AFRICA · Kenya
Land rights for women: a development “must”
The question of women’s access to property is a major issue in many communities. In Kenya, women furnish 80 per cent of agricultural labor and produce 60 per cent of agricultural income, whereas only 5 per cent of them own land. The common belief is that women are not trustworthy and hence do not deserve to inherit and dispose of property, which acts as a major obstacle to the rights of women and children and constitutes a major hindrance for development.
After having been deceived and disinherited, Dorothy Awino (47) was forced to leave her home with her two-year-old son. In 2003, she joined other women who had been disinherited to found “The Road Marks International ”, a community organisation in the Nyanza province, where the traditions of the Luo tribe led to orphans and vulnerable women being disinherited.
Her investment in the project led to major changes for the women and children of her community. Dorothy won the trust of the “Caucus for Women’s Leadership”, an organisation aiming at reinforcing the abilities of local leaders to denounce violations of women’s and children’s rights. Thanks to this organisation, the Elder’s Council of the Luo has committed itself to protecting the rights of women, even enabling some of them to reestablish themselves on their ancestral lands.
It is Dorothy’s commitment to her community, her knowledge and understanding of Luo culture that enabled her to win the support of the elders of her tribe. She herself has become a member of the Elder’s Council, and even coordinates their programs, something exceptional in that culture. Dorothy believes that poverty and some traditional cultural practices represent major obstacles to the protection of the rights of women and children, and need to be overcome. Her project has initiated major changes, measured by the fact that violations of women and children’s rights have significantly decreased.