Women Land Rights
The Constitution of Kenya 2010 guarantees equal rights for women in relation to land rights. Women can now inherit property and own land. Women, whether married or unmarried, have equal rights as men to own land. One of the major principles of the land policy in Kenya according to Article 60(1f) is to eliminate gender discrimination in law, customs and practices related to land and property.
The main challenge is that many people in the rural areas are unaware of these provisions of the 2010 Constitution. Many communities live under the old system which puts women and girls at a disadvantage, mostly concerning property rights. Owning land gives women access to capital and the freedom to leave abusive marriages.
Women through ancient history have been responsible for first the domestication of seeds and then ensuring its preservation by passing it from generation to generation until contemporary times. Most women especially those in the rural areas have experienced lack of sufficient food for their family, lack of enough resources to meet the costs for education and have insecure land tenure and access to productive resources. The voices of women are not decisively and meaningfully carried forward to policymakers nor do policy makers seek them out. Despite women being the backbone of agricultural production, their labor and contributions is overlooked and undervalued. The patriarchal structure within most communities is the main cause of the overlook of the contribution of women. Not having ownership creates a lot of problems and these include;
- Not being able to join farming cooperatives that would help them interact with other people who could help them improve production or sales.
- Not being able to get loans from the bank to buy new equipment or hire help because they do not own title deeds
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in the developing countries like Kenya, most women’s work is devoted to agriculture. Women are usually involved in every stage of food production, for example, in sowing, weeding, fertilizing and harvesting the staple crops.
Land grabs are also another problem affecting women land rights. Land grabs often affect communities’ access to water, which again, at a household level, is women’s responsibility to secure. Consequently, women have to spend more time and walk for longer distances to fetch water. Land grabs are also a potential source of conflict and women are invariably disproportionately affected by conflict.
Kenyan women, particularly those in rural areas, have the burden of feeding their families and are key to ensuring food security and poverty reduction. These women’s increased burdens aggravate gender inequalities in Kenya.
Some of the solutions which we are committed to in offering to the Kenyan women especially those in the rural areas include;
- Advocating for involvement of women in policy making in matters concerning land- this is because food sovereignty and agro-ecology farming cannot be achieved without recognizing the central importance of women to food production and ensuring that they are equally represented in the development of policies and in the implementation of the programs. Women should be equally represented as participants and beneficiaries of these policies and programs.
- We support people’s agro-ecology. This is because in industrial agriculture relies heavily on inputs of fertilizers and pesticides which destroy the environment and also affect the local communities. Instead of using these pesticides, we encourage the use of environmentally and socially friendly methods to improve food production.
- We are committed in ending land grabbing and are ready to take any measures to ensure that land grabbing comes to an end.
- We also engage in educating women in the rural areas and making them aware of their rights according to the constitution of Kenya 2010.
- We also collaborate with women organizations in the rural areas and give them any form of support they may need in order to increase their agricultural productivity.
We call for equal protection and benefit of women’s rights in Kenya according to the Constitution of Kenya.
The Constitution of Kenya in Article 61 categories the land in Kenya into three; public, private, and community. Public land refers to land owned by the government. Consequently, the state has the state right to;
- Regulate the use of land in the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, or land use planning.
- Acquire other property for a public purpose or in the public interest provided the acquisition is carried out in accordance with the Constitution, which requires prompt and just compensation for owners as well as good-faith occupants.
Private land in Kenya consists of registered land which is under freehold tenure and land held under leasehold tenure. Private land owners have the right to;
- Absolute proprietorship and the rights of exclusion except in cases of compulsory acquisition by the Government, as outlined in sections 107 to 120 of the Land Act, 2012.
- The right to acquire and own property in Article 40(1) of the Constitution.
According to the provisions of Article 40 of the Constitution, every person has the right to own property of any description, including land, in any part of Kenya. Nonetheless, non-citizens of Kenya can only own land on leasehold for a maximum of ninety nine (99) years. Women, whether married or unmarried, have equal rights as men to own land. One of the major principles of the land policy in Kenya according to Article 60(1f) is to eliminate gender discrimination in law, customs and practices related to land and property.
In Kenya there have been many laws that has been enacted to give effect to the provisions of the constitution of Kenya 2010 and these include the Land Act 2012, Land Registration Act 2012,
National Land Commission Act 2012, Matrimonial Property Act 2013 and the Marriage Act 2014.
Customary laws in Kenya often discriminate against women and limit their land and property rights. Research shows that at least 65% of the land in Kenya is governed by customary law. The patriarchal nature of the Kenyan society often limits the rights of even those women not living on land governed by custom. Some estimates indicate that as little as 1% of land is titled in the names of women and 5-6% is titled jointly by women and men.
Despite the equality law on land rights, Kenyan women still remain to be vulnerable in terms of inheritance and ownership of land and property. This is attributed to the customary practices in Kenya which go unchallenged most times. In addition, the Succession Act and Matrimonial Property Act in Kenya allow for the exclusion of inherited customary or ancestral land from matrimonial property. The effect of this is that it continues to propagate the trend of male-dominated land ownership in Kenya. Further, the amendments to the Matrimonial Property Act which require spouses to demonstrate contribution to matrimonial property and the law on polygamy without the first wife’s consent in the Marriage Act is a clear indication that upcoming laws are less supportive of the rights of women in ownership of land and property which is against the spirit of the constitution.
Growth Partners Africa challenges the gender-discriminatory aspects of the laws and aims at promoting equal rights for both men and women in relation to land rights.