Building Capacity for Women’s Land Rights: Landesa’s Visiting Professionals Program
A group of women from Africa and Asia will soon gather in Seattle for a boot camp of sorts. They’ll be learning about the central importance of women’s land rights, why they are critical for addressing poverty, and how they can help spotlight the issue in their own country. The training is part of a new program sponsored by the Landesa Center (“the Center”) for Women’s Land Rights called the Visiting Professionals Program.
The Center, an initiative of Landesa, champions women’s secure access to land by providing resources and trainings that connect policymakers, researchers, and practitioners around the world. The Center’s goals are to strengthen women’s property rights in law and in practice and to build practioners’ capacity to address women’s land rights globally. The Center pilots innovative solutions to gaining secure land rights for women and educates development experts about the gap between customary and statutory law.
The Center’s Visiting Professionals Program aims to cultivate and support a global network of qualified professionals committed to strengthening women’s land rights at local, national, and international levels. The program’s objectives are to enhance participants’ capacity to strengthen women’s land rights, to foster their ability and motivation to participate in a women’s land rights network, and to support their commitment to securing land rights for women.
Participants are required to be mid-level development professionals. This year’s cohort, arriving in Seattle over the next couple of weeks, includes four experienced and strongly motivated professionals from Tanzania, Uganda, India, and China. While some of the Visiting Professionals are already involved with women’s land rights in their countries, others are focused on women’s rights and want to learn how to integrate the issue of land into their work. The program brings these professionals to Landesa’s headquarters in Seattle for six weeks of in-house training, mentoring, and sharing with Landesa’s land experts.
During the program the Visiting Professionals will attend an intensive workshop with courses taught by Landesa staff and outside experts focused on such substantive topics as women and land theory, land rights and land reform, inheritance, titling and registration, and dispute resolution. Skills-building courses such as monitoring and evaluating, qualitative fieldwork, budgeting, global advocacy, working with the media, and internet research will also be provided. Each session is designed to enhance the professionals’ understanding of the challenges to strengthening women’s land rights; expand the set of options, approaches, and potential solutions they can consider to tackle these challenges; and improve the professionals’ effectiveness at addressing women’s land rights by strengthening their leadership, managerial, and communication skills.
In addition to enhancing the Visiting Professionals’ capacity, the six-week program in Seattle is also designed to foster professional ties and mutual trust that will lay the foundation for an international network of women’s land rights professionals. While in Seattle each Visiting Professional works with a Landesa staff mentor who has been selected based on the staff person’s geographical knowledge and the professional expertise of both mentor and mentee. During their stay in Seattle, Visiting Professionals will work on a practicum, a mutually agreed upon project that the professionals will implement upon return to their home countries. The professionals and their mentors will meet a number of times during the professionals’ stay in Seattle to review project abstracts, formulate work plans, and consider funding options. Mentorship will continue throughout the year as the professionals realize their projects and craft project wrap-up reports.