Five Innovators Heading to CGI: The NGO Has Landed

imageAfter surviving the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Marie and her children have been living with relatives far from home. Under a pilot program, developed by the Rural Development Institute (RDI) and its partners, along with Rwanda's Ministry of Lands, Marie will be able to return to Rwanda to claim the land that she and her husband once farmed, but now as a registered landowner in her village. Title to her land is vital for Marie and other women to secure food for themselves and their families, economic stability, and a route out of poverty.

In a private interview with Tim Hanstad, President and CEO of RDI, he explained that, "Women's rights to land are at the strategic center of RDI's work to help the poorest. Women do 60 - 80 percent of the farming in developing countries, yet only 2 percent of the world's land is owned by women. And women and girls comprise more than 70 percent of the world's 1.4 billion poor people. When they are empowered to play active roles in society, women and girls improve the health, education and earning power of their families and communities."

Hanstad is attending the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Sixth Annual Meeting next week; this will be his third CGI meeting since 2008. The CGI meetings are powerful matchmaking events, led each day by former President Bill Clinton, to bring together philanthropists and corporate foundations that make Commitments to Action - to fund effective solutions to global challenges, and NGOs that make Commitments to Action - to achieve measurable results in solving global challenges.

At the 2008 CGI meeting, Hanstad made a Commitment to Action to foster microland ownership in several Indian states. He left the three-day meeting with: a funding commitment from the Nike Foundation; deeper, stronger relationships with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Omidyar Network; new media relationships that led to greater awareness and more donors; and new program partnerships.

In 2008, Hanstad also made a Commitment to Action to establish a Global Center for Women's Land Rights. With funding from Nike, headed by Maria Eitel, the Center was opened last fall.

At the 2009 CGI meeting, Hanstad reported on the results of RDI's 2008 Commitment to Action in India. With $11 million in new financing for the microland ownership project, RDI engaged with four Indian states on programs that fostered land ownership for 50,000--100,000 families.

This year, Hanstad returns to make a Commitment to Action related to land rights for girls. As Hanstad explained, "Daughters do not traditionally inherit land, because they typically move away from the village to their husband's home after marriage. Most girls leave their family homes with no economic asset of their own (such as land), leaving them vulnerable and powerless in their new homes. To address this, RDI is working in partnership with the Nike Foundation and other partners to help girls gain a critical economic asset--land--to reduce their vulnerability to poverty, gender-based violence, HIV, early marriage, and trafficking, and to gain opportunities for a better future."

"RDI is a different kind of NGO," explained Hanstad. "Most nonprofits work at the grassroots level. RDI works for structural change. We work with governments to change the legislative policy framework, by using tools of law and policy. It's a highly leveraged approach. Our government partners are key."

RDI works in China, India, and seven African countries--Rwanda, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, and Burkina Faso.

Hanstad's new book, co-authored with his mentor Roy L. Prosterman and Robert Mitchell, is "One Billion Rising: Learn how secure land rights can build a better, safer world."

My post tomorrow will feature another innovator heading to CGI. Next week, I'll be blogging from CGI's Sixth Annual Meeting.

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