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Women's property rights as an AIDS response: Lessons from community interventions in Africa
Charlotte Johnson Welch, Nata Duvvury, Elizabeth Nicoletti
International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

Securing women’s property and inheritance rights can reduce their vulnerability to crises, including those that might result from HIV and AIDS. National and international policies are essential for a legal environment that enables women to realize these rights. Also essential is the social and cultural environment—the norms and practices, which often influence people’s decisions related to women’s property and inheritance rights. However, creating an enabling environment is inherently complex and difficult to address with a single strategy.

Transformative and sustainable change occurs when people most affected and with the most to gain build on community resources and respond to community needs. Across sub-Saharan Africa, where communities—and particularly women—have been devastated by AIDS, grassroots initiatives are addressing the links between women’s property rights and HIV with impressive results. Though small in scale, these efforts are educating communities about how property rights affect women and girls in the context of HIV, and mobilizing stakeholders at all levels to take action.

Recognizing the importance of community-driven responses to AIDS, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), in partnership with the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS (GCWA) and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), implemented a grants program to document and test community interventions to secure women’s property and inheritance rights in the context of HIV.

Program results demonstrate the promise of interventions that harness local capacity and the synergy of networks to secure women’s rights to property and inheritance. Findings also suggest practical ways for the international development and donor communities to support these pioneering initiatives and bring them to scale. Ultimately, integrating these findings into new and current programs will go a long way to quell the rise of HIV in Africa and around the world.

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