Special Post-Election Issue
Issue Number 36 • April 2013
Bills to empower women to land ownership
…By Maurice Alal
and is a resource of controversy that has caused animosity and bloodshed in many countries including Kenya. Culture has played a major role in determining who owns land, where and how it is divided. Unfortunately women have over time watched from the sidelines as matters on the precious natural resource take centre stage even when it has had huge effects on their lives. Milcah Apiyo Muganda hails from the shores of Lake Victoria and has been married for 13 years with four children; a testimony of her union. During her over 10-year marriage, Muganda was engaged in a productive mitumba business with her husband. After marshalling enough savings, they jointly purchased approximately 0.052 hectares of land in Kisumu County. Recently, Muganda narrated, their union took a different path when her husband found another woman and would often spend days at her house before returning home.
Muganda was shocked when she got wind that her husband was in the process of buying a piece of land for his new found lover after selling the one they had bought together. Having run short of cash, he decided to dispose off what he owned with Muganda to buy land with his new woman. Fortunately, Muganda moved swiftly and obtained restraining orders that barred any transactions on the land from being carried out without her knowledge. Muganda’s story is just one ac-
count out of so many typical scenarios that women face. “Women are eager to own land but many of them fear that their husbands will get other wives and they will be forced to forfeit their right to ownership or share the land with wife number two, while they are the ones who sweat their brows to buy the land,” says George Ogutu, District Land Adjudication and Settlement Officer, Kisumu East. Traditionally, men in Africa own land and have their names printed on the title deeds. Rarely is it said that a piece of land is owned by the mama so and so but often you will hear the phrase ‘shamba ya mzee so and so’ or that land belongs to son of X.
Other than land which is bought there is the family land which passed from father to son as per traditions. A man who inherits land from his father, subdivides it so that the sons also get a share when they are adults and married. This valued practice has, however, resulted in the suffering of women who have been rendered homeless after the deaths of their husbands and sons. Daughters are also left out of this equation. Ogutu said that approximately 90 per cent of land in Kisumu County is owned by men. He affirms this by pulling out a random file with over 200 parcels of registered land and reveals from the first ten pages, only one woman’s name featured as a registered owner. If this were a sufficient sample, it would be evidence enough. The National Gender Development Policy Draft 2011 estimates that 80 per cent of Kenya’s population lives in the rural areas and that women own only five per cent of agricultural land in rural areas.
“Women have been squatters in their own homes contrary to constitution and the anticipated bill will empower women to land ownership.” — Dr Elizabeth Akinyi Nzioki
The document also shows that women provide 75 per cent of agricultural labour and are the major practitioners of small scale farming while commercial farming is mostly undertaken by men, which translates into women having less access to modern farming technology and income than men. However, Ogutu explains that in Kisumu County, this is typical as one will find more men than women in sugarcane and rice farming which is a big income earner in the region’s agricultural sector. According to the Draft Policy, the Ministry of Land through the Department of Land Adjudication and Settlement has introduced a manda-
tory administrative requirement that 30 per cent of members of District Settlement Plot Allocation Committees be women. However, the Kisumu East District comprises of nine gazetted members, of which two are women. The District Commissioner, Willy Cheboi, states though this is currently the case, the next board will have to adhere to the Constitution requirement of meeting the two thirds principle. This move is expected to give women a voice in decision making especially on matters of land ownership and use. According to Jane Obiero, Nyanza Provincial Director of Gender and Social Development, some women are not eager to own land solely or in joint ventures. Obiero says it is unfortunate that some women have the opportunity to own land but opt to give their share to their brothers claiming they will get land where they will be married not bearing in mind the sons of their in-laws.
“This is how women have been socialised in our societies, to put their fathers and brothers first. A lot of effort has to be put on sensitisation for women to be aware of their rights,” says Obiero. She reiterates that all organisations should have gender units to address issues of gender disparities including the Ministry of Lands. With the adoption and effective implementation of the National Land Policy Draft, issues revolving around women and land ownership will have moved a step towards becoming history. The National Land Policy Draft will also provide the mechanisms to
ensure land rights of women living with HIV including rural women are not abused. However, according to Dr Elizabeth Akinyi Nzioki, chairperson of the Task Force on Formulation of Community, Eviction and Resettlement Bills, evictions have for decades taken place in the country, especially in informal settlements in contravention of international human rights standards.
This will be facilitated by the two bills that will be tabled in Parliament to speed up the eviction and resettlement of the victims in May 2013. The move is to enable community to own land without others being marginalized as has been the case since independence. The Constitution of Kenya 2010 and Sessional Paper No.3 of 2009 on the National Land Policy provide for a new classification of land to a “community land” in regards to ethnicity, culture or similar community of interest. Nzioki says the task force will draft a bill in consultation with members of the public in the 47 counties and Ministry of Lands to ensure international standards are adhered to in evicting and resettling of the people affected. Speaking during the Task Force forum in Kisumu city, attended by the residents of Homa Bay, Migori, Kisumu, Nyamira and Kisii counties, Nzioki notes that the bill will address land injustices which have been a menace for decades. “Women have been squatters in their own homes contrary to constitution and the anticipated bill will empower women to land ownership,” Nzioki says.
Food security an avenue to end gender based violence
…By Kenyan Woman Correspondent
n spite of the major role played by women in producing food and feeding their families, little attention has been paid to the connection between gender, violence and food security. Gender discrimination fuels female malnutrition and disempowerment. Very often, discriminatory practices in rural communities generate biases in intra-household food distribution, whereby women and girls usually have access to limited and less nutritious food. Poor families may marry off under-age daughters during times of famine so there is one less mouth to feed. Refugee women may be forced to trade sex for food. Women spend hours collecting firewood to cook the family meal, leaving themselves vul-
nerable to rape and other attacks. Widows are persecuted over land ownership but, all too often, national laws favour men over women. On International Women's Day this year, the global community focused on how to eliminate and prevent all forms of violence against women and girls.
Domestic violence has an overall negative impact on agricultural production and family well-being. For many women struggling to feed themselves and their children today, food security would mean personal and legal security. If the world unites to increase food security for women, we also nourish the minds and bodies of whole communities. If a girl can attend school in a safe environment, she can reach her full men-
tal and physical potential. She can avoid early marriage, forced marriage or other forms of violence. If a woman can register the birth of her children, legally own land and the money she earns, she can contribute to the benefit of her society and its economic development. Women make up more than 40 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. Improving equality in women’s access to agricultural inputs (such as seeds, tools, fertilisers), education and public services would contribute significantly to achieving food security and better nutrition for all. Empowering women and girls legally and economically creates opportunities for development, enhances their political voice and reduces their vulnerability to violence. Food security links the diverse elements needed to build a peaceful and fair future for them.
A farmer attending to her crops. Food insecurity has been contributing to the increasing number of Gender Based Violence. Picture:Kenyan Woman Correspondent
Executive Director: Arthur Okwemba Managing Editor: Jane Godia
The Kenyan Woman is a publication of African Woman and Child Feature Service E-mail: email@example.com www.awcfs.org
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