CSW Panel Focuses on Women’s Inheritance and Property Rights

11 Mar 2010

New York - UNDP co-sponsored a Commission on the Status of Women panel, Women, HIV and Human Rights: Addressing Property and Inheritance Rights, on Tuesday that provided collective strategies that have been developed over the past few years to advocate for and uphold women’s inheritance and property rights.  For women living with HIV, denial of property and inheritance rights can lead to loss of shelter and livelihood, and result in dislocation from their families, communities and social safety nets.  As a result of HIV stigma and gender-based discrimination, it may also jeopardize women’s access to testing, treatment, care and support. The promotion and protection of their rights, including to property and inheritance, is essential to reducing their vulnerability to HIV. Securing property and inheritance rights for women also strengthens their capacity to cope with the impact of the epidemic on themselves, their families and communities.

Opened by Elizabeth Mataka, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, the panel highlighted the collaborative work that many of the panel’s co-sponsors have led over the past three years.

Mayra Gomez, Coordinator of the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions’ Women and Housing Rights Programme, introduced a human rights manual that is being developed jointly by UNDP, Open Society Institute, and Huairou Commission that summarizes key human rights and legal provisions on women’s inheritance and property rights in easy-to-follow language.  The manual also draws upon the experiences of women in communities who have used these provisions in their advocacy. Sizani Ngubane, Founder of Rural Women’s Movement in South Africa, discussed how to engage grassroots women in this effort, and, especially, creating spaces for them to define human rights in their own terms.

Other panelists included Tamar Ezer, Program Officer in the Law and Health Initiative, Open Society Institute; Esther Mwaura-Muiru, Founder and Coordinator of GROOTS Kenya (Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood); and Sandra Ka Hon Chu, Senior Policy Analyst with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. The panel was organized by UNDP with support from Huairou Commission, Open Society Institute, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Human Rights Watch, Permanent Mission of Malawi, Women's Inheritance Rights Now Network, and the Global Coalition on Woman and AIDS.