In early 20th century, British novelist Virginia Woolf said in her book, A Room of One’s Own, that women will be empowered to do anything if they have the privacy of a room and financial independence in the form of a yearly allowance. Decades later, Woolf’s analysis of what makes a woman independent is still true.
Women of the 21st century don’t need a room or a yearly allowance anymore but to extend Woolf’s argument, they do need access to family property. Perhaps the modernist writer didn’t fathom a reality in which men and women would enjoy equal rights under inheritance laws. But even with these amendments, women rarely gain property in their father’s will.
According to an Oxfam study, 80 per cent of the workforce on farms is constituted by women but only 17 per cent own the land. In urban centres, women are often told that a lavish wedding and a hefty dowry is all the money the family will spend on them. In contrast, in Meghalaya, where a matrilineal society exists, women inherit lands and as a result, farm lands in the North East provide a fertile ground for rare medicinal herbs and crops resistant to climate change.
Giving women the power to manage and control land is empowering but beyond that, the very act recognises a woman as an individual. And this form the crux of a new campaign, #PropertyForHer, aimed at giving women property as part of their inheritance.
The campaign, started by an Indian couple, reaches out to everyone who has a daughter or recognises the importance of having empowered women in society. Arti Padey, who has started this campaign, asks people, “Without a strong support system, without financial security, how is a girl supposed to grow up to be fearless, strong, and independent?”
Pandey has pledged to leave behind property for her daughter so that she knows there’s financial freedom and a strong support system backing her. She urges people to pledge their property for daughters so that they can walk out of an abusive marriage and build a life for themselves in a new home.
In what can only be described as heart warming, many took to Twitter and pledged that they would give their daughters property. It’s not just land that women acquire as inheritance, its safety and freedom that they gain.