WOMEN PUSH KAIMENYI INTO ACTION ON THEIR RIGHTS TO LAND
Forty-five women representatives demand joint titles bearing the names of both spouses on matrimonial property, and that affirmative action be applied to ensure women get 60 per cent of settlement schemes
As if customs denying them rights to land are not bad enough, women in the country have to deal with laws and policies that violate their entitlement to landownership.
This prompted 45 women representatives to sign a charter calling for reforms to grant them equal rights to land.
They presented the Rural Women Land Rights Charter of Demands to Lands CS Jacob Kaimenyi in Nairobi yesterday.
Kaimenyi said the Lands ministry will implement Chapter 60 of the constitution on land governance to address women’s grievances on land ownership.
The CS said women should use the existing laws in incidents where customs are used by certain communities to deny them equal rights.
“You must fight for your rights. Nobody is going to give you anything
kienyeji,” he said.
The rights charter contains 10 key demands relating to women’s land ownership rights.
They range from calls for reforms on policies and legal provisions violating women’s rights to land ownership, as contained in the matrimonial Property Act 2013 and the recently assented Land Amendment Act 2015.
The charter also demands for joint titles bearing the names of both spouses on matrimonial property, and that affirmative action be applied to ensure 60 per cent of direct beneficiaries of settlement schemes are women.
The Lands mnistry is also urged to organise awareness and education programmes on policies and laws that contain specific bias towards women on property and natural resource rights.
“As a matter of priority, the government should simplify land titling process. It should decentralise and make information available in local languages,” read the charter.
Other demands are the social inclusion of women living with disabilities or HIV-Aids in land governance, including having titles in Braille format for the blind.
The charter also demands the protection of land rights activists involved in advancing women’s rights to land ownership.
“The government should join our efforts to end illegal and militia-type harassment and threats to women in pursuit of individual or collective land rights. Parliament should enact laws to protect women pursuing legitimate land rights and the human rights defenders supporting them in this course,” read the charter.
They also want the two-thirds gender rule applied during the constitution of land boards to guarantee women fairness during conflict resolution.
The women said their demands are anchored on legal provisions in the constitution and legislations on land.
They cited Article 27( 3 ) of the constitution, which provides for equal treatment of men and women on political, economic, cultural and social spheres. They also cited Article 68, which requires Parliament to enact laws to protect women rights to matrimonial home upon divorce.
However, National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri said most of the demands are already catered for, either in the National Land Policy, the constitution or other land laws.
“The main problem here is implementation,” Swazuri said. He called on women to change their approach to airing their grievances by involving men.
“Let’s concentrate more on the obstacles making implementation difficult, and these are attitudes. In many places we have been to, when we ask women what they want, they say ‘I’m okay with what my husband will say’,” Swazuri said.
ActionAid Kenya Executive director Bijay Kumar, who has been helping women groups on land issues, said some 300 women at a settlement scheme in Mombasa county are holders of title deeds but they don’t actually own land.
“And there are a few more where the same land was given to more than one person. We have brought that to the notice of the government, and we hope that something will be done,” Kumar said.
Participants at the event also shared their experiences and the difficulties they have undergone, especially after the deaths of their husbands.
“Our main problem is cultural beliefs. We urge that our names and those
‘ YOU MUST FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS. NOBODY IS GOING TO GIVE YOU ANYTHING KIENYEJI.’ — LANDS CS JACOB KAIMENYI
Scola Zighe receives her title deed from Lands CS Jacob Kaimenyi at Buguta on July 13.