National Workshop on Tribal Women Land Rights

August 8th and 9th 2006

A regional consultation was organized by National Commission for Women in Ranchi, Jharkhand, India on 8th and 9th of August 2006 at HPDC, Bahu Bazar. The National Commission for Women responded to a proposal submitted by CWLR (Consult for Women and Land Rights) members including GLRF, Sathi all for partnerships and they in turn mobilized local support from Toran, Prena Bharthi, Pyara Kerketta Foundation, Chotanagpur Sanskriti Sangh to get together women from different tribal belts from the State of Jharkhand. Sathi all for partnerships mobilised participation from other states to begin a dialogue on the rights of tribal women on land and resources together with leaders of their communities.

The National Commission for Women has been very supportive of the issue on women and land rights. The lobby of CWLR at New York in 2004 was blessed by presence of NCW Chairperson in an event organized by CWLR at UNDP, New York. Since then NCW has organized events on women and land at Allahabad, Chennai and Delhi.

The objectives of the workshop

Analysis of issue related to Indigenous women land and property rights in Jharkhand .

  • Feedback on local meetings in Jharkhand, Gujrat, Tamilnadu and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Discussion on national picture of above issue.
  • Developing common recommendation for India.

The Chairperson of the State Commission for Women from Arunachal Pradesh presided the workshop. She however conducted this task in her capacity as an Executive Committee member of the Consult for Women and Land Rights. Chief Minister ensured that the Commission would be established soon. A set of national recommendations emerged as a result of a consensus created on discussion with women and men from tribal regions of Orissa, Delhi, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat. These recommendations from the workshop were presented to the Chief Minster of Jharkhand Shri Arjun Munda. It was also handed to the tribal women and men leaders in the state.

Mr. Dev Kumar Dhan leader of Parha Panchayat Doklo Sorah, Maha Samititi came to the meeting to stress that those women and men who marry outside community will not be allowed occupation of land by tribal leadership but within tribal customs women. The event was covered by two national newspapers, eight news dailies and four local channels. The recommendations were sent to ministry of tribal affairs for inclusion in the tribal policy.


CWLR lobby initiatives demands women resource right agenda to be promoted by Governments. Sathi all for parnerships has been providing a grounding and thrust to the agenda of CWLR for the past one-and-half years. Starting of as a Delhi based network for giving voice to landless women, Sathi has successfully linked with networks in states like Jharkhand, Uttaranchal, Arunanchal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Internationally with countries like Canada, Uganda, Brazil, Philippines, Nicaragua and Rwanda. It has initiated process in direction of impacting organizations like UN Permanent Forum for Tribal to build opinion on indigenous community leaders worldwide and World Social Forum to build civil society opinion and tribal communities.

Workshop on Tribal Women and Land Rights:

his workshop got together women from different states talking about the rights of tribal women on land with leaders of their communities. The idea of a state led women resource right agenda was introduced but not understood fully by the participants as well as the leaders as the debate centered on the tribal policy, cases as well as understanding customary practices.

Dr. Ramdayal Munda, Veteran tribal leader highlighted on the reformation in tradition and customs related to ownership of land. Local and regional level recommendations papers were worked out through detailed consultations with local groups.

For tribal women on the CWLR team this thematic workshop will be a catalyst for CWLR leaders to see themselves as legitimate national and global leaders on these issues.

Session Record:

Experiences from different states were discussed under the following heads:

  • Restoring tribal women’s dignity through collective rights of Tribal people to land, water and forests as part of the proposed Tribal and Forest bills.
  • Reclaiming women’s access, control and ownership rights to village commons and forest. Session to discuss this aspect will bring together experts and government from the ministry of tribal affairs.
  • Customary laws and displacement questions.
  • Discussion on CWLR recommendations for land reform, information centres and development programmes.
  • Draft Tribal Policy and Forest Policy.
  • Need for research and resource mapping including gender budgeting, right to work program and other schemes.
  • Critical need to support and train tribal women to assume leadership roles in formal public institutions will guide thinking on what kind of capacity building initiatives are required to build the training agenda for tribal women.

Follow Up work envisaged:

  • Research and resource mapping studies
  • Possibility of Women asserting themselves within their own communities and becoming more active in decision-making.
  • Documentation of customary rights that give land rights to women.
  • Initiate exchange programs and self representation-Develop a cadre of women from the community to demand and develop a space for implementing these rights in different part of India .
  • Through these systems of dialogue women will demand their right to resources
  • Areas of intervention for the long term program: Action through Pilot initiatives
  • Enhancing women’s ownership and control over assets
  • Promoting and developing women’s productivity and livelihood security
  • Creating social acceptability and legitimacy of women’s claims
  • Improving data, research and translation on women and land rights
  • Prompt government action by lobbying for pilot initiatives to inform state level action.
  • Developing options like village forest councils and greater sustainability of village commons by discussion with community women.

1. Recommendations for tribal women farmers, pastoralists and forest produce gatherers

Women in agriculture include women farmers, share croppers and farm laborers. They are primary producers but the policies of consolidating land and industrializing agriculture have left them bereft of land, resources and control over food production. Women’s role and contribution to agriculture is immense but is not adequately recognized and measured. This results in women suffering from long working hours, drudgery, poor nutrition and inadequate economic returns. Lack of land titles in women’s names limits their access to credit.

. The collective rights of tribal women to land, water and forests should be recognized and mentioned separately in government plans and policy documents.

. Tribal women particularly those living within the forest area, as well as women in forest dependent communities should be guaranteed their ancestral ownership and inheritance rights as per laws of the state.

. Where access to privately owned land is not available, rights and concessions for livelihoods and subsistence use should be rationally provided for communities on public land such as Reserve Forests and protected areas like Sanctuaries. In such areas the livelihoods and subsistence needs of fuel, fodder, water and plant resources of communities must be ensured in policies and regulations that delimit or restrict women’s access to it.

. Women living in forest villages should be given land rights so that they can have access to maternal and child care services and other developmental facilities in their villages.

. Sustainable use of village commons should be ensured by providing sufficient land, as support areas for subsistence needs in the name of village women’s ownership.

. Capacity of Tribal women to assume leadership roles in formal public institutions through time bound programs and for marketing their produce and support in setting up cooperatives.

. The scale of extractive use of forests, water bodies and grazing lands should be limited to maintain primacy of subsistence use and local markets.

. A section on the Forest and Land Rights of Tribal women should be included in the new Forest bill where rights of daughters residing in the village need be mentioned along with rights of the son.

. The government should adopt a gender sensitive rehabilitation policy that makes provision for the restoration of tribal women’s livelihood and income. Women should also get legal rights to land allocated as part of the resettlement package.

. Right of people dependent upon the forests to collection of minor forest produce should be guaranteed by the government as it constitutes a major source of their income and they are almost exclusively involved in collection, storage, processing and marketing of this produce.

. To accord primacy for local use production of local food grains needs to be encouraged in community farms. The produce of these grains could be sold to the children feeding centers run by government in local areas and ensure food sovereignty.

. Reserving global quality products for local markets will preserve unbridled penetration of large and distant markets in tribal areas that is leading to the subsequent com modification of resource flows.

. The Lease forestry/Van Panchayat model of Uttaranchal should be replicated in other states. 1 acre of arable land needs the support of 5 acres of common and forestland as support area for agriculture. This should be ensured for tribal women farmers along with consolidated rather than scattered land holdings in order to provide for sustainable agriculture for them.

. Ensure that customary rights that are gender equal and they provide women’s freedoms, livelihood and housing. This will minimize migration for social and economic reasons from tribal areas.

. The state governments should promote and sponsor research and documentation of-

– gender disaggregated data

– gender just customary practices and

– – the divergence between customary practices and basic human rights

2. Recommendations for increasing tribal women’s control over water sources

  • Women’s participation in irrigation management should be made an important part of the agrarian reforms of governmental and non-governmental development agencies. Tribal women farmer’s associations should be formed so that these women can participate in planning, construction and management of irrigation systems. This will ensure the effective functioning and sustainability of these systems.
  • Consultations should be held with tribal women and their ideas and concerns should be included in designing and managing canal systems/other sustainable systems of irrigation.
  • Government schemes should be initiated to lease land to women’s groups for collective economic activity on long-term leases, as in Bihar for fishponds and Tamilnadu for wasteland development. Government as well as non-governmental agencies should work for transfer of group titles of farm related activities to landless women.

3. Recommendations for women in special circumstances

  • Special provision to be made through banking scheme to channel self earned land rights and resources of unmarried women.
  • For protection and sustenance of widows we need to have a stronger widow pension scheme or other group land rights grants.
  • Link the Women Resource Right Agenda with old age care in both natal and marital homes of daughters. This may result in the care of families with only girls to stay connected to their parents even after marriage away from their own native village.
  • Care of orphan girls need to be taken up by government on an urgent basis to reduce dependence on religious institutions.
  • Government sponsored advertisements drive to develop public opinion for women’s property rights need to be begin immediately.

4. Recommendations for increasing understanding of women in market dynamics

  • Panchayats and district panchayats should be held responsible for increasing women’s land and resource base and be monitored for their budgets first spending on women resource rights.
  • Initiate Government schemes to provide market space on long term lease for women’s use for retail, production or manufacture.
  • Government training schemes through workshops needs to be commissioned and budgeted to build capacity of women for better production outputs
  • Entitle women workers to immediate concessions in transportation and communication as per demands from the Women Resource Rights Committee.
  • Establish tripartite boards that can regulate employment for the unorganized sector workers and constitute a women resource right committee within this institutional mechanism.

5. Recommendations for Institutional mechanisms, information and training for access and control over land for Tribal women

  • Women’s land and resource rights include ownership of land, housing, assets, access to water and forest. This needs to be accompanied by availability of credit, information, training as well as access to services and amenities.

Concrete agenda for women resource right may include:

  • Women’s Resource Rights Committee: Such a committee could manage the documentation of existing resources in legal control of women .To plan for increase in women’s resource base at the village level. The data on this aspect can be displayed at the WRRC. This system may be like a Mahila Samakhya federated system.
  • Tripartite Board: The tripartite board scheme as demanded by the unorganised sector unions can be linked effectively with the women resource rights agenda. This board consisting of workers, employers and government could be active in regulating employment and training women in resource mapping. It could be mandated to train women to utilize opportunities to avail at least 40 % of village resources to sustain their rights to land and livelihood options.
  • Women Resource Rights Centres (WRRC) in every village and ward. These will provide the physical space for implementing the One Window Approach, the Tripartite Board and the Women’s Resource Rights Committee. These centers can provide training in resource mapping, information on land and resources (government schemes, policies, legislation’s, land titles etc.) and can provide sharing of information between the village level and the top decision making level. These centres need to be run by locally appointed women resource right worker.
  • A One Window Approach: Making resources available from existing schemes more accessible at the local level through a single delivery point at the central and state level at the WRRC. Training women and children on resource mapping along with men at the panchayat level.

Eight simple steps explain the cascade of workflow for this at the local level

Steps of Women’s Resource Rights Agenda at local level:

Step 1: Participatory resource mapping and training

Facilitate community groups including women to identify kinds of land and natural resources and its distribution pattern in village

Collate statistics on the percentage of land and resource ownership by women to determine distributive justice of resources.

Step 2: Disseminating analysis & information of resource mapping through WRRC

The information from the resource mapping can be shared with others in the village

through meetings and in the village knowledge information centres. These WRRCs

could be women owned and women managed.

Step3: Identification of vulnerable women and distinguishing in claiming resources

from family and government through:

– Individual titles for housing, farms and garden plots

– Joint ownership with men for income generation (like fishing rights, mining or pond lease),

– Women’s groups on common property resources

Step 4: Developing land-based economic programmes

A woman resource committee will supervise the process developing economic programs

and participate in decisions relating to strengthening the concepts the women


Step 5: Identifying access to amenities
Once land is identified, its legal title granted and its land use agreed, additional support

would need to be thought of in terms of linkages other civic amenities, which include:

Ownership of ground water as common property
Access to health and Education
Transport and road networks]
Power / electricity and Fuel Wood
Access to market
Step 6: Determining women’s share in Gram Sabha Budget and all government


33 %of the Rural Development Budget and ask for convergence of programmes for

women empowerment as WRRA. The 33 % claim does not include other budgets

The evaluation of public expenditure needs to be done on gender justice basis. The

demand for gender-aggregated data on tribal sub plan expenditure has been made by

women’s groups already.

Step 7: Ensuring women’s legal ownership and control over assets:

Ø Ensuring the recording of women’s inheritance shares, in all land records
Ø In cases where women own land (via any means), ensure that their names are entered in the corresponding land record.
Ø Help women, individually or collectively in groups, with managing and purchasing assets.
Ø Promote group-based economic livelihood generating activities

Step 8: Enhancing women’s productivity and livelihood security

Securing access to and ownership of resources needs to be accompanied by sustenance of process of women empowerment efforts to infrastructure support, credit access, information support, recognizing women farmer’s and marketing cooperatives Providing training programmes credit management. Village and Urban Women Resource Right Centres (WRRC)

Since agriculture is a seasonal occupation tribal farmers owning even 10 acres of land have to migrate to urban areas after a period of 3 months. The urban areas should have special WRRCs, which should be equipped to cater to the special needs of such people as well as other migrant labor. These WRRCs should preferably be located in very green areas, which are as close to the natural habitat of the tribals as is possible. They should act as training centre, half way homes for the disabled and short stay homes for tribal people under the ownership and management of tribal women. The women resource centres should try to provide tribal people with a cultural climate to which they are accustomed and prevent the erosion of their culture. The centres need to be named after prominent tribal women leaders. For example in Jharkhand they could be called after the women tribal guerrilla army of Tilka Majhi where women like Maki Munda (Chatonagpur) participated. Other women local leaders like Pan muni (Taraduni Panchayat Madhupur) or Phulo Jhano ( Santhal revolt), Devmani need to be recognised as well.

In discussion with tribal women across different regions of the world the idea of demanding rights for indigenous people in urban and rural land planning has been taken very positively. Tribal communities have little to gain by sticking only to the reserve territory alone. While this is an inalienable rights the need for education and the need to earn dignity and justice in the world outside of their development paradigm is also felt as strongly for the communities them selves to survive. Women leaders have demanded reserved spaces for tribal communities in rural and urban areas. This space in urban and rural areas will be the WRRC which also be a short stay home or a training and information centre placed in the green or environmentally appropriate setting for the children elders and tribal populations. This reclamation will be a way to win back the losses the tribal communities have suffered so far.