TURKANA WOMEN & YOUTH LAND OWNERSHIP

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The policy of land ownership as presented in the main findings from a situational analysis and assessment of women’s and youths’ ability to access community land in Turkana County with a focus on their rights. This article briefly highlights the fact that even though policy and legal frameworks provide for equal rights and non-discriminatory access to land, women and youths still face many land-related challenges in Turkana County. Based on the current situation regarding community land rights, we examine the barriers that women face trying to realize these rights.

Our aim is to inform policymakers, administrators, development partners, and local communities, including women’s and non-governmental organizations working to improve access to land for women and youth.

The centrality of land can be seen in Chapter 5 of the Constitution of Kenya, which focuses on land and the environment. However, realizing women’s right to access, control, and improve land and manage natural resources still remains a dream in arid and semi-arid regions.

The unequal treatment between men and women in land governance systems is linked to specific roles and relationships that are regulated by socio-cultural norms. As a result, women – particularly poor women – have fewer options for participating in land governance and natural resource management and for dealing with related crises. This in turn increases their vulnerability and limits their capacity to access, use, and own land resource management and dealing with related crisis.

In agro-pastoral systems, women play a central role as land and natural resource managers, income generators, and service providers. Pastoral women are not only “primary” users of land, but are also major “secondary” users, collecting rangeland products such as firewood, grass, wild fruit, medicinal plants are wild edible plants. However, many pastoralist societies are patriarchal, and men own all the livestock and land resources. While pastoral women’s property rights have been afforded.

Truth be told:

  • There is a customary land tenure system in which access is mainly through inheritance, with no formal documentation. The community traditionally demarcates land using indicators such as family graves, large old trees (e.g acacia trees), and watering wells. Nearly all the interviewees asserted that women have no land ownership rights, though daughters of chiefs or women from rich families are allocated land. However, at times this land can be taken away by their brothers once the parents are dead.
  • Insecure tenure exists due to a lack of title documents.
  • The communities in Turkana County affirmed that traditional land management systems exist in every community. There are councils of elders to ensure that every community member has access to land and to sort out land-related disputes at the community level, but women, youth, and other vulnerable groups (those with disabilities, HIV, etc.) are rarely involved in discussions on land-related matters.
  • Those who want to access community land for investment or any other business have to negotiate with the elders, in consultation with the chief and relevant government officials; women are not allowed to participate in the decision-making forums. 
  • In Turkana County, the resource-based conflicts are mainly over grazing areas, water points, boundaries, urban expansion, and the fencing of livestock passage routes, conservancies, and refugee camps.
  • It was noted that the community had very little knowledge and awareness about the Constitution of Kenya. The legal frameworks on community land governance exist, but the chiefs had only basic knowledge of community land matters and disseminated what they knew to the community during barazas.

Why do women and Youths have limited access to land in Turkana?

  • Religious beliefs that women should not mingle with men
  • Low literacy levels among women
  • Lack of female role models who have succeeded in accessing land in Turkana
  • Poverty
  • Gender inequality due to cultural barriers and discriminatory traditions
  • Poor access to information and inadequate knowledge about existing legal frameworks on land
  • Corruption
  • Lack of political good will, with low priority given to the land question and high priority given to political interests

What to be done/Recommendations:

  • Awareness creation (sensitization)  by non-governmental    organizations to enlighten communities on their rights and the importance of adhering to constitutional principles such as participation and consultation
  • Translation and contextualization of the constitution with the realities on the ground for the people of Turkana
  • Promotion of adult  education to improve literacy levels
  • Formation and strengthening of women’s groups so as to empower them.

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