Percent of women who own property or productive resources in their name

Percent of women who own property or productive resources in their name

Percent of women who own property or productive resources in their name

The percentage of women ages 15 to 49 who own property or resources for production of goods, services and/or income in their own name.

Various surveys have defined property and productive resources as land, house, company or business, livestock, produce or crops, durable goods (WHO, 2005), and additionally as tools (Alsop and Heinsohn, 2005), and money and bank accounts (DHS, 2005). For example questions on women’s property and resource ownership, see García-Moreno  et al.(2005); Alsop and Heinsohn (2005), and MACRO/DHS (2005).

This indicator is calculated as:

(Number of women ages 15 to 49 who report that they own property or productive resources in their own name / Total number of women respondents ages 15 to 49) x 100

Data Requirement(s):

Survey information on women’s self-report of ownership of property and resources.  Surveys ask if ownership is by the women alone, jointly owned, or not owned by the woman. Data can be disaggregated by whether property and resources are owned by the woman alone or jointly owned, by age group and urban/rural location.

Population-based surveys such as the Demographic Health Survey (DHS) and the WHO multi-country survey on women’s health and life events women’s questionnaire (Garcia-Moreno et al., 2005).

This indicator can provide information on current status and trends over time in women’s property ownership. Women’s ownership of property and resources is vital to their livelihood, economic and social independence, access to healthcare including reproductive health services and family planning, and their overall well-being. The Fifty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in 2010 reviewed country-level implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration Platform for Action and the contribution toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals, specifically goal #3. to promote gender equality and empower women.  Women’s economic empowerment is considered necessary for equitable and sustainable economic growth and development at regional, national, district, and local levels (UN Beijing +15, 2010). However, discriminatory inheritance and property rights laws and gender-based cultural norms and practices that curtail women’s access to and ownership of productive resources prevail in many settings (UN Beijing +15, 2010). Even in countries where laws exist to protect women’s ownership rights, women may not know about or feel able to assert these rights.  Priority should be given to enhancing women’s knowledge of their rights and enforcement of legislation and policies that ensure women’s equal access to and control over economic resources (UN Beijing +15, 2010).

The questions in the DHS and related surveys allow for responses that the property is owned by the woman alone, jointly with someone else, or not owned by the woman.  Responses may be subject to bias when the woman actually does own the property alone, but feels it is more socially acceptable to say that it is jointly owned with a spouse or partner.  Additionally, a woman may report that she owns property, but technically does not have or feels that she does not have the right to use or dispose of the property as she sees fit. The DHS follow-up question about whether the woman reports that she can sell the asset without anyone else’s permission can help clarify these responses.

women’s status, empowerment

Even in settings where women are legally entitled to own property and other resources, because of cultural gender norms around patrilineal land and inheritance transfers, women may feel constrained and may cede the land and productive resources to male relatives.  Women owners may also feel compelled by cultural gender norms to allow spouses or male relatives to make controlling decisions about the use of their property and profits.

Alsop R. and Heinsohn N, Measuring Empowerment in Practice: Structuring Analysis and Framing Indicators, Washington, DC: World Bank.

UN Beijing +15, 2010, Report of the 54th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, New York: United Nations Women.

U.N. Development Program, 2007, Tracking the Millennium Development Goals, MDG Monitor, New York: UNDP.

MACRO International, 2005, DHS, Women’s Status Module, Calverton MD: MACRO Int’l.

García-Moreno C,  Jansen H, Ellsberg M, Heise L, Watts C, 2005, WHO Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women,  Geneva: WHO.