathematics and computer
science at the State University of New York college in Fredonia. They live
on a small farm with several animals that they have rescued from
homelessness, including dogs, cats, and horses.
Women and Science: some facts, some
by Marysa Demoor
In spite of the recent revisionist research in the wake
of feminism, the rewriting i.e. of history by adding a herstory, and some
attempts to stimulate girls into opting for sciences rather than the arts,
there are still very few female scientists and, indeed, few women on the
highest academic echelons in the Western world. Britain and America lead the
way still, it seems, in this emancipation of women academics. Professor Dame
Gillian Beer, president of Clare Hall and King Edward VII Professor of
Literature was mode a Dame in the autumn of 1998, one of the highest honours
that can befall a scholar in Britain.
Elsewhere, somehow the way upward has been halted or of
least slowed down these last years. And in some countries progress is slower
than in others. One of the most tenacious obstacles in the move towards a
greater recruitment of women for the world of science and academia is the
widespread belief that the situation now is as good as it can ever get; that
there are no problems anymore. If women now do not acquire or fill a
substantial number of the best-paid and most influential positions in
academia then that is solely due to the fact that they are either not good
enough or not willing to work hard enough. If there are so few tenured women
scientists then, again, this is due to the scarcity of women finishing a
Ph.D. At the University of Gent (Flanders) the first female professor in
gynaecology was appointed in 1996.
Then, in May 1997, the academic world [or part of it) was
jolted out of its lethargy by an article written by two Swedish scientists,
Christine Wennerås and Agnes Wold, on "Nepotism and sexism in
peer-review' (Nature, vol 387, 22 May 1997, 341-3) In this article,
published in a highly respected journal, two scientists, living in one of
the world's most emancipated countries, claim that peer-review scores for
post-doctoral fellowship applications are riddled with prejudice. Their
research was prompted by the fact that so many more women scientists abandon
their academic careers than their male colleagues. Focusing on the situation
in the biomedical field in Sweden in 1994, they point out that only 25
percent of the postdoctoral positions awarded by the Swedish Medical
Research Council and only 7 per cent of the professorial positions went to
women, in spite of the fact that women that year represented 44 per cent of
Assuming the selection process had been objective, Wennerås
and Wold decided to scrutinise the evaluation of each of the candidates.
Fortunately, Swedish law supported their request to see the evaluation forms
filled in by the Swedish MRC commissions. The findings of the two scientists
showed that women candidates mainly scored badly when their scientific
competence was evaluated. The two researchers therefore compared the
applicants' productivity looking at a number of objective parameters such as
the number of the scientific publications, the number of the publications as
first author, the impact of the journals and the number of citations. The
conclusion was staggering. It appeared that only those women with 100 total
impact points or more were given an evaluation mark which was comparable to
that of some of the male applicants, but then only to those male applicants
who scored the lowest, with less than 20 total impact points.
Wennerås and Wold then proceeded to find out why women
were given such low competence scores. Using a set of multiple regression
models following the influence of gender, nationality, basic education,
scientific field, university affiliation, the evaluation committee to which
candidates had been assigned, doctoral experience abroad (including letter
of recommendation), and affiliation with one of the committee members they
came to the conclusion that two factors influenced the scores significantly.
First, there was gender: a female applicant had to be 2.5 times more
productive than the average male applicant to receive the same competence
score. Secondly, and equally influential, there were the personal ties with
one of the committee members. For the women candidates, this might make up
for their gender, if that is, the male candidates had no personal
connections. A women scientist without personal connections therefore had
two hurdles to cross: a lack of affiliation and her gender.
The conclusions of Wennerås and Wold are as unexpected
as they are depressing. Articles have ensued, and several universities have
tried to analyse and evaluate their own situation with respect to the
percentage and position of women scientists. The interim conclusions were
presented at the "E/Quality"-conference organised by UNESCO in
preparation of the World Science Conference in Bled, in November 1998.
It remains to be seen, however, whether all those reports
and articles will fundamentally change the composition of academic staff,
including the composition of those bodies which have policy-making power.
Perhaps the arrival of a new generation of academics (male and female), who
believe gender related issues are fundamental to much of the present
research, who are aware of the under-representation of women in academia and
of the waste of unused competence; perhaps, this new generation will allow
for a change. Now, on the brink of a new millennium, it is still very much a
This articles was published in the brochure entitled „Science
and Future: Contribution of Flanders to the World Scientific
Conference" (Brussels: Ministry of Flanders, 1999), pp.16-19.
By Prof. Marysa Demoor
University of Gent
44 Rozier, 9000 Gent
Editor: Chair of the Task Force on Under-represented Groups in
Ms. Gabriele Dasse, Kleinfeld 22a, D-21149 Hamburg,
+ 49 40 428 265 265
Tel. + 49 40 428 265 250
web site: http://www.fig.net/figtree/tf/underrep/tfunrep.htm
3/00, month of issue: September
© Copyright 2000 Gabriele Dasse.
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