Conference 2008: AIDS and Livelihoods – Securing property and inheritance rights conferences

Conference 2008: AIDS and Livelihoods – Securing property and inheritance rights

10/04/2008 | Bern

Children who lose their parents, widows and grandmothers left to take care of children and grandchildren often face serious challenges in securing their livelihoods. The reasons for this have socio-economic and cultural dimensions, with traditional, customary and formal inheritance arrangements often favouring men and excluding women and minors. Women can find themselves stripped of assets upon the dissolution of a marriage or the death of a spouse. Lack of access to, and use of, property such as land, leaves many extremely vulnerable and trapped in an ever-deepening cycle of poverty and powerlessness.

"Widows are frequently victims of land grabbing and generally live in poverty, which affects their ability and time to look after their children and to feed them, both in quantity and in quality."(FAO)

The laws and customs of inheritance and control of resources magnify underlying societal and gender inequalities. HIV/AIDS is exacerbating the situation by placing many more women and children in this position than ever before. Furthermore, stigma and discrimination compound the marginalisation of entire households when a family member dies of AIDS. Human Rights Agencies working to mitigate this situation identify three groups which are disproportionally affected – children, women and the elderly.

At community level partner organisations of are faced with these issues and are developing innovative strategies to enable women affected by HIV to exercise their rights and challenge existing power structures and cultural norms. The recent Technical Consultation on Gender, Property Rights and Livelihoods in the Era of AIDS moderated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO (November 2007) demonstrates the urgency of the issue for all organizations working in the field of development cooperation.