When I began my role as the global advocacy campaign fellow last August, I had many questions. Beyond wanting to better understand the issues of housing and land, I wondered how the Solid Ground campaign actually worked.
As I began to grasp the importance of having secure land tenure—a right that I took for granted—and the reality that millions of people lack access to land and shelter, I still wondered, “So what do we do about it? How do we create change?”
Throughout the year, I’ve had the privilege of learning from Habitat for Humanity national organizations, partners and colleagues across the globe that change is possible. And, better yet, I got to observe and learn how.
We operate at every level: Solid Ground is local, national, regional and global.
Fundamentally, Solid Ground is a collection of campaigns being led by Habitat for Humanity national organizations and partners across the globe. Since laws and systems governing land are different nationally, so is the campaign. Solid Ground is implemented to fit each unique country context.
At the local level, Habitat for Humanity Côte d’Ivoire partners with village authorities to create land documentation systems for increased secure tenure. Meanwhile, Habitat for Humanity Cambodia works with their national government to implement national land and affordable housing policies.
Solid Ground also operates at the regional and global levels. Habitat for Humanity International and its partners engage with international decision-making bodies and policy frameworks, including the United Nations and their 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to make sure housing and land issues are recognized as key priorities. Engagement at this level makes a real difference; we’re able to impact funding and policy priorities of regional bodies, as well as the countries and partners who make up those bodies.
We are experts in the field.
As housing and land practitioners, we work first-hand with families and communities, and can speak to the challenging housing realities people face in countries all over the world. But beyond that, Habitat for Humanity national organizations have conducted extensive research and pilot studies through Solid Ground.
Habitat for Humanity Brazil conducted a pilot study on turning abandoned buildings in city centers into affordable housing. They have drawn on the evidence from their successful pilot study to engage more effectively with public and private partners. Their methodology is now being replicated in Argentina and Paraguay.
We cultivate partnerships—public, private and most importantly, with the people.
Maintaining strong partnerships is key to advocacy. Through Solid Ground, Habitat for Humanity national organizations have partnered with all levels of government, private corporations and civil society organizations. Most importantly, Habitat for Humanity partners with families and communities—not just to build homes, but to advocate for policies and systems that will increase secure tenure and access to housing.
Habitat for Humanity India partnered with Irula tribe members to advocate for land rights and access to shelter. Habitat India then worked with the government to implement those land rights. Habitat India’s strong partnerships with the private sector have been key to raising funds so that they can continue to partner with families to build homes.
We engage with and influence policymakers.
Habitat for Humanity engages policymakers across the political spectrum with the central aim to increase access to safe and decent housing. As countries have differing political systems and laws, national organizations employ different strategies in engaging policymakers. However, no matter the place, Habitat for Humanity draws on its expertise in the field and its first-hand knowledge of what home-owners are experiencing relating to housing and land.
Following floods in eastern Nepal in 2017, Habitat for Humanity Nepal surveyed land and families in Biratnagar to determine who would need access to safer ground for houses. With this evidence, Habitat Nepal and their partners consistently lobbied Biratnagar officials to allocate land and funding to these landless families. As a result, Biratnagar Metropolitan City allotted land and funding, impacting 500 people.
We mobilize advocates.
Change happens when people join together and hold decision makers accountable. Solid Ground aims to build public support and knowledge of the issue of land and housing rights. With this knowledge, people can start to recognize what’s happening in their own communities, countries and globally.
Habitat for Humanity Zambia has mobilized advocates to build support of women’s land rights. Community members meet in study circles to discuss challenges and solutions to land rights in their towns. Change agents share information about will-writing and women’s inheritance rights over the radio and by canvassing door-to-door. Not only is this impacting social norms relating to women’s land ownership, but it has also resulted in community members urging their local policymakers to take action.
Just like in Zambia, people all over the world are coming together to say that everyone deserves a decent place to live. Be part of this change and donate your voice.