WJI Launches its Legal Services Program
Securing Women’s Property and Inheritance Rights
The Legal Services Program provides free legal services directly to women in need by bringing lawyers to their communities and by providing bilingual Mayan-Spanish resources. In doing so, WJI greatly expands women’s access to the legal system. In June 2012, WJI launched its Legal Services Program in one community. The program works to secure women’s ownership and inheritance rights by assisting them in titling and registering their land.
Lesbia, a beneficiary of the program, is twenty-four years old and has four children under the age of five. She and her family live in a one room home. Lesbia and her husband work as day laborers and struggle to earn enough money to sustain their family. The couple recently bought a small piece of land for farming, but they did not have enough money to pay a lawyer to register the property. As a result, they do not have legal title to the land and worry about others making false claims to their property.
WJI’s Legal Services Program is working with Lesbia to register the land she and her husband purchased. Though, traditionally, land is titled in the husband’s name, WJI will register the land in both spouses’ names, as co-owners. In doing so, WJI helps to secure Lesbia’s ownership rights, providing her with important legal protections.
“It is important that the land is in my name as well as my husband’s, in case something happens to him or he leaves me for another woman. This way, I am protected and so are my children.
When I told my husband that WJI would register the land in both of our names, I explained that this was only fair because we both worked together to earn the money to buy the land. He is very supportive of the process because having our land registered is extremely important and we could not afford to do it on our own.” —Lesbia, Beneficiary of Legal Services Program
WJI recently partnered with a Guatemalan Women’s Lawyers Association that will provide pro bono legal assistance for WJI’s cases. With the help of this network of lawyers, WJI plans to expand the Legal Services Program to five communities in the coming year. In addition to land registration services, the program will begin to provide women with general legal services.