In the fight to help struggling African economies catch up to the developed world, one major issue lies in determining what measures can be taken to increase national productivity. A number of landmark economic studies support the correlation between the protection of property rights and increased output. As a practical implementation of this concept, the Ethiopian government has taken enormous steps in the past decade to protect a woman’s right to land ownership in the interest of bolstering national productivity.
Under the revised national Family Code, Ethiopian women share equal rights to property with their husbands while still married, and are entitled to equal division of assets, including agricultural resources such as land and livestock, upon divorce. A separate 2003 land reform initiative undertaken by the Ethiopian government also saw changes to land registration policies, including joint certification of husbands and wives. Certificates of land ownership are granted and administered by local Land Administration Committees (LACs), which operate at the village level. By certifying women to own land, this new policy also provides women with the opportunity to hold positions of authority in their villages’ respective LACs.
Researchers Neha Kumar and Agnes R. Quisumbing of International Food Policy Research Institute explain how women’s awareness of their property rights in Ethiopia encourages them to participate more actively in the regional farming industry in their paper “Policy Reform of Gender Equality in Ethiopia.” They discovered in their surveys that many Ethiopian women were simply not aware of the increased protection of their property rights, and that men were more likely to be aware of women’s property rights than women. However, their findings show that female membership in a given LAC had a positive effect on women’s awareness of and action upon their property rights within the area mandated by the LAC.
According to Kumar and Quisumbing, female leadership in regulatory agencies positively influences women’s awareness of their property rights in developing countries. Being more informed on such incentives ideally encourages women to participate more actively in the local agricultural economy, including claiming positions of ownership and authority.
These Ethiopian policies could be truly influential to the degree that they illustrate how a country’s economic interests and social welfare can be served simultaneously, which isn’t always the case even in the most “modern” of nations.