Landesa helps bring about women’s rights in rural Kenya

Wondering how gender equality and land rights are linked? Women, not men, are primarily responsible for agricultural production and cultivation in the developing world. Without rights to land, women are unable to feed themselves and their families, and provide access to shelter, food, education and medical care as a result.

Parakuo Naimodu, mother of 11 children, is one of Ol Pusimoru’s new elders. For decades she suffered the abuse of her husband, but today she is a recognized leader. Photo credit: Deborah Espinosa

The Kenya Justice Project was established after Kenya adopted a new constitution that provides women with unprecedented rights and freedoms, including the ability to own and inherit property. A USAID-funded pilot program with the support of the Kenyan government sets out to educate rural communities about changes in the national constitution, and what that means for women and girls in particular. The initiative empowers women to seek leadership roles that will enable them to enforce women’s rights and oversee how resources are managed. The project consists of a program to inform community members, including elders/chiefs, of the new Constitution, training sessions to provide women with the skills and preparation to seek public office, and curriculum in both primary and secondary schools to educate children about their rights as citizens.

Responsible for implementing the Kenya Justice Project, Landesa, an organization that works to secure land rights for the world’s poorest people, recently launched a video that chronicles the transformation of women’s rights in a rural Kenyan village as a result of the project.

The program has already brought about exciting changes that once would have been unthinkable. Elders and chiefs now require a spouse’s written consent before approving property-related transactions, women are able to keep a portion of land to live on and cultivate in cases of separation or divorce, and women are now eligible to be elected as village elders to advocate for themselves and their children. If there is one indicator of the success of the program, it’s that for the first time in the history of the area’s secondary school, the number of girls enrolled in school is equal to that of boys, where boys had once outnumbered girls 3:1. That is an outstanding accomplishment that is a direct result of empowering women as decision-makers in both family and community life.

Gender equality has the potential to end the cycle of poverty by enabling women to contribute to community decisions and govern family resources and money wisely. We here at ONE are excited about the potential for this program to inspire others like it across the African continent and are looking forward to watching communities change and grow as women gain greater rights and freedoms.

Read more about Landesa’s incredible work to protect and support women’s rights in Kenya.

Want to learn more about our Women and Girls Initiative? Click here to find out about the role that women play in ending extreme poverty.