With so many challenges confronting humanity – from the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis to threats to global democracies and civil liberties and growing inequalities around the world – it is easy to imagine that the momentum to advance women’s secure rights to housing, land and property, could slow down to a crawl.
This would be a mistake. Although it might not be obvious at first glance, secure, equitable rights to land for women are central to building more resilient, disaster-prepared societies. That is because secure rights better insulate women and their families from the often devastating gendered-impacts unleashed when natural disasters, global health crises and conflict strike. Without secure, equitable land rights, women are at increased risk of gender-based violence, of losing the land on which they grow their crops and raise their children, at risk of losing their livelihoods and at risk of losing their human dignity.
To put a finer point on it, addressing women’s secure rights to land is an essential ingredient to comprehensive COVID-19 response and recovery strategies in many countries around the world. They are also vital to maximizing lasting progress on several thematic goals of the Beijing +25 five-year action plans to advance global gender equality that are currently under development.
In short, Stand For Her Land’s mission to advance secure land rights for women mattered before COVID-19, they matter in the context of the pandemic and they will continue to matter once this crisis has passed. The pandemic has shined a harsh light on the deep and debilitating cracks – including gender inequalities, inequities and discrimination that lead to weak land rights for women – in the foundations on which our societies stand. This exposure gives civil society the opportunity to call for concrete action to mend the fissures that prevent women from exercising secure rights to housing, land and property.
So, what have we been up to?
In order to deepen our impact, we have been investing time and energy into broadening and strengthening the global Stand For Her Land network. We are honored and extremely excited to welcome two outstanding organizations onto the global S4HL steering committee, and into the Stand For Her Land community: the International Land Coalition and the Rights and Resource Initiative. Each brings rich, varied expertise and perspective with their diverse networks of civil society, grassroots and rights-based advocates and organizations that will help drive the S4HL mission and empower the campaign to confront the global challenges the world is facing.
Stand For Her Land Tanzania continues to coordinate efforts to close the gap between law and practice in the country. Among other activities, they are busy planning the country’s first ever national conference on women’s land rights, to be held in March 2021, marking International Women’s Day. Their vision is to support caravans of grassroots women from around the country to travel to the capital for a dialogue with government leaders on challenges and solutions to turning laws that protect their land rights into action on the ground. This month, we’ve also launched a Global Giving campaign, to support S4HL Tanzania to empower women to successfully exercise their land rights in the country.
A leading action item on our priority list is building civil society-driven Stand For Her Land campaigns beyond Tanzania. We are exploring civil society partnerships to get campaigns up and running in several countries, including Colombia, India, Nigeria and Senegal, and are working to boost emerging campaigns in Kenya and Uganda.
Furthermore, drawing on Stand For Her Land’s expanding network and membership base, we are developing strategies and action plans of our own to promote the integration of secure housing, land and property rights for women into COVID-19 response and recovery plans, and into Beijing +25 efforts to accelerate progress on gender equality over the next five years.
We still have a lot of work to do to expand Stand For Her Land’s footprint, and to raise our collective voice loud enough to bring down the barriers that stand between millions of women and their land rights across the globe. Together, I am confident we will get there over the next decade. We hope you will join us in this effort. Please reach out to me directly with any ideas, suggestions or questions about how you can join our growing movement, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Abrahamson, Head of the S4HL Secretariat