for Homes, Homes for Peace:
for Promoting and Realizing Women's Right to Land and Property
Parallel event organized by
Friday, 8 June 2001
1. Friday, 8 June 2001, 13.15- 15.15, Dag Hammarskjold Library
Organized by UNIFEM/UNDP and UNCHS (Habitat)
The Executive Director of UNCHS (Habitat) Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka,
in her opening statement, emphasized the importance of women's
property rights particularly in situations of post-conflict
reconstruction. She acknowledged the contributions of partners,
including NGO networks, and called for an action strategy
on the issue. She praised the collaborative work of UNIFEM
with UNCHS (Habitat) on the question and proposed it be
treated as one of great importance to the world community,
on a par with efforts to date on violence against women.
65 participants attended the event.
The heads of the two United Nations organizations involved
in promoting the event - both women-have indicated their
intention to highlight this question as one of great importance
to the world community, on a par with efforts to date on
violence against women.
Co-Chair Flavia Pansieri, Deputy Executive Director
of UNIFEM, stated that the objective of the discussion is
to chart the way forward in promoting and realizing women's
rights to land and property. This question came into high
focus during the negotiations on the Declaration on Cities
and other Human Settlements in the New Millennium, which
came up with new language that goes beyond the commitments
of Beijing and Istanbul.
The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, Miloon
Kothari, outlined the scope of his work programme in
which women's property rights are central. He also mentioned
the recent resolution 2001/34 of the UN Commission on Human
Rights on Women's equal ownership of, access to and control
over, land and the equal right to own property and to adequate
Sylvie Lacroux of UNCHS (Habitat) then briefly summarized
Habitat's activities for implementing it, through the Campaign
for Secure Tenure. Professor Carmen Diana Deere of
the University of Massachusetts presented the results of
research on women's land and property rights in Latin America,
which appear in a book already published, in Spanish and
available in English in September 2001 from University of
Mirella Handan of the Women for Peace Network and Norwegian
People's Aid described her work in Bosnia Herzegovina, part
of the global activities of the network, which earned a
Habitat Scroll of Honour in 2000. What has proved effective
is the work of women and women's organizations on the ground
who bring about change through exchange and mutual learning
Rose Makonkomeje, Vice-President of the Rwandan Commission
on Unity and Reconciliation, described the severe problems
of women in relation to proerty following the 1994 genocide
and measures taken to alleviate the situation. These include
legal and administrative actions, including villageization
for security and structures such as gender desks to scrutinize
Dr. Erika Riemer-Noltenius described the Beginenhof
initiative in Bremen, Germany, which creates community for
single women of all ages, including single mothers, cutting
across boundaries of age and wealth, so that women have
access to community and a secure life, including secure
Prema Gopalan of SPARC, India and the Aasia Women
and Shelter Network, described the findings of the recently
concluded parallel event on engendering post-disaster reconstruction.
It was found that grassroots women need recognition as key
actors, to institutionalise their activities. These make
great contribution, but need to be linked in to local government
so that they inform policy, standard setting and help bring
about positive social change.
There were five other observations or questions from the
floor, which also contributed to the collective learning.
In particular, questions of regional issues and campaigns
were addressed. The African regional representative of UNDP
committed to support for the Secure Tenure Campaign, specifically
concerning women's land rights, and emphasized the importance
of alliance building on this between UNIFEM, UNCHS (Habitat),
and UNDP, as well as alliance building between researchers,
grassroots groups and the state.
In their summary at the end, co-chairs Flavia Pansieri of
UNIFEM and Diana Lee-Smith of UNCHS (Habitat) highlighted
the following key strategies for moving forward:
1. Women's property rights must be recognised as a major
issue of importance in the fight to alleviate poverty.
2. Legislation to bring about equality.
3. Legal literacy, and means of achieving it, such as paralegal
networks and capacity building.
4. Affirmative action policies, including compulsory joint
titling and support to women headed households such as have
been found successful in Latin America.
Partnerships, especially among UN bodies. (UNCHS/UNIFEM/UNDP),
women's networks, researchers, grassroots groups and the
6. Support and promotion of grassroots women's groups and
their involvement in official decision-making bodies.
7. Support and involvement in the Global Campaign for Secure
Tenure, particularly by UNIFEM and UNDP as well as UNCHS