Enact laws to guard women land rights

Friday, January 20th, 2023 01:30 | By
A group of female farmers planting. PHOTO/Courtesy.

The Kenya Demographic Health Survey released on Tuesday paints a sad picture of women land ownership rights in Kenya.

 The country sits on 143.9 million acres, part of it is owned by government, local communities, private institutions and individuals. Even so, of the population size sampled of about 32,156 women in the age bracket 19-49 years old, only three per cent own agricultural land on their own —that is not jointly with a spouse or someone else; three per cent own a house and seven per cent own non-agricultural land.

Dampening this reality further is that of the population that owns a house, only an average of about nine per cent have a title deed or a government-recognised document showing proof of ownership.

From the survey, it is evident that the chances of women owning land and property increases or decreases based on their marital status, which means, married women living with their spouses have far higher chances, compared to single and divorced women, of owning land and a house. 

Discriminatory laws and social norms have for ages undermined women’s access to land, yet women form the 43 per cent of workers in the agriculture sector. Policy makers should feel challenged to enact policies that improve women’s access to land and property. Evidence shows there is a direct correlation between women’s right to land, economic empowerment, better nutrition and food sovereignty and poverty levels of a nation. Additionally, land rights are critical to peace, justice, sustainable development and security for all. Therefore, taking a look at land and property rights from a gender lens is paramount for any forward thinking political leadership at both county and national levels. An approach to policy making and implementation that ensures gender equality in land and home ownership has the potential to reduce poverty, one of the broad goals that the government has committed to achieve. 

As such, the government ought to look at its development policies and practices with a view to improve women’s rights to land. First it should be intentional at eradicating and criminalising outdated cultural norms that see widows evicted from their land and property by relatives or other third parties.

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