Land and women: the matrilineal factor. The cases of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu

1 Jan 2008

How well is our understanding of the current status of women in relation to land tenure, land management and access to land in matrilineal societies in the Pacific? This question forms the central objective of this research by Joel Simo, Ana Naupa, Kristina Stege and Ruth Maetala and Dr Elise Huffer commissioned by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in 2007.

The researchers attempt to improve our understanding of the roles of women over land in matrilineal societies in two dimensions. One dimension is examining women’s role with respect to land. The second dimension is examining the role of women in leadership, including decisionmaking. Both dimensions are explored in terms of the past and the present thereby allowing for the changes that might have occurred over time to be observed and how those changes impact on women’s current status with respect to land and leadership.

Unlike the first dimension which is centred within the confines of traditional values and structures, the second relates to the impact of modern land management practices, land laws and policies on the current status of women. The invariable influences of modern laws and polices on traditional land tenure and land practices do escape examination. Here, the impact of current land policies and laws with respect to women’s access to, management and ownership of land is evaluated.

Examining these complex mixtures of roles by bridging the traditional with modern land management practices, laws and policies and how these impact on gender is what this research tries to address as simply as it possibly can. The draft research findings were presented at the 10th Triennial Pacific Conference of Women, which was convened at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in Nouméa, New Caledonia in May 2007. This research complements other major research on land in the Pacific such as the AusAID funded Pacific Land Programme and the Land Management and Conflict Minimisation for Peace, Prosperity and Sustainable Development project managed by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

Research work around land continues to support the good governance pillar of the Pacific Plan, specifically the initiative in resource management, and in the harmonisation of traditional and modern values and structures, covering models for land ownership, tenures and use. The Pacific Isands Forum Secretariat appreciates the contributions of the authors – Joel Simo, Ana Naupa, Kristina Stege and Ruth Maetala and Dr Elise Huffer for their hard work in producing a quality product.

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