Every voice can advocate for Solid Ground

From Kenya to Kalbarri

In rural southern Kenya, young Maasai women have come together to defend community resources from misuse and to change land and property laws. How? By using their voices on social media. In a country where women, regardless of their level of education, are too often excluded from official decision-making, women are finding other ways to make an impact.

After creating several Facebook groups to share information, these women are using online influence to impact real-world decisions. On one page the group created called the Village Voice, members monitor community land rights and serve as whistleblowers when problems arise. Local officials are paying attention and often respond with phone calls to the activists, which may also lead to face-to-face meetings. The women have had success in reforming governance of community land and natural resources. In the process, their actions are improving gender and community relations as well.

In Kenya, and the rest of the world, population increases and the movement of many people from rural to urban areas have made access to land a major challenge. To date, 75 percent of land worldwide is not legally documented, leaving millions of people in developing countries vulnerable to eviction or displacement after a disaster. As land becomes scarcer, women in particular are more vulnerable to the hardships that come with a lack of property rights and, in turn, face barriers to finding adequate housing for themselves and their families.

This is precisely why on March 8, International Women’s Day, Habitat for Humanity will launch Solid Ground, a three-year global advocacy campaign focused on ensuring that everyone has access to land for shelter so that everyone can have a decent place to live. The campaign will achieve this by changing the policies, laws and systems governing land that are standing in the way.

Challenges involving access to land — or space to live — differ around the world.

  • Whether on the first or 41st floor, many families struggle to find affordable space in the United States.
  • In Nairobi, even where written laws dictate otherwise, discriminatory practices around property ownership leave women without the security that homeownership provides.
  • In Nepal, people still struggle to return to their land after the recent earthquakes.
  • In Brazil, families living in slums are being evicted from their homes because they can’t get legal title, even to a place they’ve occupied for years.
  • And in South Africa, residents of informal settlements want to improve their land and their homes, but need to first know that they can stay to enjoy the improvements.

The Solid Ground campaign aims to address all of these challenges by focusing on four key areas: secure tenure, slum upgrading, disaster resilience and gender equality. The global campaign involves the efforts of a growing list of local Habitat organizations, already including Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Kenya and South Africa.

March is Women’s History Month, an auspicious time to launch this innovative effort. Join Solid Ground and help make gender inequality in land rights and other land-related obstacles things of the past.