Faith Alubbe, the first woman boss at Kenya Land Alliance

Kenya Land Alliance CEO Faith Alubbe on June 19, 2023.

Photo credit: Kennedy Amungo I Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The activist has had to stand up to gender stereotypes aimed at her by those belittling her ability to lead.
  • Highlighting disparities in property ownership, she says men have four bundles of rights: they can own, they can control, they can use and they can access land, but most women can only access and use.

Faith Alubbe has a special connection with land. A lawyer with 17 years’ experience in human rights, she describes herself as a land justice activist.

She fights for it, she protects it, and she educates others about it. When free, she relaxes in it as her favourite pastime is gardening. She is the chief executive officer at Kenya Land Alliance (KLA) and the secretary to the board.

Her work involves promoting the rights of marginalised groups, including women, who are at the periphery of decision-making on natural resources and the development agenda.

“Men have four bundles of rights: they can own; they can control; they can use; and they can access land; but most women can only access and use,” she says.

“It is important for us to focus on women's land and property rights because many sacrifice their rights at the altar of cohesion and peace, yet they have contributed in kind and/or in monetary terms. Such sacrifices mean women are always losing because they have to constantly start from scratch.”

Between 2017 and 2018, KLA and the then Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning conducted a study on 3.2 million land titles that had been issued under the Jubilee government to ascertain the percentage of women landowners.

Only one per cent had female names. Six per cent had female and male names. And then the rest had male names. The assumption then was that the female names only meant woman owned properties. Both sexes meant a married couple and the rest male-owned.

The land sector, according to Faith, has experienced slow progress due to key changes in laws, including the Community Land Act of 2016, the Land Laws (Amendment) Act, the Sectional Property Act of 2021, and the Physical and Land Use Planning Act of 2019. These have led to community realignment, hence the need for organisations like hers to evaluate the situation.

That said, the Kenya Demographic Health Survey of 2022 shows that 72.8 per cent of 32,156 women surveyed, do not own agriculture or non-agriculture land. Only 2.6 per cent of single women who have never been married are landowners. Of divorcees or separated women, 13.7 per cent own land.

Surprisingly, divorced women form the largest composition of landowners at 52 per cent. Women who have never been married are most likely to be landless at 97.4 per cent, compared to 57.3 per cent of married or cohabiting women.

Equal rights

Inclusion of both men and women in the equality discourse is a justice issue, she opines. “Opportunities must be given to both genders. There needs to be equity for the progression of society and that involves having women and men in all decision-making spaces.”

To help women get involved in the land discussion, KLA runs a programme on women land rights in 25 counties. Depending on the location of the woman, she is assisted to handle specific issues by amplifying her voice through legal aid.

Women in the coastal areas, for example, face historical land injustices and succession issues, while those from Central have issues just acquiring the property itself.

The organisation has mobilised women to form social movements, which gives them a safe space to not only talk about land rights but also chamas, and other economic vehicles.

At the moment, KLA is also piloting the Haki Ardhi app in Kakamega and Taita Taveta. The app enables a woman who is being evicted from her matrimonial property to use a toll-free number to report violations in a safe way and to faster access support.

Faith cautions women against the alternative forms of dispute resolution, because some of its mechanisms, especially if based on retrogressive traditions, can instead disadvantage them. Additionally, she asks co-wives to be mindful of working against each other on property they both worked to acquire.

“Section 13 of the Matrimonial Property Act speaks about division of property in a polygamous setting, although the formula offered is not practical as it assumes that before a second woman is brought into the union, the first already has her portion of the matrimonial property, which, often, is not the case.”

She also implores women to enhance their awareness.

“You can only claim a right that you know, and no one will give you an entitlement before you demand it. Up to 70 per cent of land in Kenya is communally held—traditionally managed by a council of elders and men. And if a woman is not aware that the law, in fact, allows her to demand her portion from her own father, she cannot do it.”

Women, she adds, should not ignore their role of holding leaders accountable. “When a chief calls a baraza, make time to attend to understand the issues being discussed as development decisions start at that level.”

Enforcement of the law, she says, goes hand in hand with multiplicity of the law. One issue is affected by so many laws to a point where one cannot understand her entitlements outlined in all those pieces of legislation.

Enforcement is often hindered by lack of political goodwill and abuse of office from the local level, moving up.

Had Faith not ended up in law, she would either be a florist or an interior designer. But as fate would have it, she found herself at the centre of land rights when she started her career at the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (Fida-K).

“I happened to be the officer who was fronted to represent Fida at constitutional meetings, which discussed Chapter 5 that deals with classification of land in Kenya.

“We also worked on the Land Registration Act of 2012, the National Land Commission Act of 2012 and the Matrimonial Property Act of 2013,” she recalls.

“When I moved from Fida to the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), naturally I was inclined to similar programmes. At KHRC, however, we would look at the land agenda as a colonial legacy.

“I ended up working with the Mau Mau, supporting them to get their right to compensation after being abused and tortured during the colonial era.”

After 20 years, Faith became the first female CEO at KLA. This came with some challenges. She has been bullied in some boardrooms and by fellow activists who don't understand why a woman would be occupying that position.

But she is not one to be easily fazed. She recalls how at the beginning of her career an elderly man, who needed her help in settling his land woes, told her off.

Mali inawezaje ongelea mali (How can someone's property discuss property)?” he had asked, implying that women are nothing but property.

To counter such stereotypes, she has had to work twice as hard to earn her respect. And this has also come with her ensuring she is well versed in her field.

“I have no fear talking before men because my brothers and my father built my confidence from a young age. I have also come to realise that if you are solution-oriented, people will eventually buy into your ideas."

In Kenya, she says, most land-grabbers are politicians and people with influence, but she is not afraid of confronting them.

“When you are aware and have accepted the possible consequences of your choices, it gives you the power and confidence to call out a land-grabber for breaking the law and denying others their rights. Someone has to fight for social justice and I am the one on that seat now.”

The fire in her to fight injustice began early on in life. She had to stand up to her seven elder brothers as a child, whenever they ate all the bread during breakfast, while she slept. In her tiny voice, she aired her grievances.


In some ways, she derives her inspiration from the communities she works with. “Whenever I see them owning a struggle, running with it and not giving up no matter how long it takes to get justice, I become brazen.”

Inclusion of women, in her view, has benefits. “At the household level, research has found that women with more land rights have better unions because they are able to own some money and contribute at home and in society.

Socially, a woman who owns some land or property has more respect because it is prestigious, and she is more likely to be included in decision-making spaces.”

Faith has two role models: her parents, for raising 12 independent, law-abiding citizens; and Wangari Maathai, for her willingness to pay the price for the decisions she made.

The greatest lesson she has learnt is to stay the course, when pursuing a cause until she gets results. She might not know what the next five years hold in store but is certain it will still involve human rights in one form or another.

When she thinks of her legacy and how she would like to be remembered, she jokes that her epitaph should read: “The woman who dared to speak about property, despite being property.”

But until then, she mentors those who have come after her, enabling them to stand on her shoulders to see further.