Learning from a ‘paralegals’ intervention to support women’s property rights in Uganda

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Payal Patel, Zayid Douglas, Kathryn Farley

Restrictions on women’s property rights (WPR) prevent women across the world from achieving their full economic potential. Without comprehensive rights to own, sell or make key decisions about land and other property, women often face difficulty in earning an adequate income and in providing for themselves and their families. On a global scale, women’s limited rights over property hampers progress in economic growth, poverty reduction, and gender equality.

A number of social and economic constraints prevent women in the region from fully claiming their legal rights to property. These include women’s lack of awareness about their legal rights, weak access to funding for legal and dispute resolution services, women’s fear of violence from husbands or other family members as a result of claiming property rights, and a mistrust of local law enforcement and legal institutions.

To address these challenges, over the last two decades there has been a rise in public and NGO-supported community-based legal aid programs.These programs train community members to educate others about existing laws on property rights in order to increase knowledge and change norms related to women’s ownership of property. Referred to as “paralegals”, these legal rights workers also help to mediate disputes related to land and other property.

This brief discusses lessons learned from an evaluation of one such community-based legal aid program in Uganda, carried out by the Uganda Land Alliance (ULA) in collaboration with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).