FIG Task Force on Under-Represented Groups in Surveying




Women’s Access to Land - a Task Force Group of FIG Commission 7
by Agneta Ericsson, Sweden

Personalities: Chryssy Alex. Potsiou

The World Conference on Science

Women’s Access to Land - a Task Force Group of FIG Commission 7

by Agneta Ericsson, Sweden

In Brighton in 1998, Commission 7 of the FIG, formally established a Working Group on Access to Land, see enclosed Terms of Reference. Within this working group, a special Task Force Group will study and promote Women’s Access to Land, with emphasis on women’s situation in developing countries.


Women are often treated differently than men regarding land, maybe not in legislation but rather by cultural and religious traditions. Yet a quarter of the households at the international level are run by women. This figure varies from country to country but may in some countries come close to 50 % (Women and land development, Abidjan-1995). Furthermore, as customary relationships change through, for example, increasing urbanization and economic necessity, there is a growing need to examine how women participate in land matters.

Households are never homogeneous entities and neither are families. Women and men usually have different functions within the family as well as outside of it. This implies that men may receive different information, opportunities and status than women. In general, attitudes and traditions guide female behaviour to not be involved in issues regarding landrights, even if women are the primary users of the land. Taken together, these factors give rise to different degrees of ownership, management, and control of land.

Women's dilemmas in the third world are closely connected to poor economies, informal settlements, large families, and long working days. These leave no time for participation in land management matters, especially if this implies a long trip to a distant authority. Lack of information and illiteracy are other factors. The consequences can be low social status, isolation and lack of participation in decision-making processes.

An international workshop on women´s access to land was organized in Gävle, Sweden in October 1995, as a part of the preparations for the Habitat II congress. Women from all over the world participated. The purpose of the workshop was to gather together a number of experts from different parts of the world in order to discuss and identify two fundamental questions "What are women's legal rights to land and settlement today?" and "What are the obstacles or mechanisms behind the fact that women have less control and management over land use than men?" The workshop resulted in a list of recommendations to ensure that women have the same rights to land as men. At the UN Habitat II Congress World Congress in Istanbul 1996, the need of security of tenure for women was highlighted.

Informal settlements

Women-headed households represent a significant proportion of women living in informal settlements. Most often women are marginally, rejected by traditional structures and with no socio-economic status, which permit them to integrate in the formal and legal structures of society. This category of people have the tendency to be very mobile, which neither favours regularisation nor consolidation of the living environment. Women living in informal settlements do not have a well defined social status. They find themselves locked in a vicious circle: they live in informal settlements because they are marginalised; they are further marginalised because they live in informal settlements". (Abidjan Interregional Seminar,-95)

Land Surveyors and Women’s Access to Land

Land surveyors play an important role in the management of land, especially in supporting the allocation and transfer of rights to land. Their activities include landadjudication, establishing cadastral and land registration system, as well as land use planning. They can also be engaged in elaborating and amending land laws and regulations etc..

When performing these assignments, land surveyors can play a crucial role in protecting women’s rights and to ensure that women can actively participate in the different processes. The following examples shows how women’s access to land, in different ways, may be improved:

  1. When allocating land, the land title can be issued in the names of both husband and wife,
  2. When developing cadastral systems, the system should be able to accommodate a common or joint title,
  3. In the land use planning process, both men and women should be engaged,
  4. Decentralising the Land Register may make it easier for women to apply for a title.
Objectives of the Task Force

The objectives of the Task Force Group are to advise land surveyors and make recommendations on how they can contribute in improving women’s situation regarding access to land and security of tenure. Another objective is to elaborate a FIG guideline on Women’s Access to Land and Security of Tenure.


To be able to contribute in improving women’s situation regarding access to land and security of tenure, one must first of all acknowledge the problems. The working methodology is therefore to highlight and describe different problems regarding women’s access to land and security of tenure in different countries and cultures so that land surveyors can be more aware of women’s situation in this context. This will be done by studying existing literature, good examples, country statistics and by accomplishing seminars in several developing countries. Furthermore, ideas and practical advice will be elaborated on how surveyors can contribute in this context. The point of departure is the conclusions and recommendations from the Habitat Seminar "Women’s Access to Land and Security of Tenure".


The studies and recommendations will concentrate on developing countries and especially informal settlements in urban areas.

Financing and Support

It is a huge task to carry out required studies in this field. Therefore special funding must be available. Potential financial resources may be found in different donor organisations. The Task Force Group will investigate the different possibilities.

The Habitat Centre in Nairobi supports the Task force group with advice and advertisement in their newsletters etc.

Time Schedule and Activities of the Task Force Group
  • Elaborate Terms of Reference
Autumn 1998
  • Seminar in New Zealand
Autumn 1999
  • On Womens Access to Land
    Elaborate the Guidelines 
Autumn 1999-2001
  • Issue the Guidelines
Autumn 2001
  • Presentation of the Outcome of the Task force group 
Congress 2002
  • Chair person Agneta Ericsson; Sweden
  • Members Sue Nichols; Canada
  • A.J. van den Berg; South Africa
  • Sam Zhen; Zimbabwe
  • Bill Robertson; New Zealand
  • Ian Williamsson; Australia
  • Krystyna Czarnecka; Poland

If you are interested to be a member of this very important Task Force Group "Women's Access to Land" or if you like to support the activities please contact:

Agneta Ericsson
Bygransvägen 6 D
S-806 49 Gävle


Chryssy Alex. Potsiou graduated from the Department for Rural & Surveying Engineering, National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) in 1982, and was awarded with the Technical Chamber of Greece (TCG) scholarship for her academic performance. She has received a four-year scholarship from the NTUA to carryout doctoral studies in the fields of Photogrammetry and Cadastre. The title of her Ph.D. thesis was "Digital Cartographic Data for the Hellenic Cadastre". During her graduate studies she has worked as teaching assistant in all classes offered by the NTUA in the fields of Photogrammetry, Cadastre, and Cartography.

Also, during that period, she was elected as the graduate student representative at the General Assembly of the Department of Rural and Surveying Engineering. In addition, she has contributed to committees related to the development of graduate programs of that department. After the completion of her doctoral studies, she has been employed as teaching – research scientist at the Lab of Photogrammetry, NTUA. At the same time, she has been working as a consultant in several research projects in the domains of aerial photography of archaeological sites, cadastre, architectural photogrammetry, detailed photogrammetric restitutions of complicated monuments, digital photogrammetric documentation of castles, cartography and urban planning and GIS.

She was a member of the organizing committees of two scientific meetings organized by the NTUA on the Hellenic Cadastre (HC), the International Meeting of Commission VI of ISPRS for Educational and Financial matters (Rhodes, 1990), the International Symposium of CIPA (Delphi, 1991) and the International Meeting for the HC organized by HEMCO and FIG Com 7 (Athens, 1996).

In her professional career, Chryssy Potsiou has attended the FIG, ISPRS and C.I.P.A. (for Architectural Photogrammetry) meetings since 1982, presented and published about 30 papers in various meetings and journals, given lectures about GIS, Photogrammetry and Cadastre at the NTUA, the TCG, and the Technical Chamber of Cyprus, been elected as a member of the Council of the Hellenic Society for Photogrammetry and RS for the period 1992-2000, been Chair of FIG WG 3.1 "Spatial Information Management- Technical aspects" since 1998, and head of the TCG committee, that submitted the bid, in Sun City, for hosting the FIG General Assembly in Athens in the year 2004 and been working as an advisor for educational issues at the KTIMATOLOGIO S.A., agency responsible for the implementation of the Hellenic Cadastre, since 1998.

The World Conference on Science

In adopting the Declaration and the Science Agenda after substantial revision by all participants, the Budapest Conference from 26 June to 1 July 1999 established a basis for the alliance between science and society for the coming century, and defined guidelines to orient the action of the different partners involved. The conference participants have committed themselves to these principles and actions, and UNESCO and ICSU will actively promote their implementation.

Dr. Andre Jaegle, retired Senior Engineer from the French National Cartography Institute -IGN-, and one of the representatives of the NGOs /UNESCO Liaison Committee at the Conference: "The need to fight present inequalities was one of the most visible issues in Budapest. The Collective NGO-UNESCO Consultation had in fact contributed to this visibility by publishing the Manifesto "Women and Science".

In few words, one can say that one of the most interesting results of the Budapest Conference is that defined by article 90 of the "Science Agenda - Framework for Action": This article demands the full participation of women and girls in all aspects of science and technology."

Science Agenda

We, participants in the World Conference on Science for the Twenty-First Century: A New Commitment, assembled in Budapest, Hungary, from 26 June to 1 July 1999 under the aegis of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Council for Science (ICSU); state the following:

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90. Taking into account the outcome of the six regional forums on women and science sponsored by UNESCO, the Conference stresses that special efforts should be made by governments, educational institutions, scientific communities, non-governmental organizations and civil society, with support from bilateral and international agencies, to ensure the full participation of women and girls in all aspects of science and technology, and to this effect to:

  • promote within the education system the access of girls and women to scientific education at all levels;

  • improve conditions for recruitment, retention and advancement in all fields of research;

  • launch, in collaboration with UNESCO and UNIFEM, national, regional and global campaigns to raise awareness of the contribution of women to science and technology, in order to overcome existing gender stereotypes among scientists, policy-makers and the community at large;

  • undertake research, supported by collection and analysis of gender-disaggregated data, documenting constraints and progress in expanding the role of women in science and technology;

  • monitor the implementation and document best practices and lessons learned through impact assessment and evaluations;

  • ensure an appropriate representation of women in national, regional and international policy and decision-making bodies and forums;

  • establish an international network of women scientists;

  • continue to document the contributions of women in science and technology.

To sustain these initiatives governments should create appropriate mechanisms, where these do not yet exist, to propose and monitor introduction of the necessary policy changes in support of the attainment of these goals.

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You will find more information with the UNESCO Web Site:

Editor: Chair of the Task Force on Under-represented Groups in Surveying
Ms. Gabriele Dasse, Kleinfeld 22a, D-21149 Hamburg, Germany
Fax + 49 40 2375 5965
Tel. + 49 40 2375 5250,
web site:

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