Land disputes contribute to a huge amount of legal problems across the world, and access to justice has not always been universal. Modern day technology is bringing justice into more people’s lives through the likes of innovative apps and sites which not only share knowledge, but help resolve potentially life changing disputes.
According to Familia, succession and land related cases account for about 50% of cases filed in the Kenyan Judicial System. Statistics are horrifying. There are on average 25,000 property related cases registered annually in Kenya, and 75,000 remaining pending each year. Many more remain unregistered due to the lack of information on the succession process. In turn, it means the process of transferring inherited property is difficult, and many often give up. The problem is not constrained to the illiterate or uneducated, but is a system-wide problem, meaning those without funds, cannot seek help. Court cases are often far from litigants’ homes, meaning extra costs, and often, wasted journeys when judges give notice they won’t sit.
Familia, a term uniting two Swahili words meaning family and property, addresses cases dealing with specifically, family property issues. Founded by Regina Cherotich and Mathew Egessa, they claim 26% of Kenyans now own a smart phone, another 56% a basic phone. The organisation therefore empowers people with information on succession cases via SMS and USSD. This includes vital information such as notifications of adjournment of cases, changes of file information, updates on queries, and information regarding the succession process itself.
In Bangladesh, women’s organisation Badadon Sangho, works for single mothers, separated, divorced or widowed women, religious minorities and youths. A non-profit and non political organisation, it is run by female activists in the Southwest region of Bangladesh. Land disputes are the second most prevalent problem in Bangladesh and using an open source Android mobile app, it prepares maps of land in order to prevent or solve land disputes. The organisation helps women know their rights and educates them how to obtain land titles and deeds.
It comes at a vital time. The World Bank claims that globally, more men than women own land. Across 10 countries in Africa, only 12% of women, compared to 31% of men, report owning land individually. Countries outside Africa are similar: Peru (13%), Honduras (14%), Nicaragua (20%), Bangladesh (23%), and Haiti (24%). It concludes that securing women’s access, control and ownership over land and property is key to enabling them to have better food security, housing, and family welfare.
In New York, housing justice body JustFixNYC has been set up to address a housing crisis which leaves millions unserved. The organisation claims that according to the most recent Comptroller's report, around 1.2 million New Yorkers live in "deficient" housing, meaning that all any given time, their homes have 3 or more open code violations present and unaddressed, from vermin to no gas or heating.
No less than in the developing world, resources for tenants remain tough to understand and often, inaccessible. Launched by software engineer Dan Kass and Georges Clement, who specializes in gathering research insights to inform digital product features, the organisation is branded as ‘technology for housing justice’, and the team partners with grassroots organizations to create better support for systems for New York City's excluded communities. With 1 in 5 New Yorkers living with 3 or more unresolved issues such as structural defects and mold, JustFix claims rapid development has brought with it new levels of harassment and neglect from landlords seeking to displace longstanding communities from their neighborhoods. As a result, tenants in these communities are left to rent apartments in a state of shocking disrepair: without adequate heating, exposed to wind and weather, infested with mold and vermin.
Though NYC is allocating money to support the unsupported communities, around 90% of tenants who go to Housing Court do so unrepresented and many are backed into exploitive situations, unaware of their rights or are unable to easily provide the evidence they need for a strong case.
The project aims to use data and technology to equip tenants with easy-to-use tools to document their issues and stretch resources further within the pre-existing ecosystem of organizations, to avail justice to more people in need, empowering tenants in neglectful housing situations with tools to better organize, connect with advocates, and take legal actions.
The World Bank claims that with the majority of the world’s population lacking secure land and property rights, land is at the center of development challenges. It claims that poverty elimination, increasing food security and reducing inequality of vulnerable groups, are just some of the many reasons this is one of the most pressing needs of the day. Citing the Sustainable Development Goals target of “all men and women having equal rights to ownership and control over land by 2030” it shows that land and housing is very much, a priority on the global agenda.
If you have any questions