New blogs on gendered language and reproductive justice; Meet summer intern Melissa Padilla; How to make a planned gift.
This newsletter was sent on Sep 8, 2022
Sign up to receive the next edition
Plotlines - Landesa's Monthly e-Newsletter


Reclaiming rights and achieving equality

By Beth Roberts, Gina Alvarado, and Melissa Padilla

A Kenyan woman smiles while standing in her corn field.
Studies show that when women have property rights, such as this woman in Kenya, they are more likely to invest their profits from increased production into the family—mainly in education and health. (Neil Thomas / USAID)

When the U.S. Supreme Court’s radical majority overturned Roe v. Wade, it destroyed rights countless women fought and died to win some 50 years ago. But the Dobbs decision went far deeper: It reaffirmed the historical denial of women’s equal citizenship. The majority argued the right to abortion is not “deeply rooted” in U.S. history and tradition, referring to over two centuries ago, when women were legally chattel under the doctrine of coverture and could not vote, hold property or enter into contracts—a time when they belonged not to themselves, but to men.

To reclaim reproductive rights and achieve gender equality amidst a strong backlash, we must establish women’s “equal legal personhood” and eradicate the patriarchal notion about women’s second-class citizenship. To do so, our vision for gender equality must be unrelenting and holistic. The women’s movement must seize this opportunity to cultivate fierce intersectionality at home and to deepen bonds of sisterhood between U.S. women’s movements and feminist movements globally. After all, Dobbs will have an impact around the world. And when women’s human rights are violated, the whole planet suffers.

Yet across vast differences in culture and identity, climate change and poverty affect women disproportionately as a result of gendered discrimination. Women of color and women living in poverty have suffered most—and again stand to suffer the most now without federal protection for abortion rights.

One global lens provides an intersectional, global and radical approach to championing reproductive rights and overturning patriarchy: increasing rural and Indigenous women’s control of land and natural resources.



The chaos of gendered language & land

A photo shows hands using a marker to edit text on a stack of printed pages.

Recently, as India swelled with pride to see the first woman belonging to the Scheduled Tribe community become President, it also witnessed an unexpected chaos stemming from the use of gendered language. In Hindi, the word for President is the masculine word Rashtrapati, which literally means “Head of the Nation.” The suffix pati is commonly used to mean “husband” and can also denote that one is the owner of something. In a bid to use a feminine equivalent, a member of Parliament unwittingly referred to her as Rashtra-patni (meaning “Wife of the Nation”). The linguistic flub resulted in huge protests and adjournment of Parliament followed by a letter of apology.

The gendered language that we use is set for a “default” world in which men are presumed to be the dominant actors. But these linguistic choices often produce social consequences that damage and limit the identity, dignity and equal opportunities for women.

Since language is fundamental to thoughts, several scholars have argued that the language we speak also shapes our thoughts in subtle, subconscious ways. A study by The World Bank has noted that the very structure of language may limit women’s opportunities by reinforcing gendered ideology and strengthening male-centered gender norms.

The ecosystem of land governance is not immune to this influence of language. The intentional bias that gives men an advantage in securing land tenure is another story, but the gendered language of land laws is both more subtle and equally harmful. 


Making a gift for the future

An Indian family smiles while holding up seedlings to show the viewer.

More than two billion people, almost one-fifth of our planet’s population, stand to benefit from improved land rights. Women, youth, Indigenous People, and local communities are among those with the least security and the most to gain from Landesa’s work. Access to land, and more critically land rights, can improve economic security, gender equality, and mitigate climate change. In short, land rights are foundational to directly improving billions of lives.

Through your will, or a simple financial beneficiary designation, you can help ensure that future generations of land rights experts continue this vital work until we have eradicated the issue of land insecurity.

If you would like to learn more about how to support Landesa with a planned gift, you can learn more here or email Helen Sernett at 


Landesa in the news

Devex article header reads 'Weathering the Storm: Building resilience in the humanitarian sector'.

Photo from Devex

Devex logo

Weathering the storm: Building resilience in the humanitarian sector
Alongside fellow Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize recipients, Landesa’s Chris Jochnick and Shipra Deo discuss how humanitarian organizations can build resilience to address emerging crises.

The i News logo

Despite women saving and earning more than ever, the number achieving property ownership has stalled
A column on progress for women’s land rights around the world quoted statistics from Landesa and Stand for Her Land.

IPP Media logo

Policy review: TALA wants farmers, herders’ concerns be taken on board
Land tenure specialist Masalu Luhula was interviewed about the importance of responsible investment in smallholder producers in order to ensure food security and nutrition in Tanzania.

Intern Spotlight: Melissa Padilla

Melissa Padilla interned with Landesa’s Center for Women’s Land Rights in 2022. She supported the Stand for Her Land Campaign and co-authored an article examining the parallels between reproductive rights and women’s land rights, published in Ms. Magazine at the culmination of her internship. Melissa is a third-year law student and Juris Doctor Candidate at the University of San Diego School of Law.

Headshot of Melissa Padilla, a young woman smiling with glasses in a dark navy blazer and maroon blouse.

"My favorite part about interning with Landesa was being able to work with regional partners. I specifically worked on the Ethiopia Stand for Her Land Campaign and being able to work with regional partners gave me the ability to learn more about the cultural context and nuances I was working under, which was something I would have not been able to identify from just conducting desk research."



Copyright © 2022, All rights reserved.

1424 4th Ave Suite 430
Seattle, WA 98101