Strengthening Women’s Land Rights Creates a Virtuous Cycle in Kenya

Strengthening women’s rights to own and inherit property provides them with greater opportunities to generate income and exercise control over family resources, which can improve women’s ability to feed and educate their children. This simple but powerful message is highlighted by Deborah Espinosa’s recent Huffington Post blog In Kenya, Land Rights Bring New Hope for Women and Girls. Espinosa is a senior attorney and land tenure specialist at Landesa, which implements USAID’s Kenya Justice project.

The Kenya Justice project works with local communities and traditional authorities to improve women’s knowledge and practice of their rights, including the rights to own and inherit land and property. One of the project’s notable successes is that local chiefs and elders now require spousal consent (with witnesses) for all land transactions, including leases. The Justice project has also helped to elevate the status of women in the local community. Last year, for the first time, women were elected as tribal elders. As Espinoza notes, “women’s new roles as tribal elders and managers of family resources are creating a virtuous cycle – reinforcing the need for girls to be educated so they can assume important family and community responsibilities just like their brothers.”

The virtuous cycle has begun to produce tangible results. This year, for the first time, the number of girls enrolled in the local secondary school is almost equal to the number of boys, where boys had once outnumbered girls 3 to 1.