HIC appoints three new and unique Wisdom Keepers : Ifeyinwa Ofong, Lorena Zarate and Shivani Chaudhry


The title of HIC Wisdom Keeper is bestowed by HIC Board on HIC members to signify that the recipient is a keeper of valuable knowledge, resulting from recipient’s commitment to HIC over time, of its evolution and the strive for people-centered and sustainable development of human settlements. 

The Board confers the wisdom keepers the membership of HICademy and the privilege to enlighten HIC to continue its mission.

During the HIC General Assembly held in December 14 2022, the Coalition endorsed three new Wisdom Keepers: Ifeyinwa Ofong, Lorena Zarate, Shivani Chaudhry.

Dr. Ifeyinwa Ofong started her career as a lecturer at the Department of Geography and Regional Planning, University of Jos, Nigeria. She then progressed to the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Nigeria, where she held various positions, including Senior Lecturer, Head of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Senior Research Fellow, and Course Coordinator at the Institute for Development Studies. 

She is the National Coordinator of Women in Development and Environment: WorldWIDE Network Nigeria and has been committed to empowering women to speak for themselves and participate in decision making and governance.

Her work has since spread across many civil society committees and organizations including

the UN NGO Committee on Social Development and the United Nations NGO Working Group to End Homelessness, where she sits on the Executive Committee as well as the Chair of the Open Door Group. She was a Board Member of Habitat International Coalition, and currently the Convener of the HIC Women and Habitat Africa Working Group.

Dr. Ify Ofong is also a member of the Global Coalition on Social Protection Floors. As a member of the Steering Committee of the African Network of Women’s Shelters, which is part of the Global Network of Women’s Shelters, Dr. Ofong is working with other civil society groups to provide safe spaces and shelters for women survivors of violence and abuse.

As a Development Consultant, she has carried out many studies and analysis on many social issues, including Gender relations and Mainstreaming, the Elimination of traditional practices that are harmful to women and girls, the Situation Analysis of women and children in urban slums in Nigeria; the Stakeholder Analysis on Social Protection in Nigeria; Poverty

Alleviation studies, Housing census, Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Reform Project for Small Towns; Monitoring and Evaluation of Millennium Development Goals in Nigeria; Women’s leadership and participation in Decision- making; Strategic Plan development for Civil Society Organizations and Government Agencies, and a United Nations Expert Group Member.

She has authored many publications, attended, and presented papers in many International and local conferences. She has also received numerous awards for her work and contributions to community development, the advancement and empowerment of women and youths. 

Dr. Ify Ofong joined Habitat International Coalition in June 2001, during the United Nations Center for Human settlement Conference, and the 25th Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly for implementation of the Habitat Agenda (Istanbul +5), which was held in New York. USA, from 30 th May – 8th June 2001. Ever since then, she has participated, using her own resources in HIC’s events, working with Ana Sugranyes, the Secretary General, in hosting HIC’s events and meetings during many World Urban Forums.

Dr. Ify represented HIC from 2005, at the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development- 13, which was held at the UN Head Quarters, New York, USA, and ever since then, she has represented HIC and organised many side events on behalf of HIC at the United Nations Commission for Social Development and the Commission on the Status of Women. She has used her own resources to participate and host many of these meetings in New York. She also worked closely with Álvaro Puertas, in many of the HIC events at the United Nations and the UN Habitat.

Lorena Zárate studied History and Pedagogy at the National University of La Plata, her hometown in Argentina. She combined her studies working as a member of the editorial team for the Center for Environmental Studies and Projects (CEPA Foundation), the Latin American Forum on Environmental Sciences (FLACAM) and the Environment Journal. She moved to Mexico City in 1999. In 2000, she started collaborating with Fomento Solidario de la Vivienda (FOSOVI) and other members of the Mexico Habitat Coalition (CHM for its initials in Spanish), the former Habitat International Coalition-General Secretary (HIC-GS) team and the Urban Popular Movement in the organization of the first World Assembly of Inhabitants. Together with Enrique Ortiz, she facilitated the establishment of the HIC-Latin America Regional office, acting as coordinator between 2003-2011. She was elected by HIC members as HIC president for two consecutive mandates (2011-2019).

Among other relevant social mobilization and advocacy processes, Lorena has been involved in the elaboration and dissemination of the World Charter for the Right to the City (2005), the Mexico City Charter for the Right to the City (2010) and the New Urban Agenda (2016). During the past two decades she has closely collaborated with the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Adequate Housing and with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the elaboration of thematic reports and recommendations for national and local governments regarding security of tenure, land and housing rights and the right to the city. Lorena was involved in the launching of the Global Platform of the Right to the City (2014–) and is currently part of its support team. She has promoted strategic alliances with other international networks, including social movements, professionals and academics. Of particular interest is the long- standing partnership with United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the biggest worldwide network of its kind, cooperating in the co-production of knowledge and municipal policies.

She has participated as a speaker in numerous workshops, seminars and conferences, as well as in meetings with HIC members and allies, with local communities, activists and public

authorities in more than 30 countries in all regions. She is author and co-author of several articles for publications in Latin America, North America, South Africa and Europe, as well as an editor of books on issues related to the right to housing, the social production of habitat and the right to the city. In 2013, she was awarded the John Bousfield Distinguished Visitorship from the Geography and Urban Planning Program at the University of Toronto, and she has recently completed a Master’s degree in Political Economy at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, where she currently resides.

Shivani Chaudhry is recognized globally as a human rights expert, with special expertise in housing, land, and related issues. She is the former Executive Director of Housing and Land Rights Network India (HLRN), where she worked for 17 years, from 2004 to 2021. Prior to this, she worked for five years at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. 

Shivani received her B.A. in Economics from St. Xavier’s College (Bombay University), India, and her M.A. in Environmental Studies from Brown University, Providence, U.S.A.  

She has been working in the field of human rights for over twenty years, with a focus on economic, social, and cultural rights, especially the human rights to adequate housing, land, livelihood, and the environment. She has been engaged actively with issues related to forced evictions, displacement, homelessness, land rights, disasters, climate justice, discrimination, sustainable development, women’s rights, and human rights education. She has conducted many human rights education and training workshops at the national and international levels, and has also contributed to the development of international standards related to housing and land rights. These include the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Security of Tenure for the Urban Poor and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas.

Over the years, Shivani has been associated with several national and international networks and movements. She co-founded the New Delhi-based Shahri Adhikar Manch: Begharon Ke Saath (Urban Rights Forum: With the Homeless) and the Delhi Housing Rights Task Force, and was also one of the founding members of the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN. She was a member of the Government of India, Ministry of Rural Development’s Task Force on Land Reforms, and contributed to the draft National Land Reform Policy 2013 and draft National Right to Homestead Bill 2013.

Shivani regularly speaks on human rights issues at various international and national platforms. She has also spoken on the topic of land rights in the European Parliament. She writes in newspapers, magazines, and journals, and has contributed to several publications and books, including those published by the American Society for International Law, UN-Habitat, and Oxford University Press. She also loves writing short fiction and poetry.

Our Coalition greatly appreciates the commitment of these three individuals and we are honored to be able to count on their extensive experience in fulfilling HIC’s mission.