Pacific women heard on right to land and housing

NADI, FIJI, (RRRT) – The UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing is this week meeting with human rights defenders from the Pacific to gather testimonies on women’s housing and land rights issues across the region, and exchange approaches and strategies to strengthen groups working in the area.

Organised jointly by the Fiji-based Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT), Habitat International Coalition-Housing and Land Rights Network (South Asia Regional Programme), the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development and the International Women’s Rights and Action Watch-Asia Pacific, the four-day consultation began yesterday at the Tanoa International Hotel, Nadi, Fiji. This event is organised with the support and cooperation of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Attending the consultation are representatives from women’s and community groups from Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Kiribati, Cook Islands, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea and indigenous Australia. An international group of facilitators from Australia, India, Cambodia and Egypt complement the local team of RRRT and UN Habitat.

The Pacific consultation forms the fifth in a series of regional meetings between women’s rights defenders and UN Special Rapporteur Miloon Kothari that previously took place in east Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East/ north Africa.

People across the world today face or are witness to violations of human rights, including the right to adequate housing and standard of living. Women in particular are most vulnerable, suffering disproportionately from discriminatory laws or practices, economic barriers and violence.

“It is imperative that the international community acts to end the ‘culture of silence’ that confronts women across the world in their struggle for the rights to housing, land, property and inheritance. This should include measures to deal with increasing violence being faced by women due to forced evictions and domestic abuse,” Mr Miloon Kothari said last week in his statement marking World Habitat Day (4 October, website:

The consultations follow UN Commission on Human Rights resolutions calling on the Special Rapporteur to prepare a report on women’s rights to land and adequate housing, including by way of consultations with civil society. The report will be submitted to the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2005.

Themes arising from the Pacific consultation include the sources and solutions to land tenure systems, indigenous land rights and discrimination, women’s housing rights and problems related to domestic violence, inadequate housing conditions, urbanisation and squatter settlements, civil conflict, legal, cultural and traditional barriers, water and basic sanitation.