Kenya Justice Project Implementation Guide

Subtitle: Dissemination of Lessons Learned: Enhancing Customary Justice Systems in the Mau Forest, Kenya.

In 2010, Kenya adopted a new Constitution that guarantees equal rights for women and men and recognizes the role of traditional justice actors in resolving disputes, to the extent those actors comply with the principles enshrined in the Constitution. The following year Landesa, an international NGO focused on strengthening land rights for the rural poor, designed and piloted the USAID-supported project, Enhancing Customary Justice Systems in the Mau Forest, Kenya, also known as the Kenya Justice Project (KJP).

The pilot aimed to enhance women’s access to customary justice related to land by building the capacity of customary justice actors to support and enforce women’s rights to access and own land, while also raising the broader community’s awareness of women’s constitutional rights. Briefly, the Justice Project consists of: (1) delivery of a legal-literacy training curriculum to targeted groups (Chiefs, Elders, women and youth) focused on civic education, rights and responsibilities related to land and natural resources (with special emphasis on rights of women and children, girls and boys), and skill-building, followed by mentoring sessions to address specific needs of each group; (2) facilitated dialogues in safe spaces with target groups to build local ownership of the Constitution and to consider the relevance of constitutional principles to their own lives and community; (3) peer training for targeted groups to share information about constitutional rights with others in the community, increasing the reach of the project beyond project participants; and (4) public information and educational activities around constitutional rights, including via community-wide “Justice Day” celebrations.

Following implementation, a qualitative and quantitative impact evaluation revealed significant improvements across a number of access to justice indicators, including:

  • Establishment and strengthening of procedures and processes in local dispute resolution institutions, including enactment of community bylaws or constitutions to guide their actions, requirement of family consent for land transactions, enhanced record-keeping of proceedings, consistently forwarding criminal cases to the police, and a new election process for the Council of Elders, resulting in women being elected as members of the Council.
  • Increased legal awareness, particularly women’s legal knowledge, men’s knowledge of women’s rights, and women’s familiarity with the local justice system and alternative dispute resolution. Although, as may be expected, knowledge seems to be highest among those directly trained by the Project and amongst the population living closest to the site of Project activities.
  • Increased and improved respect for women’s rights by men in the community. Men’s support seems to be highest for changes in women’s rights that have resulted in observable benefits at the household and community level, such as women’s increased economic activity or their increased involvement in dispute resolution. However, not all men seem to understand and accept changes related to women’s rights to own and inherit land.
  • Increased women’s access to land, as well as increased control and management over assets at the family level.
  • Increased women’s confidence in both fairness and outcomes to access the customary justice system.

Of particular note are the July 2012 election of 14 women as community elders, an unprecedented event in Ol Pusimoru, followed by the 2013 election where 22 women became elders. As of May 2014, the pilot community had maintained, and in many cases improved upon, the gains made by the Project, including requiring spousal consent for all land transactions.

Given the significant advancements in the pilot community, USAID and Landesa are supporting Phase 3 of the project, aimed at disseminating the pilot model. This Implementation Guide is a key component of that dissemination. It is intended for use by government agencies, NGOs, and other groups interested in strengthening women’s land rights in communities across Kenya, in particular, and other countries, more broadly.

This Guide provides background information on the original project and pilot implementation, describes the KJP model and its components, and provides the reasoning and objectives behind each activity to help implementers understand the model’s strengths and make informed decisions about tailoring the existing model for the context in which they plan to work. Section 2 explains the importance of women’s land rights and the context in Kenya that makes the project model particularly timely. Sections 3 and 4 describe the model’s theory of change and core underlying principles. Section 5 provides information on the necessary preparation for implementation in a new community, including staffing and resources needed. Section 6 describes and provides guidance on each project activity, and Section 7 describes additional activities aimed solely at women participants. Section 8 provides approaches to monitoring and evaluation of project progress and impacts. Finally, Section 9 provides implementers with an eight-month recommended implementation timeline, breaking down activities by target group and week. The Guide assumes that users have experience working on community-level project implementation.

The Kenya Justice model is a flexible approach for improving women’s land rights in communities where traditional leaders play an important role in local governance and dispute resolution. This model, and the positive results observed following the pilot implementation, demonstrates that traditional or customary justice institutions are capable of significant change in a short period of time. When provided with critical legal knowledge, legal recognition, and the space to discuss and process that information, customary justice actors can transform themselves into supporters of women’s land rights. With broader implementation, the transformation that has taken place in the pilot community of Ol Pusimoru can take hold across Kenya, enhancing women’s rights, justice, and economic opportunities for all.