How Advancing Property Rights Will Promote Economic Growth for Rural Colombian Women

How Advancing Property Rights Will Promote Economic Growth for Rural Colombian Women

By Grace Swindler

Colombia’s existing property ownership laws can be traced back to the Spanish conquest of South America.[1] After Colombia’s liberation from Spain in the early 18th century, the wealthy and elite obtained ownership to the property.[2] This resulted in extreme economic disparity that has continued until today. As of 2018, a majority of farmers do not have a proper legal title to their land.[3] In modern day Colombia, people living in rural areas are three times more likely to be experiencing poverty compared to those who live in urban areas.[4]

The colonial roots of Colombian property laws have reinforced gender inequality. Improving a woman’s property rights can lift her out of poverty by benefiting several areas of her life.[5] Providing a woman with the opportunity to own and inherit property can increase her income by 380 percent.[6] Her children are more likely to be healthier and to complete secondary school, both of which support intergenerational mobility.[7] “Women with secure land and property rights earn four times more income and save 35 percent more than women without access to land and property.”[8]

Additionally, there is a correlation between gender-based violence and property rights in Colombia. 40 percent of Colombian women have experienced gender-based violence.[9] Colombian women who have property rights are eight times less likely to be a victim of gender-based violence and more than 60 percent less likely to experience long-term abuse by their partner.[10]

To lift Colombian women out of poverty, Colombia should consider additional measures, such as equality for land tenure and elimination of informal marriage.[11] Women should hold legal title jointly with their husbands to economically empower women.

Providing Colombian women with more property rights will enhance gender equality and provide Colombian women with a greater ability to participate in the market. Eradicating poverty is more tenable with property rights.



[1] Jarrod Demir, Understanding the Causes of Colombia’s Conflict: Land Ownership, Colom. Reps., Apr. 3, 2018,

[2] Id.

[3] Demir, supra note 1 (“60% of Colombia’s farmers do not formally own their land.”).

[4] Human Rights Council, Situation of Human Rights in Colombia, A/HRC/43/3/Add.3, paragraph 61 (24 Feb. – 20 Mar. 2020).

[5] Rachel Vogelstein et al., Women and The Law, Council on Foreign Relations 3 (Oct. 2018) (“Equalizing property rights can increase women’s economic productivity, improving their income, their ability to take out loans, and the health and education of their families.”).

[6] Id. at 31.

[7]Id. (“Children would be 10% less likely to be sick, 33% less likely to be underweight, twice as likely to complete secondary school.”).

[8] USAID Colombia, Improving Women’s Land Rights in Colombia, TetraTech (June 2016).

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Informal marriage means that there are no legal documents to prove that there has been a marriage. Women thus lose any legal remedy because they have no proof or verification of marriage.