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Social Policy and Development Programme Paper 14: Agrarian Change, Gender and Land Rights: A Brazilian Case Study

11 Jul 2003

  • Author(s): Julia S. Guivant


The first part of the paper contextualizes this analysis and presents the broader transformations of the Brazilian rural economy, principally over the last two decades, and the major changes that have occurred in the position of rural women as a result of agricultural modernization.

The second part describes the challenges posed by women’s land rights from the perspectives of various national institutions and organizations, including trade unions. Relevant literature emanating from the government and the various movements is analyzed, as well as findings from field research that was carried out between July and September 2000.

The Constitution of 1988 guarantees equality between rural and urban men and women with respect to labour legislation and social rights. However, the author finds that government bodies have neither established these rights as a goal nor implemented them.

The author also recalls that given the number of important problems faced by women—guaranteeing and implementing social and labour rights; occupying positions of power within the leading organs of the movements; stimulating the identity of rural women among women; and guaranteeing economic conditions for the survival of family farming and settlements—the issue of land titles or joint titles for women has still not received its due attention among rural women’s movements.

In conclusion, it is reported that the empowerment of women within agrarian reform is occurring in an unpremeditated way. However, some opportunities may be emerging for women as they become involved in a variety of productive activities. These new options may well present ways for prospective empowerment.

Julia S. Guivant is Professor of Sociology at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil, where she co-ordinates the Interdisciplinary Research Group on Sustainability and Food Networks.

Order PPSPD 14 from UNRISD (US$ 12 for readers in industrialized countries and US$ 6 for readers in developing and transitional countries and for students).