Huairou Commission: Grassroots Women’s Land and Property Rights


Amy Walker
Erica Reade
Justine MacWilliam
Ellen Guevera
Nipin Gangadharan

Huairou Commission

The PIA Consultants will serve as a resource team on two levels. First, they will directly support grassroots women’s campaigns to secure land and property rights underway in countries located in Eastern, Western and Southern Africa. Second, they will support the incorporation of grassroots women’s experiences, critiques and perspectives into international policy level dialogues taking place at the United Nations in New York City this Spring.

Supporting grassroots women’s campaigns to secure land and property rights:

The PIA consultants initially will focus on analyzing the findings from a Grassroots Women’s International Land Academy being held in Kampala, Uganda from February 4th-8th. Grassroots leaders from twelve African countries will describe and exchange their innovative strategies for promoting women’s access to and control over land, housing, and inheritance and collectively discuss and analyze the gains they have made and the challenges that remain. With facilitated support, the group will debate and finalize advocacy messages that reflect their shared priorities and their desire to engage a range of target audiences (NGOs, donors, government and policy bodies).

Reading and discussing these findings with Huairou staff and PIA mentors, the PIA consultant team will:

  • Analyze the findings to help Women’s Land Link Africa (WLLA) identify what is actually working on the ground – including organizing, legal frameworks and watchdog groups.
  • Assist WLLA to make recommendations about practices and strategies that should be taken to scale, and to create an advocacy agenda based on these recommendations.
  • Prepare a Report from the Grassroots Land Academy presenting these findings, analysis and recommendations.
  • Based on this analysis, PIA team members will work closely with selected WLLA partner organizations to support the emerging advocacy agenda, including:
  • Designing campaign materials, tailored to specific groups, based on effective advocacy strategies and messages. The design of these materials would be worked out with the selected organization but might include brochures (see examples on the GPIA website), web pages or media/local government outreach packets.
  • Offering recommendations about how best to evaluate the impact of these materials. WLLA partner organizations will then pilot these materials on the ground in Africa and globally.

Promoting Grassroots Women’s Perspectives in two United Nations Networking and Policy Sessions:

A significant number of grassroots women leaders and NGO activists working globally to advance women’s land, housing, and associated legal rights will be hosted by the Huairou Commission in NYC during two major upcoming United Nations conferences: the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) (February 25 – March 7, 2008) and the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) (May 5 – 16, 2008). During these two exciting week-long global consultations, the PIA team will be actively involved working to support and interview visiting global experts and leaders – scholars as well as practitioners – and will track emerging policy and advocacy debates and dialogues and map the key influential institutions, governments and donor agencies (bi, multi lateral, and not for profit) working on or relevant to these issues.

At the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meeting, focused on financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment, the Huairou Commission will support 3 expert workshops and dialogues examining how African women are working to secure their land rights and the legal frameworks available to them; how grassroots women-including those responding to the HIV/AIDS pandemic-are financing development and community caregiving initiatives through their collective labor and donated materials, and will lead an expert focus group on Sha’aria Law and Gender. A distinct, but related workshop program will take place at the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) meeting in May.

During these events the PIA team will:

  • Document the proceedings of the official panels and strategic internal discussions (based on needs of clients, written, visual and electronic options are possible),
  • Interview relevant experts and grassroots practitioners to document their practices and perspectives (again, written, visual and electronic options are possible),
  • Revise policy briefs based on interviews with global experts,
  • Assess the effectiveness of the advocacy messages carried by the HC/WLLA team and suggest ways to strengthen their impact.
  • Finally, submit all of these as a final written report to the client and as background material for the next issue of SEEDS on women, land and property rights due to be published in Dec 2008 (the PIA Team will be cited for this work in the credits).

The SEEDS PIA may also sponsor an experts’ panel on women’s land and property rights at the GPIA in conjunction with one of these events. In this case, the PIA team would serve as lead organizers and documentors.

Expectations, Support and Opportunities:

This project will require an understanding of the conceptual and institutional strategies for strengthening the livelihoods of poor people (and women in particular), and will examine efforts to increase women’s access to capital and productive resources (housing, land, technology, etc). Initially, the PIA Team will undertake an assessment of the literature on gender and economic empowerment through the lens of assets and land and property rights using a systematic review methodology. Systematic review and analysis of findings from the African Grassroots Land Academy, and design of advocacy materials will follow. The PIA consultants will quickly move on to face-to-face interviews/research and hands-on documentation with expert practitioners and global scholars. The expectation is that the PIA Team will produce high quality outputs of immediate and long- term value to grassroots and NGO activists organizing locally, regionally and globally for women’s land, property and inheritance rights.

In addition to ongoing expert guidance supplied by the Huairou Commission, this SEEDS PIA will be well supported and mentored by the GPIA SEEDS Coordinator, Katy Taylor and Birte Scholz, Esq., SEEDS Expert Advisor, formerly with the Geneva-based Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)2 and author of the next issue of SEEDS on African women organizing for land, homes and property rights. In addition, students may have an opportunity to compete for a SEEDS research grant to support the production of this pamphlet (see Fellowship description below).