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WAT Seeks Housing Advocacy Partnerships in Canada

 “In Tanzania, women are close to 52% of the population, and they are major actors in productive activities, yet they are poorer than men,” says Lucy Tesha Merere of Women Advancement Trust (WAT), Rooftops Canada’s partner in Tanzania. “All too often women are also denied their rights to land and housing ownership.”


When WAT started in 1989, one of its goal was to help women change laws that stopped them from owning property. During her recent visit to Canada, Lucy, WAT’s Advocacy Officer, explained how WAT worked with other women’s organizations to lobby Parliament. In late 1999, this resulted in including women’s equal access to property in new Land and Village Acts.


Since then, with Rooftops Canada’s support, WAT has been making sure that women become aware of how they can benefit from the new laws. “WAT started an awareness and training campaign within local communities. The government was supposed to disseminate information through the country, but they were not doing it! WAT has trained over 100 volunteer para-legals to work with communities and local government.”


WAT has also joined with other groups in the Housing Forum of Tanzania. The Forum is pushing government to support housing for low-income people, especially  housing co-ops, as part of its national poverty reduction programs. “Procedures for acquiring land are long and very bureaucratic. It can take ten years for a co-operative to get land, have it surveyed and begin construction,” Lucy says.


During her visit, Lucy met with organizations active in housing rights and women’s issues in Toronto, London and Edmonton. Members of Barsa Kelly Housing Co-op in Toronto explained how the roles of the Board, Committees and staff, and ways to create a sense of ownership and community. This will help WAT with own co-op housing training workshops.


The Advocacy Centre for Tenants of Ontario briefed Lucy on its work with community legal workers and ways to create permanent links with the media for disseminating information. These strategies can help WAT and the Forum reach communities at the local, district and national levels. Lucy noted that preparation of material was a challenge for Canadian advocacy groups. “They have to invest a lot of funds in translations for the different communities they serve. We prepare most promotional and training materials in Kiswahili, the national language spoken by 99% of the population.”