FIG Task Force on Under-Represented Groups in Surveying




Reflections to increase the Participation of Women in Surveying Studies
by Gabriele Dasse, Germany

Personalities: Gerda Schennach

Women’s Access to Land - Experiences from Land Administration Projects 
by Agneta Ericsson, Sweden

Reflections to increase the Participation of Women
in Surveying Studies

by Gabriele Dasse, Germany

The situation in general education for women in Germany is good. There are more women than men with a high school diploma legitimating the study at universities or at universities of applied science. For the last years the number of women in surveying studies has be increased, but it is still alarming low, specially the scientific personnel staff. In 1995 the percentage of female students, who made a diploma was 22 % at universities and 36 % at universities of applied science.

The 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); stated the following concerning science education and participation in science:

2.4 Science education

41. Governments should accord highest priority to improving science education at all levels, with particular attention to the elimination of the effects of gender bias and bias against disadvantaged groups, raising public awareness of science and fostering its popularization. Steps need to be taken to promote the professional development of teachers and educators in the face of change and special efforts should be made to address the lack of appropriately prepared science teachers and educators, in particular in developing countries.
43. New curricula, teaching methodologies and resources, taking into account gender and cultural diversity, should be developed by national education systems in response to changing educational needs of societies. Research in science and technology education needs to be furthered nationally and internationally through the establishment and networking of specialized centres around the world, with the cooperation of UNESCO and other relevant international organizations.

3.3 Widening participation in science

78. Government agencies, international organizations and universities and research institutions should ensure the full participation of women in the planning, orientation, conduct and assessment of research activities. It is necessary that women participate actively in shaping the agenda for the future direction of scientific research.

79. The full participation of disadvantaged groups in all aspects of research activities, including the development of policy, also needs to be ensured.

80. All countries should contribute to the collection of reliable data, in an internationally standardized manner, for the generation of gender-disaggregated statistics on S&T, in cooperation with UNESCO and other relevant international organizations.

81. Governments and educational institutions should identify and eliminate, from the early learning stages on, educational practices that have a discriminatory effect, so as to increase the successful participation in science of individuals from all sectors of society, including disadvantaged groups.

82. Every effort should be made to eliminate open or covert discriminatory practices in research activities. More flexible and permeable structures should be set up to facilitate the access of young scientists to careers in science. Measures aimed at attaining social equity in all scientific and technological activities, including working conditions, should be designed, implemented and monitored.

During the national Congress INTERGEO in Wiesbaden two years ago the Working Group "Women in Surveying" of the German Association DVW distributed a questionnaire concerning the situation at Universities.

Women were asked
"Which Changes do we need, to attract more Women to study Surveying?"

83 questionnaires were completed. The results were as follows:


Gerda Schennach was born in 1956 and her interest for natural sciences as well as her mainly technically minded family might have influenced her to take up an education as surveyor.

After graduation at a commercial college she started to study Geodesy first at the Technical University Innsbruck and after two years at the Technical University of Vienna where she graduated in 1980.

During her study she worked as a part-time assistant at the Institute for Mathematical Analysis of the TU Vienna.

The decision about the further professional proceeding had to be made between staying at university for a scientific career and starting a career in public administration. As the location of the job in public administration was in her home town she entered on this way - although one of the decision-makers in this institution "could not imagine that a woman is able to run a cadastral office and I shall try to prevent this". He did not succeed and exactly this person became her strongest sponsor after a short time.

In 1983 Mrs. Schennach was appointed head of a cadastral office in the Austrian Federal Office for Surveying and Metrology (BEV) - at that time the youngest head of office ever before and the first woman in Austria doing this job.

6 years in this office with male staff with a really wonderful team-work were followed-up by 8 years heading another cadastral office near to her husband's working location. It started again with a very good male team and after few years a female apprentice was engaged and the young cleaning-lady was given the opportunity for a technical re-training program - very unusual at that time but already accepted by management, works committee and colleagues.

Since 1998 Mrs. Schennach is responsible for international affairs and participation in professional organizations in the headquarter of the Federal Office of Metrology and Surveying (BEV).

Soon after Mrs. Schennach started her job in the cadastral area of BEV some activities in professional associations occurred: She has been member of the Working-Group for women’s equal rights in the Austrian ministry of trade and commerce since 1984, contributing with empirical facts from working in male teams and with male clients and giving support to other women by making the running for incoming women. Things have changed a lot and the Working Group is focusing now more on social items and personal rather than on gender issues. The participation in FIG "Women in Surveying" allows an exchange of information on an international level.

Membership in the Austrian Society for Surveying and Geoinformation (ÖVG) and in the German Society for Surveying (DVW) combined to the professional work on cadastre within BEV gave the right background for the function as secretary of FIG Commission 3 from 1990-1994 and since 1994 as Austrian Delegate to FIG Commission 7 and in Working Group "Cadastre 2014" as chairperson of a task-force on „Framework for the determination of progress and effectivity of cadastral reforms".

Mrs. Schennach has been elected member of the executive board of ÖVG in 1998.

Since 1998 Mrs. Schennach acts as Secretary General of the Comité de Liaison des Géomètres Européens - European Council of Geodetic Surveyors (CLGE) mainly on professional issues of private and public geodetic surveyors.

First steps in her work in the headquarter of BEV were made to establish an Austrian umbrella organization for Geographical Information (AGEO). This multi-interest group was founded in 1998 and Mrs. Schennach was elected Secretary-General in the foundation meeting and works with EUROGI as an observer in this function.

Working in a technical profession has always been amazing for Mrs. Schennach for it means working for the future and looking ahead. She does not consider surveying to be a male profession and wants to encourage girls to obtain a technical education and to contribute to the development of the profession by emphasizing female accents.

Women’s Access to Land
- Experiences from Land Administration Projects 

by Agneta Ericsson, Sweden


Women´s access to land is a sensitive and huge topic to discuss. The situation differs from one country to another and this article does not lay claim on to be based upon scientific methodology. It is only to be seen as observations based upon literature studies as well as own experiences. The paper shows examples and quotations from some African and Asian countries to highlight the situations and problems in the context of women’s access to land and closely related issues.

The first observation made is that especially Female Headed Families are vulnerable in the context of land and access to land. The next observation is that the number of these families is continuously increasing, especially in so called informal settlements. The third observation is that there seems to be a serious difference between the views of women and those of men. Interviews among poor people in an urban area in Lusaka illustrates this observation:

"Women certainly regard themselves as major persons, while men want to see married women as dependants in their custody;

Women claim joint ownership, while men see themselves as sole owners of matrimonial property;

Women want pooled incomes and joint control, while men claim control and ownership over not only their own but also their wives incomes.

Experiences from Land Administration Projects with a Gender Component


The Vietnam-Sweden Cooperation Programme on Land Administration Reform, carried out by General Department of Land Administration (GDLA) together with Swedesurvey, supported by Sida, includes a major component of gender awareness. The program includes 6 sub projects, namely legislation, cadastral mapping, land use planning and mapping, land valuation, LIS and program management. Each sub project is responsible to contribute in one way or another to improve the gender situation in the Land Administration Branch in Vietnam. From the starting point, the GDLA staff was not aware of the fact that there were any problems of this kind in Vietnam and the gender issues were not taken into account as a real problem. Throughout the project these issues have been highlighted in different aspect, and the gender awareness is increasing among the Vietnamese staff as well as the Swedish technicians. E.g. the legislation project has realised that the knowledge about the new land law is low among common people. Information campaigns are therefore planned. The LIS project is designing a system so that it can provide statistics about gender etc.

One study, "A study among Female Headed Households and Land Tenure" , VIE 99/1-5, Ms. Nguyen Nhat Tuyen, concerns ethnic minority women in the mountain areas. Some recommendations, among others, are:

  • To change gradually the attitudes of men vs women’s status, a wide dissemination is needed amongst the population about the rights and responsibilities of both men and women to make them aware about their possibilities to become a changing agent in the process of the implementation of the land law. In the short term the staff of the land administration branch are the pioneers in working with the population to make them understand the objectives and the process of LUCs. To achieve progress some short training courses should be designed for the special needs of approaching low educational levels living in isolation in mountainous high land areas. The courses should also target the ethnic minority staff to work at the grass-root levels. Gender issues are recommended to be included in the curriculum.

  • To raise awareness among men and women (especially targeting the young, school children) about gender equity in appropriate environment, such as in school, WU meeting, peasants meetings, during festivities and market activities where there is a big audience. The meeting organized by the WU at local level was found in many other places as a good measure to make information reach women. This type of meetings can also include other topics for women to discuss about their concerns and help them to build the solidarity, self-esteem and confidence. To attract women to attend the meetings it is good to have some economic/health activities integrated in the programme. The law can be included in these meetings, but the use of difficult terms has to be avoided and rather give cases to discuss and find the problem and solution by the women participants. The venue and the timing of the meeting have to be acceptable by the majority of the target participants and not constrain the traditions.

  • The land administration office has to be aware of the risk of exclusion of one group of women from the right they have according to the law. To ensure the gender equity is to ensure the right to have access and control over the land that can support the living in the special group of FHHs.

  • The land administration branch continues the work started by a working group on ethnic minority issues and besides assigns staff to up-date the information and progress of the work. This work has to be done in cooperation with researchers, social scientists and women’s studies experts to give a broad picture of the population that may be affected while implementing the law. This data and research findings would enable the policy makers to adjust the policy for the benefits of the whole population.

  • The land administration office has to produce under law documents to give guidance for implementation of the law.


In Egypt a Gender Study is conducted within the Egyptian-German Cadaster Project – EGCP –  "Promotion of the cadaster". From this study following findings are found:

The proportion of female landowners in one of the project areas was quite high, 36 % but the management of land and land use of its outputs rests with the male of the household. Female land owners only marginally participate in ownership investigations because they are not accustomed to dealing with formal procedures. In case of the husband’s death, the widow has a guardian who looks after the land affairs. A woman who inherits land from her father is more or less expected to hand over the land to her brothers (the share of a female is one half of the share of the male when both have the same relationship to the deceased). Female illiteracy in Aswan Governorate is 65 % 1992 compared to men 50 %. The female-headed households are estimated to be 17-20 %.

The project included a study of the gender situation among the staff within the Egyptian General Survey Authority (ESA). Only 2 % of women in ESA did not have formal education against 41 % of males who are illiterate. In spite of relative high qualifications, women have less remunerated positions.

Findings within the project, among others, were:

  • To appoint female staff to assist with the development of material and messages which specifically address to female target groups;

  • That selected female employees be trained to assist in the informational campaigns to address female land owners;

  • The government institutions have successfully used village women leaders to spread messages. With some training on cadastral technical training procedures and legal aspects of land registration they could become efficient intermediaries between ESA and local women


Sida has supported a long term program in Mapoto with Mozambique’s National Surveying and Mapping Department, (DINAGECA). The program includes one identification and adjudication process. The customary laws are very influential in Mozambique and the project took place in an patrilineal system area where women only have access to the husband´s family land. In order to speed up the identification process, the local administrative structure together with DINAGECA decided that, in absence of men, the women should be the title applicants, as they were the ones to work in the field. Therefore, some of the titles were given to women, despite prevailing customs in the area. An evaluation team, appointed by Sida, Sida 97/15, exposed that the women did not understand what it meant to hold a title. Therefore, in reality, women did not assume the role of titleholder. The conclusion is that the title will not give them control of the means of production unless they accept this control and that they are prepared to deal with the potential conflict with their husbands.

About Statistics

Below are some gender statistics aggregated

  • Even though females comprise more than 50 % of the world´s population, they only own 1 % of the worlds wealth.

  • It is estimated that 70 to 80 % of refugees world wide are women and children.

  • According to statistics of the population census in Vietnam in 1989, female headed households make up a total of 27 % of all households in Vietnam.

  • According to the 1990 Population and Housing Census in Uganda, 45% of the female population have never been to school.

  • Female literacy rates are low: 20 to 50 percent of males level.

There is a general lack of information about women’s situation. It is therefore important to promote systems that can provide gender sensitive systems. This should be considered when e.g. LIS systems are created.

What Initiatives are necessary ?

To be able to improve women’s situation regarding access to land, it is necessary to get an insight about the problems, not only in developing countries, but all over the world. We all have a responsibility to stress these issues. It has to do with what kind of world we would like our children and grand children to take over (we might have daughters or daughter-daughters and they may become widows or even get divorced!). It has to do with attitudes, knowledge and power. We all have to take every opportunity to stress these issues. We need to start from the moment a child is born. We need to teach our children that all people have equal rights. This has to continue in school.

Not only developing countries disfavour women. The societies in Western countries are certainly not equal societies and market driven economies are probably less gender sensitive than communistic states. Let me give you an example from Vietnam. During the communistic era, the constitution gave men and women equal rights. During the Vietnam War in 1970ies, women had to take over from men regarding labour, politics etc. Therefore, women have been quite visible in all activates in the society. Unfortunately, this trend is regressing, probably due to an emerging market economy and the old feudal structure is taking over again.

I am sure that we all understand why everybody should have a fair chance to have a place to stay in, earn their own living without being dependent in an other person’s goodwill. The problem is to gain insight and knowing what to do.

This article is an extract from a paper presented during the International Conference on Land Tenure and Cadastral Infrastructures for Sustainable Development in Melbourne 24 – 27 October 1999 
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If you are interested to support the activities of this very important Task Force Group "Women’s Access to Land" please contact:
Agneta Ericsson
Bygransvagen 6 D
S-806 49 GAVLE

Editor: Chair of the Task Force on Under-represented Groups in Surveying
Ms. Gabriele Dasse, Kleinfeld 22a, D-21149 Hamburg, Germany
Fax + 49 40 428 265 265 
Tel. + 49 40 428 265 250
web site:

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