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Grassroots Women Organizing to Secure Key Assets Jan Peterson, Chair of the Huairou Commission
Why land matters for women • Land is a vital asset for ensuring women’s security and empowerment. Just ensuring employment is not enough. • Grassroots women are finding effective ways to secure control over land, housing and basic services
The gendered asset gap is nothing new We are calling for new forms of partnerships and resource allocations so that organized groups of poor women can build a collective action platform to exert effective control over land, housing, property and other productive assets.
Grassroots centered networks are shifting power-relations and helping grassroots women to secure land • Slum/Shackdwellers International works on securing housing and land rights by creating mass organizing, based on changing how knowledge is produced and who owns and controls that knowledge • The Huairou Commission • GROOTS International • Streetnet
Key elements of our approach • Casting women in the role of partners • Mobilizing community based organizations • Putting information in the hands of women. • Creating safe spaces for women and children • Making institutions responsive and accountable to communities. • Restoring, diversifying and upgrading livelihoods to collective enterprise • Transferring innovations through peer exchange
AIDS - Disaster - Governance - Land Huairou Commission • Women’s groups engage in negotiations with decision-makers local to global to ensure their priorities are included in planning, policy-making and resource allocation Campaigns are based in women’s on the ground collective organizing
An entry point to engage partners: Land Mapping • Land and property rights generally understood as issues simply of legal reform and literacy • Grassroots-led mapping allows women to undertake more complex analysis of actors and power relations • Mapping changes the way knowledge is produced and who controls it. Knowledge becomes the basis for strategic, collective action and organizing
In Kenya, mapping resulted in the creation CommunityWatch Dog Groups, a partnership between grassroots women, chiefs, community leaders and councillors Watch Dog Groups, monitor local land practices, prevent land seizures, raise awareness of existing land policies and help guide women through the process of getting their land back
What needs to shift to scale up this approach and increase positive impacts for grassroots women and poor communities? • Partners, researchers, development professionals, UN agencies and donors need to open up space for grassroots women’s organizing • Support initiatives and actions in which grassroots women are leaders • Institutions need to be made responsive and accountable to communities
Innovative Partnerships • Women’s Land Link Africa: a partnership between grassroots women’s groups (Huairou Commission), human rights (COHRE) and UN agencies (Habitat, FAO), in which grassroots women are supported to map tenure systems and scale up their own initiatives • Slum/Shack Dwellers International and Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers (SPARC) have revolutionized partnerships. Professionals in SPARC act as support people for Slumdwellers’ groups • Streetnet International and WIEGO, in which researchers create statistics based on the agenda set by informal workers’ unions