Network members participate in workshop on community-led litigation on women’s land, housing, and natural resource rights

Publish Date: 
Friday, July 29, 2022

This past November, members of the Women and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (WESCR) Working Group and the Strategic Litigation Working Group (SLWG) gathered for a workshop co-hosted with Hakijamii to exchange experiences on community-led litigation on women’s land, housing, and natural resource rights. The two-day online gathering aimed to highlight elements of effective and community-led legal advocacy, taking into account historic barriers to access to justice.

Nicholas Orago of Hakijamii presented the objectives of the workshop and shared insights from Hakijamii’s housing, land, and natural resource litigation integrating a women’s rights lens, drawing from experiences of anti-evictions work in Kenya during the pandemic.

Jayshree Satpute and Tripti Poddar of Nazdeek spoke on ensuring strategic litigation on women’s land and housing rights is done by and with the leadership of affected communities. Whether in mapping strategies to secure the right to water or preparing how to respond to retaliation for the mobilization being organized, the starting point of the work was always the resources and strengths within the community and its leaders, particularly women, who lead the action. 

Samuel Olando of Pamoja Trust, a member of the Housing Coalition in Kenya, which includes several network members, presented on an adaptive land management framework on housing and land rights overcoming rigid, formalistic frameworks that nominally exclude rights of those in informal settlements and other housing and land tenures and arrangements, a key challenge across many struggles for women’s rights.

Laura Zuñiga of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Indígenas Populares de Honduras (COPINH) and JASS - Just Associates presented on how to ensure a feminist approach to strategic litigation on women’s rights to land, housing, and natural resources, centering COPINH’s struggle for justice in the face of mega-project violations and persecution of human rights defenders, including the murder of leader Berta Cáceres.

Senada Senali of the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) spoke on integrating an intersectional approach to strategic litigation on women’s rights to land, housing, and natural resources, presenting on litigation and related treaty body advocacy regarding forced evictions of Romani pregnant women, a case brought by ERRC that led to positive decision by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

In plenary and breakout discussions seeded by the presentations, members from around the world discussed strategies for gender justice litigation related to land, housing, and natural resources, addressing issues such as specifying pleadings and remedy requests concerning the rights of women; community organizing centering women as a basis for symbolic power; critical analysis of the law and its relevant social contexts to identify areas of gender inequity and lack of intersectional approaches; aligning legal provisions to tools, approaches, and instruments that advance gender sensitivity; recognizing and communicating issues traditionally seen as women’s issues as community issues; and preparing for the backlash that come with activating legal mechanisms.

Network members have a long history working on land, housing and natural resource rights with a gender lens. ESCR-Net actively contributed to the Montreal principles, which helped interpret economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR) from a gender lens. The Principles are particularly helpful in providing clear guidance to States eager to understand and achieve substantive equality for women, including via temporary special measures. A collective of members also collaborated for numerous years to further the precedent-setting Endorois indigenous land rights case and ensure that women are central to implementation and decision-making on land issues. Further, WESCR has collaborated with the Corporate Accountability Working Group (CAWG) in ensuring that the emerging treaty on human rights and business includes a strong gender analysis attentive to the disproportionate impacts experienced by women in connection with large-scale extractive and development projects and in facilitating women’s leadership and gender analysis in confronting a proposed large-scale development project in the Philippines. More broadly across the network, members have been advocating on a new General Comment by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) that would provide further guidance to States regarding their human rights obligations relating to land. Previously, ESCR-Net members advocated for and offered inputs into CEDAW General Recommendation No. 34 on the rights of rural women. And the network AltaVoz project helped shape discussions women’s use of parallel reporting, international human rights mechanisms.