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Leading the way for equal land rights in Bolivia

Source: Habitat for Humanity Great Britain - Tue, 30 Oct 2012 09:53 AM
Author: Eleanor Perkins / Habitat for Humanity
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

COCHABAMBA, BOLIVIA (30/10/2012): Today the British Ambassador to Bolivia meets with women trained by international development organisation Habitat for Humanity who are advocating for equal land and property rights in Cochabamba. This comes in the light of Mr Cameron’s speech to the UN on 26th September 2012, when he stated that the building blocks which take a country from poverty to prosperity include property rights.
Women's School in Cochabamba
In Cochabamba, the third largest city in Bolivia, people often buy land from informal developers. All they receive in return is a sales receipt, under the name of the husband. This does not guarantee ownership of the land. As land becomes increasingly valuable, female heads of households consequently face violence and threats of eviction by pseudo landowners, neighbourhood leaders, agricultural unions and even family members. Women, especially those from poverty-stricken Quechua and Aymara communities face daily discrimination.

This includes single mother Leonarda who does not legally own the land on which her home stands. At their single-roomed house water is supplied just once a week and the extended family of nine, practices open defecation behind a cactus plant. Like nine out of ten householders in Cochabamba she does not have legal proof that she owns the land on which she lives.

But women in Cochabamba’s District 9 have, for the last three years, been taking action. Groups of women, including Leonarda and her sister, have been attending special schools for women leaders, organised by international development organisation Habitat for Humanity. Here the women learn about their rights; how to organise their communities and themselves and how to advocate. When they graduate they join the Network of Women Leaders to advocate for legal change in policies and laws and raise awareness amongst other women and their communities. Their aim is simple: to enable women to have secure land tenure so they can improve their living conditions. So far 200 women and 10 men have been trained.

The women already have legal success under their belt: on 9th May this year, after advocacy from the Network of Women Leaders trained by Habitat for Humanity the Deputies Chamber in La Paz approved the inclusion of a women’s equity article to the Regularisation for Property Rights Law. The law now states that property rights should be registered in favour of both spouses, detailing their full names. It is a big achievement that women in Bolivia will now be recognised as equal owners of property.

Ambassador Ross Denny said, “I would like to congratulate those who have worked to make today a reality, and re-iterate the UK Government’s support to improving the situation of women across the world.”

Habitat for Humanity has been working in Bolivia since 1985. Worldwide Habitat for Humanity works in around 80 countries, including the UK, enabling people to access safe, decent homes through construction, advocacy, education, renovations and microfinance programmes.

www.habitatforhumanity.org.uk/news20121030

-ENDS-

For further information, photos or interviews please contact Eleanor Perkins, Press Officer. T: 01295 220322 F: 01295 264230. Skype: eleanor.perkins3. E: EPerkins@habitatforhumanity.org.uk. www.HabitatForHumanity.org.uk

Notes to editor:

•    The project training women in Bolivia is funded by UKAid
•    Habitat for Humanity is an international Christian charity that aims to break the cycle of poverty by eliminating poverty housing and homelessness. We believe that everyone,  regardless of background, gender or belief, has a right to a safe, decent place to live. We champion that right and also take practical action, working with communities around the world to empower them to design and manage appropriate housing projects in their neighbourhood. Since 1976 we have helped over 2.5 million people. For more information go to www.habitatforhumanity.org.uk
•    Ross Denny, British Ambassador to Bolivia, meets with members of Habitat for humanity’s staff and women from the Network of Women’s Leaders on Tuesday 30th October.
•    Leonarda lives with 14 people on her mother’s plot, which is under the name of her father but there is no formal registration of the land.


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