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Yes! Women and girls too deserve a share of land, not just men and boys

The debate on whether the girl-child too deserves a share of land from their parents is one that is considered a taboo in this part of the world. Africa.

In Kenya for instance, almost all communities believe land inheritance is just for the boy-child. How? And in which century!

We are in the 21st century when we are all talking about gender equality. And for gender-equality to be realised, it must be holistic. it is time we started looking at the girl-child as having equal rights to the boy-child, including land ownership rights regardless of what community we come from.

According to World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice Director, Anna Wellenstein, secure land rights are essential for women’s economic empowerment and creating incentives for investment, providing an asset that can be leveraged for agriculture or business development, and offering a solid foundation for financial stability.

Anna believes, and rightly so, that improving women’s access to – and control over – economic resources also has a positive effect on a range of development goals, including poverty reduction and economic growth which explains why the World Bank is always committed to working with partners to close the gap and make land rights for women a reality globally.

That was the subject of the IGAD Sectoral Ministerial Meeting For The Endorsement of the IGAD Regional Women’s Land Right’s Agenda in Nairobi this week.

The summit in Kenya’s capital endorsed the regional the Regional Women’s Land Rights Agenda that is key in the implementation of the African Union Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges.

Themed “The Africa We Want and Leaving No One Behind”, this declaration is one that requires the support of policymakers and all the stakeholders to succeed because of the gains it will bring to the gender equality agenda not only in Kenya, but the entire continent. Yes, it is time, Girls too matter. They possess equal rights to boys in the society.

And after years of neglect on the girl-child in Kenya, I was impressed by the remarks by our Cabinet Secretary for Lands, Farida Karoney committing the government’s resolve to collaborate with IGAD to draw out Kenya Women’s Land Rights Agenda.

She told the summit that consensus building has been done on outstanding Women Land Rights challenges and prioritization of the key issues.

Clearly, as Karoney articulated, the AU Framework and Guidelines for land policy in Africa calls for individual member states to cooperate at regional levels to address land issues and challenges through comprehensive people-driven land policies and reforms in which women’s rights to land are ingrained.

Already, the IGAD Regional Women’s Land Rights Agenda is operational but it requires the implementation of Gender Equality programs on land by the IGAD Secretariat and its IGAD Member States including Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia, and Ethiopia.

It is now time these member states, this programs The Regional Women’s Land Rights Agenda is a framework document that will enable the

Even though the IGAD Secretariat has a major role to play in having these programs implemented, it is up to the member states and its leaders to actualise them.

In Kenya for instance, the culture of men’s rights overriding those of girls is so deep-rooted that it will require a spirited campaign and sensitization in the rural parts where girls are mostly seen as a source of wealth through bride price. And once they are married off, communities in this part of the world do not expect them to return to claim their share of the land. This is what must work together to end.

Judy Kaberia, a Gender Lead at Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) says land ownership has been a major issue that discriminates against women by violating their right to own property.

“Though we are in the 21st century, women are still fighting in courts and in families to be allowed to own or inherit land even where they rightfully deserve, I am glad that these guidelines will address the injustices against women and protect their right to own land.”

For many years, women have remained disadvantaged even in marriage despite clear provisions in the Constitution that provides equal rights to parties in a marriage at the time of the marriage, during and after the dissolution of the union.

But the problem in Kenya is lack of implementation of the laws, or an overlap of the laws that makes interpretation an issue even to legal scholars thus exposing women to humiliating defeats whenever they file related cases in court.

Legal scholars have argued that the existence of these gaps in the law is to blame for lack of enforcement hence the need to find a lasting solution for generations to come and these are changes I expect in the BBI, not just power sharing, Devolution and among others.

There is more reason than ever to harmonize Marriage Act, the Matrimonial Property Act, the Land Registration Act, the Land Act itself and the Law of Succession Act to eliminate gaps that hinder enforcement on related cases to protect both genders.

I believe if this is done, we will have saved women and girls and safeguarded their right to own property and they will not have to spend endless years in courts seeking the elusive justice.

The author comments on topical gender-related issues.

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