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Land & Housing

We Promote Equitable Security of Tenure for Everyone

Land is a foundation for dignity, for meeting basic needs, for economic survival and for social empowerment. It is a critical issue for women living in rural, peri-urban and urban areas. 

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Security of Tenure is Crucial for Women Facing Barriers to Overcoming Poverty

Securing land rights and access to natural resources is imperative to sustaining human dignity in impoverished and indigenous communities. Security of tenure is particularly crucial for women, who are often marginalized by development and land policies in practice. In rapidly-expanding urban areas, members of the Huairou Commission network have been displaced from their productive land and resettled in informally planned settlements lacking infrastructure. Without access to basic services, these communities face numerous hazards, from urban flooding and related diseases to insecure mobility for women in poorly-lit and ill-planned streets. Empowering grassroots women to take control of their land rights is a positive step in breaking this vicious cycle.

We Create Tenure Systems that Reflect Women's Experiences

Apart from gendered inequalities in land access, ownership and control, there is insufficient understanding of how women’s lived experiences affect the security of different forms of tenure. Reviews of tenure for women focus on the legality or level of formality of tenure systems, rather than on the political, social and economic barriers that women face. Yet, over a time period, sometimes lasting decades, grassroots women have succeeded in employing concrete strategies to navigate across cultural, economic and institutional terrain to finally secure tenure.

  • By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance.
    Sustainable Development Goal 1, Target 1.4
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We Focus on Ensuring Land Tenure Security for All Women Through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Research shows that security of tenure, including the right to own, use, control, transfer, inherit and make decisions about land and related resources, leads to increased agricultural productivity, improved nutrition, better living standards, economic opportunity and greater social status. The resounding effects of security of tenure, particularly for women, feature prominently in four Sustainable Development Goals: to end poverty (Goal 1), to achieve food security (Goal 2), to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls (Goal 5) and to make cities and regions inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (Goal 11). In tandem with these SDGs, the Huairou Commission’s network member approach to sustainable and inclusive development has generated four key policy recommendations for ensuring equal land tenure security for all (laid out in the Policy Brief “Women’s Security of Tenure Now and Beyond”).

We Work with Our Local Partners to Develop and Employ Tools that Foster Security of Tenure

The Huairou Commission partners with organizations to claim equal rights to land and home ownership. Among our partners is the Global Land Tool Network / UN-Habitat, a global alliance aimed at alleviating poverty through land reform and management. As part of the Global Land Tool Network’s Rural International Civil Society Organizations Cluster, the Huairou Commission has played significant roles in learning exchanges, including engendering the Social Tenure Domain Model, Gender Evaluation Criteria and Peer to Peer Exchanges.

Engendering the Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM): A Pilot in Zambia
The Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM) is software that generates management tools and accesses land information management systems for impoverished communities. In partnership with UN-Habitat/Global Land Tool Network, Huairou Commission and affiliate organizations — People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia (PPHPZ) / Zambia Homeless, Poor People’s Federation (ZHPPF) and Katuba Women’s Association (KWA) — have supported grassroots women to build on the existing STDM tool to better measure the social tenure relationships of women over land, housing and natural resources. Under this partnership, STDM was piloted in Mungule Chiefdom in Chibombo District, in collaboration with Chieftainess Mungule, Mungule Ward Council, Village Headmen and Women and local community members. STDM implementation has provided a platform where community members — particularly women and youths — are able to engage their leaders on land matters. The successes in Mungule Chiefdom have led to great demand for STDM implementation by headmen and women in other areas. Huairou Commission members PPHPZ and ZHPPF act as the main implementing and national partners of the project, and continue to provide technical support. Katuba Women’s Association functions as a supporting partner, bridging the gap between communities and important partners, particularly individuals in the Ministry of Lands, Surveyor General’s office, Ministry of Local Governments, Chibombo District Counsel and Planning Office. As the pilot program continues to advance, the partners work to document and share experiences from the Mungule Chiefdom program, and inform stakeholders involved in land policy development about how STDM supports the continuum of land rights. Partners also focus on expanding STDM implementation in other geographic areas by dialoguing with communities to familiarize them with STDM, while also collaborating with authorities on up-scaling STDM application for customary land administration. On a policy level, the partners work to ensure that information collected through the STDM program is integrated into policy documents, in order to build out effective legal frameworks to enhance tenure security.

Land Regularization with Gender Equality: Land Watch in Brazil
Brazil suffers from an acute shortage of affordable housing, resulting in many urban residents living in slum or informal settlements. To help meet the housing shortage, existing informal settlements on public land can be consolidated through a regularization process. This process allows for municipalities, with the participation of local residents and community associations, to prepare master plans to regularize each settlement. Espaço Feminista, an NGO under the umbrella of the GLTN partnership with Huairou, volunteered to coordinate a pilot project in Ponte do Maduro, a settlement in Recife that is home to 10,000 low-income families. The project tested the gender evaluation criteria and evaluated whether the city’s master plan was gender-responsive. Espaço Feminista knew that tenure insecurity in the settlement was a major concern for local women and that “it hung over them like a sword.” Espaço Feminista, working with local women and several male leaders in the community, focused on two crucial processes. First, the project organized workshops for local women to learn about public policies in relation to land and food security, safety, rights to the city, gender and race/ethnic relations, democratic participation, the area’s history and details about the master planning process. These workshops enabled women to articulate their needs and priorities to government officials and experts. Second, the project organized seminars and roundtables where women leaders could get information from officials and experts, and where they could express their needs, concerns and priorities. This process demonstrated that to benefit women, the regularization process had to have an explicit gender dimension. Dialogue with officials led the State of Pernambuco, where Recife is located, to recognize the leading role of women and the need to centrally position women in the regularization process in Ponte do Maduro, which started in October 2011.