On April 10, representatives from U.S. NGO Landesa presented an impact evaluation on USAID’s Kenya Justice Project during the World Bank’s Annual Conference on Land and Poverty. Kenya’s 2010 constitution provided greater legal recognition of women’s rights to own and inherit land; the Justice project – which is implemented by Landesa – has piloted a model for improving community awareness and acceptance of those formal rights in order to make them a reality for rural women. The Justice project has worked to increase women’s knowledge of their rights and empower them in the role of elders, with a desired outcome of increasing women’s access to customary justice. Women and elders have been trained in legal literacy and specific skills, while students have created justice-themed drama skits, poems, songs and posters.
The impact evaluation found significant and large improvements in women’s knowledge of their rights, women’s confidence in the dispute resolution process and outcomes, men’s respect of women’s rights, and modest improvements in physical and social accessibility of the local justice system for women. According to the report, “Anecdotal evidence indicates women have started to gain access to more land and, importantly, women reported gaining more control over decisions pertaining to their family land, such as decisions over how to use the land, what to plant and where to sell crops, and women are controlling the proceeds derived from the land they access.” Elders were proud to learn that the constitution recognizes and empowers their role and “began to acknowledge that women play a significant role in the household economy and that perhaps it is in the interest of their families to empower women to take on greater responsibilities within the family and community.” Men reported being more likely to divide their inheritance equally between single sons and daughters, but were still hesitant to bequeath land to married daughters.
For more information, see Enhancing Customary Justice Systems in The Mau Forest, Kenya: A Strategy for Strengthening Women’s Land Rights (paper and presentation).