Women's Rights on Community Land Begin to take Shape

Posted: 27th Jan 2017 12:00:00 PM

KWCA's Community Land Act 2016 Awareness Workshop in Amboseli
Joyce Lemomo (left) and Joyce Kimiti after attending KWCA's Community Land Act 2016 Awareness Workshop in Amboseli

Land matters among the Maasai community have been a preserve of theme. Culturally, Maasai women were not recognized as land owners and could not present their views on matters concerning land. Joyce Kimiti and Joyce Lemomo together with their daughters were registered as members of Olgulului Olarashi group ranch by their husbands, a privilege they don't take for granted since only few women married into the community are registered members.

As group ranch members, Kimiti and Lemomo have participated in the group ranch meetings severally but have always been disappointed by the selfishness portrayed by the group ranch officials who've used their immense decision making powers to benefit from land dealings at the expense of the community and to share most of the tourism and donor funding proceeds with clan members. Lemomo a mother of two daughters, from a minority clan, received a small percentage of the bursary fee to educate her daughters while other members were getting full bursaries. She says the reason for the small percentage is because she is educating daughters instead of sons. "Girls' education in my community is not a priority," She says. Kimiti, her fellow member and friend considers herself a women's advocate. She has been vocal in fronting women's needs in the member's annual general meetings but her requests have fallen on deaf ears. This prompted her and Lemomo to start Noonktiak women's group to support and empower women economically. The group has a membership of 54 members who are involved in beadwork and recently got donor support to construct manyata homestays for tourists visiting the neighboring Amboseli national park. Kimiti and Lemomo have been vocal in the group ranch elections, mobilizing community members to support aspirants from a different faction to get great leaders but they have been threatened for getting involved in the politics of the group ranch. Under the repealed Land (Group Representatives) Act, the group ranch committee members had power to make decisions on behalf of the community members, which they have often done without consultation or regard to members' interests. Kimiti and Lemomo lost to ever participate or be recognized in the affairs of the group ranch.

However, before all hope was lost, they received an invitation to attend a workshop organized by the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA) to sensitize conservancy leaders and group ranch officials in Amboseli on the new Community Land Act 2016. It was the first time Lemomo and Kimiti were hearing of the new Act. They had never heard of the repealed land laws on group ranches and trust lands. They were thrilled to be represented in the workshop but intimidated by the men's intelligence. Their limited access to information on land issues was a challenge but they followed through the whole workshop with keen interest. The new law has recognized women, youth and minorities in accessing, using and benefiting equally from the community land. The Act also gives all community members irrespective of gender, more power be involved in making decisions of the land through the community assembly which was a reserve of a few committee members, where women were a handful.

"There is hope. The new law has created a structure that is transparent, the community at large including women have the power to bring change. It's now up to us." Says Lemomo. Kimiti is however hesitant on women's involvement in leadership "mindsets have not yet shifted from perceiving leadership as a domain for men and although there is progressive change, a lot needs to be done to ensure women are included in leadership positions," she said.

KWCA through support from USAID Kenya, under the 'Community Conservancy Support and Implementation Program' will advocate for the Constitutional two-thirds gender principle to be recognized in membership of the newly created community land management committees under the regulations to be developed, so as to enhance women representation and participation in community lands governance and management.


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