Premlata Bhatta, who is a central member of National Village Block Land Right Forum, looks sad as she tells the story of how land certificates came too late in her village. Like many other poor villagers in southern Nepal, Premlata and her family reside in a village which is registered as one single block, which means they do not have individual ownership.
“One of our friend’s wife was very sick," explains Premlata.
"He didn’t have any money and went to a bank to get a loan but he could not as he didn’t have the ownership certificate for the land. The village block should be measured and such issues should be raised”.
But lately the future of such villages has started to look a little brighter.
Thanks to intense village mobilisation and national level advocacy with CA-members and politicians, ActionAid partner KIDC has managed to start a land survey in 10 villages in Kapilvastu.
"Our organisation Gautam Buddha (one of the NGOs of KIDC) requested that our land was measured and now the village is scaled and separated nicely”, says Mina Kewat, from Tilaurakot, Kapilvastu.
“Now that we are able to obtain land certificates we can take out loans and carry out activities. That makes us very happy”, says Jaya Ram Kewat a senior villager from the same village.
Health, income generation opportunities and village unity are some of the blessings of diverting village blocks into individual plots together with the possibility to take loans out for education of children. But to get to this stage one important factor has had to be overcome, which is the need for citizenship certificates.
Without this certificate, a person cannot get his or her land registered and in rural Nepal - women especially often lack this important document. The certificate can be obtained from the age of 16 and women, who do not register before they marry, need their husband’s signature to obtain the certificate.
“In our village at least five women did not have a citizenship certificate, but we got it for them and now they are also registered and ready to receive land”, says Jaya Ram, whose wife only is signed up for the family’s land certificate.
“If something happens to me my wife will have no problems."
In this way the need for village block land certificates has become the opportunity for women to gain equal rights to property.
This right may increase the status of females in the family, both before and after marriage.
“When a daughter is born, the community treats you very badly. When you get married, your family need to give dowry. If not, you get beaten or even killed. This is why we believe both the son and the daughter should have equal right to their father’s property," says Premlatta Bhatta.
Ten villages is a start and as such a victory for KIDC and the entire land rights movement, but time has not come for KIDC to sit back and enjoy their achievements.
“We were promised four survey teams and got only one, so we need to pressure the government again to make them implement their promises”, says Nirajan Lamsal, programme coordinator of KIDC.