Manyara NAKURU (Xinhua) --
Elizabeth Ibrahim, a middle aged woman from the
semi-arid Turkana county in northwest Kenya was married
off in 1996 as a fifth wife when she was only 21 years
Ibrahim was forced to drop out of
secondary school to become a housewife but 15 years
later, her husband died leaving her behind with more
than 24 acres of land.
At the time of his death, Ibrahim had built her
financial resources through singing in social events and
engagement in group savings.
"When my husband died, life turned upside down.
"The local administration wanted to take away my land
just because I was a widow.
"They took me in circles so that I would grow weary
and give up but they were wrong.
"They assumed there is nothing I would do," Ibrahim
told Xinhua recently.
"They were shocked to receive inquiry letters from
the ministry of lands and the anti-graft agency where I
had earlier lodged complaints," she added.
The administrator finally let go of the land and
Ibrahim is now the legal owner of the 24 acres of the
But she said she would have lost the land had it not
been for her aggressiveness and capability to finance
Now, Ibrahim is a vocal defender of women land rights
in the larger Turkana County and she attends conferences
both locally and internationally to share her
experiences and encourage other women to be steadfast in
fighting for the land to own land.
"There is so much discrimination against women in the
villages even though we do have laws that protect their
"A lot of sensitization needs to be done so that
people are aware that customs or traditions do not
supersede the constitution," said Ibrahim.
However, it is impossible for women to defend their
land rights without finances, observed Ibrahim
"You need bus fare to travel to the chief or land’s
"You need airtime to call the people who will support
you or offer advice.
"You need money to go to court.
"Without money it is simply difficult to make a move.
"That’s why most women do not seek redress because
they cannot afford the expenses," said Ibrahim.
She decried the struggles of millions of women in
Kenya in their bid to protect their land rights.
This is despite the constitution outlawing
discrimination of either gender in access and ownership
of property and land.
Further, the Land Act (2012) and Matrimonial Property
Act (2013) have guaranteed the women the rights to
become rightful owners of land and inheritors of
property left behind by their spouses or parents.
Even with the existence of the supportive legislative
framework, the proportion of women owning land is still
low considering the available statistics.
Federation of Women Lawyers estimates that one
percent of women own titles on their own notwithstanding
32 percent of the households are headed by women.
Advocates of women empowerment in Kenya argue that
economic constraints, lack of information, patriarchal
systems and weak execution of pro-women land rights laws
are great barriers to freeing women from discrimination
related to ownership and control of land.
Shatikha Chivusia, commissioner at the Kenya National
Human Rights Commission regretted that women continue to
be viewed through the lens of patriarchal perceptions
thus undermining enjoyment of their land rights.
"Often women will prefer to keep off speaking for
their land rights out of fear of receiving a backlash
from their own community," said Chivusia.
"They fear social pressure that comes with
challenging the patriarchal systems that have defined
the place of women as unequal to men.
"But they end up suffering with their children," she
The commissioner said women need the support of one
another in fighting for their rights as they face a
common problem and addressing it requires a unified
They also need to be properly and adequately informed
of their rights, information that should flow to the
women in the villages as they are highly vulnerable to
land injustice, said Chivusia.
Daisy Mosse, founder of Wakili Mashinani, a legal aid
community-based organization currently operating in
Nakuru County, said communities continue to deny women
their right to land ownership despite passage of laws
that criminalizes the outdated practice.
"That is why a lot of sensitization has to be done at
the grassroots so that the women are aware of what to do
when their land rights are denied and those who
perpetrate land injustice know the consequences of doing
so," said Mosse.