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The debate on women’s property rights takes centre stage in the Kenyan media.

rookellos Icon Posted by Rosemary Okello-Orlale

June 26th, 2008

“Should the women have equal property rights as men?” These kind of debates are slowly being given prominence in the media and the reply to many especially women is: “ Absolutely. Women have made great contributions at their homes and to the country at large. We should not rely on outdated culture that discriminates women from inheriting property. If we do so, we may never develop like countries in the West.” This was Dorothy Ooko’s response when asked.

The debate is coming at a time when Kenyans are taking stock of the post-election violence after the 2007 General Election early this year and one of the ways the country is trying to mange the cohesion is start discussions through the media on the reform agenda.

Most discussions around the dinner table now is how the reform agendas namely the Constitutional Review and the Commission for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation will be a tool for building national cohesion.

At the heart of this is the issues on women rights which the women’s movement are demanding that it should be viewed as human rights especially when dealing with issues around sexual violence, land ownership, property rights, property ownership among others.

Women’s land and property rights in Kenya is a complex combination of legal, social and cultural factors that affects the right of women to own, use and manage property. Currently, only five percent of registered landowners in Kenya are women.

This is due to existing discriminatory laws, customs, ineffective institutions, ignorance and negative attitude towards equality and the human rights of women and the media in Kenya have been accused for perpetuating this myth.

With the recent displacement where more than 350,000 were internally displaced, majority of these people were women, some of who have been widowed and access to their previous land might be a problem.

The fact that property rights by women debate is being featured in the media where voices of both men and men are solicited on the issue is a departure from the normal media work and the fact that they have taken the lead in advocating for women’s property rights, is a sing that the media is slowly becoming gender sensitive.

The Nairobi Star a newspaper in Kenya which targets the youth was candid in its coverage on Wednesday 25th June 2008, when it posed a question: “Should Women have equal property rights as men?”

The following are some of the answers published:

“The law is clear that women should be respected. They contribute to the growth of this country’s economy just like men. As men, we need to accept this issue of women owning and inheriting property.” — Edwin Kulet, a salesman in Nairobi.

“We have campaigned for this since 1976, yet nothing much has changed. The position still stands that the Kenyan woman should be given rights to own, inherit and control property irrespective of whether they are officially working or not.” — Prof Wanjiku Kabira- Chair Women Political Alliance.

“We are living in a modern world and people should not block women from fully exploiting their opportunities. They have the right like any other person to own land, inherit property and even have control over it.” — Harrice Masika, Data Controller.

Even though these words are like music to many women as well as feminist movement in Kenya, the journey is far from being over. In a country where the current Constitutions still recognize the traditional law, many women suffer under the traditions and cultures of their community.

In most communities women are equated as children, some as used as investment and married off when they are young like in most pastoralist communities while majority cannot access education and are illiterate.

And in the absence of proper legal instrument and achieving women’s rights in Kenya has human rights is still a far fetch dream.

3 Responses to “The debate on women’s property rights takes centre stage in the Kenyan media.”

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