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Land titling as women's empowerment: critical observations from Recife Brazil

By Regina K. Pritchett


This thesis critically highlights the promises and shortcomings of women???s formal ownership of land (land titling) as a means towards women???s empowerment. The literature extensively documents the costs and benefits of land titles for poor women and delineates the gendered impacts of property ownership. The literature lacks insight into two important questions. First, how do the cost and benefit of titles interact to (dis)empower women? Second, what role does the titling processes itself play in empowering women? These two gaps are explored in this thesis. I use Lukes??? three-tiered concept of power as a framework for examining how titles and titling shift the relative power of the individual and embedded in interpersonal and institutional relationships. I use Lukes??? to examine the Ponte do Maduro Project, in Recife, Brazil, where a strong landless women???s movement gained legal recognition for the community and is engaged in co-constructing and carrying out their own titling process. Interviews with women in Ponte do Maduro reveal the complexities, contradictions and contingencies of titling. I find that titles are important but are not empowering. However, the titling process can be empowering because it has the potential to address the multiple sites where oppression occurs. Ultimately, it is awareness of the contingencies of (dis)empowerment embedded in the titling processes that can help those involved in conceptualizing and doing gender empowerment work to better serve the women they wish to empower

Topics: Women, Land movements, Urban, Empowerment
Year: 2011
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