Land-Use Planning with a Gender Lens



This blog highlights the importance of land use planning and the subsequent role of women in the process. Highlighting the key areas where women can impact decision making, the blog will give concrete suggestions for incorporating women in future planning and regulation. It will also discuss notable characteristics which differentiate women in their decision making, which ultimately lead to different approaches in land-use planning. 

Research Questions 

  1. What is the importance of land use planning? 
  2. What can women contribute to the process of land use planning? 
  3. What are the factors which differentiate women in their decision-making? 
  4. What can be done to incorporate women in land use planning? 


The way societies use and plan space in which communities exist is crucial to creating a sustainable, vibrant, and healthy environment. The process not only impacts how institutions use their land, but it also helps them grow and develop over time. All too often, land use planning takes place without keeping in mind the considerations of all stakeholders. Women form an integral part of any human society. Their issues deserve special attention within mainstream planning practice. Women make up nearly half of Pakistan’s population, but they are disproportionately represented in land use planning and policy development. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the vital role of women in land-use planning and how their participation in policy formation and decision making will impact the future of land use.

The Importance of Land-Use Planning

Land-use planning is a crucial tool in the social and economic profiling of cities, including future size, structure, and population distribution. It serves as a long-term policy lever for agricultural and industrial development. Almost two-thirds of Pakistan’s population depends on agricultural activities for their livelihood. Out of the country’s 79.6m hectares, only 20m hectares are suitable for agriculture. Not paying attention to land use can pose a threat to food security in Pakistan. Improper planning of cities also leads to adverse impacts on agricultural landscape, forest cover, climate change, and rapid depletion of surface and groundwater bodies. (Rahmaan, 2016)

Why Consider Gender Parity in Land-Use Planning

The role of gender in land-use planning is becoming increasingly relevant. While the complex gender and land-use intersect may not be obvious, research has revealed that women’s participation in land-use planning is crucial for the sustainable development of future societies (Villamor et al., 2013). Women in their daily lives enter social relationships, which differ from those of men. In some cases, these experiences are either entirely unknown to the other gender or are not relevant to decision-making. This means that women will have significantly different perceptions and make other uses of the environment separate from their counterparts. Women are more likely to keep environmental and social factors in mind while making policy decisions. Hence, the compromised role of women in land-use planning may exclude the interests of significant social groups and give rise to environmental challenges (Berger, 2016).

As societies and economies moved from a rural subsistence base to an urban industrial core, women were increasingly excluded from planning and policy formation (Gazal, 2012). Areas like traditional zoning, housing, family structure, transportation, and safety require attention to specific women’s needs. Conventional forms of land use regulation constrain mobility, limit employment opportunities for women, reinforce outdated family structures as the norm, and provide inadequate support systems. Affordable housing and neighbourhood design that does not consider women’s safety is shortsighted. It is clear that gender affects women’s opportunities and choices, and planning plays a role in promoting greater equity (Micklow et al., 2015). 

According to Hofmeister et al. (2011), there is a vast separation between the production and the reproduction spheres and between public and private space. This separateness gives rise to hierarchical structures that represent a contradiction of the integration requirement inherent in the guiding principle of sustainable land development. Gender mainstreaming in land use planning and urban development approaches has immense potential for enhancing the quality of planning and reducing the level of land consumption. Thus, the gender perspective can be used in the development of effective land-use measures and policies. 

How to Incorporate Women in Land-Use Planning 

Many steps can be taken to incorporate women in the process of land-use planning. As a first step, it is vital to make provisions for women’s participation in land administration and dispute resolution bodies. The concept of gender mainstreaming has now become an integral part of achieving sustainability in spatial development. Women and men should have equal access to land control facilities to engage in equal opportunities for future planning. Women should also hold administrative positions in the agriculture sector. This will enable them to implement decisions and direct decision making towards a more gender-conscious approach. An effort should also be made to remove participation barriers as many workplace environments do not implement proper anti-harassment practices and offer little to no support for women employees during maternity. 

Considering factors like climate change in the planning phase is also vital as natural disasters and changing environmental conditions negatively impact agriculture and farming which in turn affects women significantly in the longer term. As women are mostly underrepresented in decision-making processes of rural areas, another critical aspect is to develop tools to encourage women’s involvement in village by-laws to support a more gender-friendly regulatory framework. This will not only provide a fresh perspective to rural land-use planning, but it will also make sure that matters of priority like food security and shelter, are catered to for future generations. Finally, organised one-to-one meetings with district council members and village leaders are particularly important to enhance women’s role in planning and decision-making (Berger, 2016). 


Pakistan needs gender parity in its land-use planning and management. The role of women cannot be discredited in this regard, owing to their interests at stake. The different approaches between men and women concerning problem-solving and decision-making make it necessary that our planning is inclusive of society’s aspects. Therefore, adding a gender lens to land-use planning not only allows for a better future in terms of food and national security, but it also forms the basis of land multifunctionality, the ultimate foundation for sustained growth and development. 

Key Findings

  1. Land-use planning as a key tool to meet evolving challenges in the social and economic development of societies
  2. Inattention to proper land-use practices can lead to a crisis of food security in Pakistan.
  3. Women are more likely to keep environmental and social factors in mind while making policy decisions. Hence, the exclusion of women from land-use planning may negatively impact the interests of disadvantaged social groups and give rise to environmental challenges. 
  4. A more gender-friendly regulatory framework is key to implementing changes in land-use planning processes. 
  5. Gender mainstreaming in land use planning has immense potential for enhancing the quality of planning and reducing the level of land consumption.
  6. The different approaches between men and women concerning problem-solving and decision-making make participative and inclusive land-use planning necessary.  


Berger, T. (2016, March 24). Enhancing women’s role in land management decisions. International Institute for Environment and Development. Retrieved November 4, 2020, from

Gazal, M. (2012, April). Women’s needs and land use planning: The case of Tulkarm Palestine. BIRZEIT UNIVERSITY, 43-48.

Hofmeister, M. E. (2011). Gender mainstreaming and participative planning for sustainable land management. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 54(10), 1315–1329.

Micklow, A., Kancilia, E., & Warner, M. (2015, November). Planning with a Gender Lens. The Need to Plan for Women (2015), 6-11.

Rahmaan, D. A. u. (2016, Jan 25). Land-use planning a disregarded sector. Dawn.

Villamor, G. B., Noordwjick, M. V., Djanibekov, U., Chiong-Javier, M. E., & Catacutan, D. (2013, December 14). Gender Differences in Land-use Decisions: Shaping Multifunctional Landscapes. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 6(February 2014), 128-133.


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