In August 2018, I started my internship with Habitat for Humanity’s global advocacy team with little knowledge of land rights. Today, nine months later, I have grown to understand the foundational importance of and the impact secure land rights plays in the lives of women, children, families and communities. 

Growing up in the United States, in a small town in Massachusetts, I never realized the privilege associated with owning the land on which my house stood. I grew up in a warm, safe home and never faced the fear of eviction. However, many people across the globe live in fear of eviction from their homes for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is because of insecure and unequal land rights.

Habitat for Humanity established the Solid Ground global advocacy campaign to improve land policies and systems to ensure that more people around the globe have a decent home. The Solid Ground campaign is advocating for land policies that decrease fear of forced eviction, promote gender inclusivity, improve living conditions of slums and promote disaster resilience.

Advocating for secure tenure means working towards living without the fear of unlawful eviction. The need for gender equality points to the many laws and customs that limit women’s access to own her own land. Slum upgrading promotes the improvement of informal settlements through investment in infrastructure including access to basic services. Disaster resilience is important to incorporate into housing policy before a disaster strikes, as reducing vulnerabilities can mitigate against potential damage to people, housing, and infrastructure.

During my time with Habitat for Humanity, I have had the privilege of joining meetings with passionate Habitat for Humanity employees from around the world. I have heard incredible success stories from advocacy work on a local, national and global level. Hearing directly from individuals making real change by formalizing land titles for residents of informal settlements in Brazil to advocating for flood-affected families in Nepal has been eye opening. Before my time at Habitat, I had no idea of the significant effect that land rights can have in the safety, health and finances of families.

Today, Habitat for Humanity national organizations and partners are implementing the Solid Ground campaign in 41 countries globally. Since launching in March 2016, nearly three million people have been impacted from India to Poland and Honduras to Zambia. In the final year of the campaign, Solid Ground continues to provide a path to build policy and advocacy momentum to increase access to land for shelter.

Throughout my internship working on the Solid Ground campaign, I learned how access to land leads to myriad of economic, educational and overall well-being opportunities. However, what really stands out to me is the foundational role access to land plays in increasing access to safe, secure and decent housing opportunities. I attended the World Bank Land and Poverty Conference alongside hundreds of housing experts, and learned about innovative housing policy solutions. I helped coordinate advocacy messages for World Habitat Day in October, and International Women’s Day in March. I was part of researching and editing Habitat’s official statements for the European Union’s funding for Africa, Caribbean and Pacific states and the Women’s Economic Empowerment through Microfinance and Access to Land Act. I shared countless articles celebrating the successes of Solid Ground partners, and Habitat for Humanity national organizations. I learned a lot about land rights, and the important work that Habitat for Humanity advocates for across the world.

After nine months, I have learned that I have taken my access to secure land rights, and my home for granted. I no longer do, and now I know the many opportunities access to land has brought me.