For women in Kenya, losing your husband can be one of the worst things that can happen to you. Not only does it mean the loss of a loved one but, as a woman, it can also mean that you are at risk of losing your land and your livelihood.
I’ve recently returned from spending a few weeks in the Great Lakes Region of Africa where I had the honour of meeting women that are, not only experiencing this injustice but, fighting to claim their rights.
Men and women do not have equal rights to land in many African countries. Patriarchal laws and practices mean that women do not have access to the same rights as men. This further entrenches inequality and keeps women from achieving equality and justice.
For women like Mary Adera Litewo from Kenya, this is a daily worry. She fears for the future of her children: “I have problems to do with boundaries on my land with my brothers-in-law. This started immediately after the death of my husband. I feel very bad because I fear that if I die, my children will not get any inheritance from their father.”
In 2016, Mary joined 300 women farmers at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro to demand that their governments take action to uphold their rights to land ownership. This was an amazing feat of solidarity. Mary and 27 other women trekked to the top of the mountain to raise awareness of this injustice, and stand in solidarity with their sisters across the continent.
Since then, women have continued to fight for land rights. In partnership with ActionAid, they have compiled a charter with a list of demands to present to community leaders, in order to give them equal rights to land.
Last June, ActionAid, our partners and women from across Kenya organised an event in the capital, Nairobi. In attendance were ambassadors, government officials, and community members.
At the event, women read out their list of demands for equality and shared a pathway on how to get there. It was a powerful moment, with women from different ethnicities and religious backgrounds coming together for one common purpose: to gain equal land rights.
Women like Mary are determined to make their voices heard, and ensure they can secure rights for future generations.
“So if I meet my governor that is what I will tell him……give us our land back. And I will be happy. It is my land, it is our land and I don’t want anything else” said Mary.
Now is a pivotal time for women in Kenya, which is why I am asking for your support. Your donation will go a long way to making sure that women no longer live in fear of their land being snatched away if their husbands die.
I know from speaking to women like Mary that land rights is about more than just ownership. It is about their livelihoods, and securing a future for all women in Kenya.
Your support can help women like Mary learn about their rights and access the crucial legal and community support to achieve them.
Please stand with women like Mary in Kenya to claim their land rights today.
Yours in solidarity,
Dr. Sally Henderson
Programme Manager, ActionAid Australia