“We come together on issues that affect us,” says Alice, a member of GROOTS Kenya, which equips women with the tools, knowledge and confidence to advocate for their rights.
(Cover photo: Alice, at the GROOTS Kenya office in Kakamega county, shares some of her group’s recent achievements and how they prioritize their advocacy and data gathering work.)
This grassroots movement of community groups led by and for women is championing a movement to reform Kenya’s laws and regulations on land ownership.
Their first goal was to simplify the process of land succession by advocating for joint land titles, making it faster, easier and cheaper for a woman to have her name added to a land deed, and for this process to be available locally (not just nationally).
“When you’re negotiating with government, you’re more easily heard when you come as a group.”
The women also advocated for the process of land successions to be handled at the county and sub-county levels (making access to courts easier for women).
They collected data on land ownership, interviewing women in 2,430 households to ask them “do you have a land title?” or “do you own your land?”. The resulting survey data were presented at a public forum where GROOTS Kenya encouraged men to take out joint land titles with their spouses to speed an inheritance process that can otherwise take years.
Grassroots women act as a watchdog group and for all issues pertaining to women and leadership, “we push for the 2/3 rule,” says Alice. “When a woman is not present in decision-making spaces, her voice will not be heard.”
These movements are important, says Alice. “When you’re negotiating with government, you’re more easily heard when you come as a group.”
Previously, there was no documentation to validate a couple’s marriage in Kenya, making it extremely difficult for women to keep the land in her name should her husband pass away. If land is well managed, families can produce cash crops like sugarcane, and even if the woman who managed the land and led most of the agricultural work, the payment would go to the name listed in the land title.
In addition, the group in Kakamega advocated for the development of mobile courts at the sub-county level. Without these mobile courts, women have to walk over 30km to access the court; the physical demand and cost was too much.
The GROOTS Kenya women also want the Government to promote joint land titling and develop programs that educate women about their rights to decision-making power on issues pertaining to family land.
“I attended a chief meeting and in front of the land dispute tribunal, I was one of two women, compared to the eight men in attendance,” says Mary, a member of Alice’s group.
“In our culture, land ownership belongs to the boy. We have seen big improvements, though,” says Mary. “Today, land is at least shared among both boys and girls.”