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Women in Ol Pusimoru, Kenya have much to celebrate today – but it hasn’t been an easy journey.
Back in 2010, Kenya adopted a revolutionary new constitution that offered women unprecedented protections and freedoms – including equal rights to land and family resources.
But this historic legal change – at least initially – made little difference for women in this area of the Rift Valley. These women, many of whom are illiterate, live in a world governed by tradition. Here, women are not supposed to make decisions, own or inherit land, or manage family resources.
“Now I see value in letting my wife be free and allowing her to make decisions too.”
— John Sadera, Justice Project Beneficiary, Ol Pusimoru, Kenya
And this is not unique to Ol Pusimoru or to Kenya. Many sub-Saharan African countries, from Angola to Uganda, have progressive constitutions that grant women equal rights. But traditional practices dominate and traditional rulers govern—meaning that rural women often can’t exercise their equal rights.
In an effort to make the rights enshrined in Kenya’s new constitution “real” for women in Ol Pusimoru, USAID and Landesa, a global nonprofit that is working to strengthen land rights for the world’s rural poor, designed and implemented an innovative pilot project, the Kenya Justice Project, aimed at not only making rural communities more aware of women’s new rights, but also convincing them that these new rights could help their families and their community.
“One of the greatest changes is that my husband has given me what I wanted – land – so I can take care of my children.”
— Mary Sadera, Justice Project Beneficiary Ol Pusimoru, Kenya
During the project’s months of workshops, discussions, and community conversations, the tribal elders, who serve as community leaders and mediators, slowly began to realize that their community might be better off if they worked to support and enforce women’s rights – particularly rights to access and manage family resources like land.