Nelly Bassily | August 10, 2009
In Kenya, you are more likely to see a woman working in the fields than a man. Seven out of ten people working in agriculture are women. So why is it that only five per cent of women own land?
This seems like a contradiction for women’s rights advocates in Kenya. However, the possibility of change is imminent. In June, the Kenyan cabinet adopted a draft National Land Policy, signaling reform of land administration. The policy would cover access to land, land use planning, and environmental degradation.
It is also an opportunity to eliminate discrimination against women in land rights issues. The draft land policy recognizes the need to reform old practices that did not protect women’s property rights. For example, it would protect the land rights of married women in the case of divorce or their husband’s death. The policy would also do away with elements of customary law that negate women’s rights.
Organizations such as the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and the Kenya Law Alliance want to ensure that change for women’s rights actually occurs. They have developed a proposal to implement the new land policy in a way that addresses gender issues.
Evelyne Opondo is the senior program officer for FIDA. She believes that land reform and women’s rights go hand and hand. Ms. Opondo hopes that the change in government policy will lead to a change in public attitudes towards women’s rights in all aspects of society.
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