The project "Improving Access to Urban Land and Property Rights of Excluded Women and Families in Bolivia", developed in the city of Cochabamba, strengthened the capacities of civil society members, mainly women and families in vulnerable situations, to exercise their right to adequate housing.

Several strategies were proposed within this framework, including the following:

1. School of Women Leaders for Secure Tenure

More than 300 women participated in an empowerment process that created spaces to discuss public policies with local and national decision-makers. The legal and technical training included three modules: a) Citizenship and the Human Right to Housing; b) Legal-Technical Empowerment; and c) Political Advocacy.

As a result of this empowerment process, the Women's Network for Secure Tenure was established. One of the main advocacy actions developed by the network was the incorporation of Article #647 in the law “Regularization of Property Rights regarding Real Estate Assets”, which mandates ownership titles to favor spouses or cohabitants, essentially giving women the same land rights with men. Prior to this new law, women's names were not listed on the title at all. 

2. Participatory Mapping (MAP)

MAP is a participatory tool for managing legal and technical services. This tool allowed women to use cell phone GPS technology to feed data on each area into a territorial Information Management System (IMS). This MAP included four phases: 1) Process 0 – Diagnosis; 2) Process 1 – Regularization of settlement; 3) Process 2 - Regularization of land tenure for individual properties; 4) Process 3 – Case monitoring by administrative and legal entities.

3. Awareness campaigns

Culturally, land in Bolivia belongs to men; therefore, women do not have direct access to information on land issues. In this scenario, the School of Women Leaders for Secure Tenure and the Women’s Network replicated lessons learned, and disseminated information and knowledge in several grassroots organizations (OTBs - organizaciones territoriales de base) in District 9.

Project’s impact five years later

Women leaders agree that the School’s training has significantly contributed to their self-esteem and individual empowerment regarding how they can negotiate their rights at the family level.

At the community level, the training has provided technical and legal knowledge, so that women can also provide accurate information to neighbors who are processing their property ownership rights. They are taking over leadership roles not only in their OTBs but also in other organizations.

“Unfortunately, the machismo is very strong. People didn’t think that a woman could chair my OTB. I am the first chairwoman. I’ve had several setbacks but I’ve also achieved a lot. Thanks to the lessons learned at the School, I’ve been able to manage the paving of roads, some sewer extensions, and I’m looking into expanding the water network.”

-Rosemary Alcocer, Chair, San José de la Tamborada OTB

After five years of implementing Law 247, there are still enormous obstacles for the regularization of property rights. Processing may take an average of two years and USD 800 (i.e., significant costs and red tape). Women leaders such as Eugenia Marza and Martha Calisaya, who participated in the project, are members of the Popular Committee, a space for dialogue and advocacy composed of different grassroots organizations.

Both leaders have participated in local and national evaluations of the Law 247, promoted by the Vice Ministry of Housing and Urban Development through the PROREVI Regularization Program. At this time, discussions between civil society and government organizations are very important since this law expires in 2019.

Albertina Wilche, also an OTB chairwoman, explains that she has been able to implement a housing project in her community due to lessons learned when participating in negotiations with various authorities. “It is not easy to be a leader. Men put up a lot of obstacles. However, when a woman wants to do something, she can achieve it.”

Due to its impact among Bolivian women, the School of Women Leaders has been one of the most replicable strategies not only in this country, but also in Peru and Tonga through the Solid Ground campaign. The model will be applied in a new community-mapping project coordinated with Slum Dwellers International.