We can sit in land meetings with men, pastoralist women

Violet Namanusetek, a member of the Laikipia's Nkiloriti community land management committee, during an interview with Nation on July 12, 2023. She said their inclusion in the community register and management committee had helped address gender discrimination.

Photo credit: Waweru Wairimu | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Women in Isiolo, Laikipia, Marsabit and Samburu counties now have a voice in decision-making on better land management.
  • Janet Leparsati is among the pastoralist women who have gone against the odds to join the executive team dominated by men.

The empowerment quest for women in pastoralist counties has remained under immense threat due to patriarchy.

From disregard of girls’ education and their portrayal as weaker sex, women are expected to obey, respect and submit to men’s leadership. They endure harmful customs including early and forced marriages as well as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

In most cases they are confined to their homes to take care of children and livestock, and have limited access to and control over resources. They enjoy little or no say in decision-making at family and society level.

Significant progress has, however, been made thanks to the requirement for women to be included in the community land register and management committees in line with the constitutional clause on ‘affirmative action’ geared towards addressing gender discrimination.

Women in Isiolo, Laikipia, Marsabit and Samburu counties now have a voice in decision-making on better land management as they, in most cases, constitute the biggest number on the register due to polygamy that remains deeply rooted in these communities.

The Community Land Act states that a quorum for decision-making should not be less than two-third of the community assembly-total number of registered adult members.

The Community Assembly elects between 7-15 members who constitute the Community Land Management Committee (CLMC) tasked with managing and administering registered community land on behalf of the community and coordinating its development in collaboration with respective authorities.

Janet Leparsati, the treasurer of Sarara Community Land Management Committee in Samburu East, is among the pastoralist women who have gone against the odds to join the executive team dominated by men.

“Initially, we were only allowed into the committee as members and our contribution was not recognised but we have, through continued training, competed with men for executive positions and I am happy that the community picked me in a group of three men,” she said during a recent training by Namati in Isiolo.

The organisation has been training women, who are part of their community land management committees, on leadership and financial literacy for increased participation in community affairs and to enable them take up leadership positions in the land committees.

Janet Leparsati, who is Samburu's Sarara community land management committee treasurer, addresses journalists during a training by Namati in Isiolo town on September 5, 2023.

Photo credit: Waweru Wairimu | Nation Media Group

Men, she says, rubbished her off on several occasions, claiming she was incapable of serving in the position. She, however, stood her ground and focused on discharging her role.

“I was under immense pressure (from the men) and we quarrelled on several occasions but they later embraced me, setting the stage for collaborative working,” the 40-year-old woman said.

Mary Ranga from Kilmon in Laikipia, said the legal provision has come in handy because women, like men, can now attend meetings and contribute on various issues of public concern.

“Samburu women previously had no voice but are now allowed to sit in meetings with men and take up leadership positions even though the change continues to face pressure from retrogressive cultural traditions,” she explained.

Violet Namanusetek from Nkiloriti in Laikipia North, said women were previously not involved in land matters until the Community Land Act was changed, requiring their inclusion in the register (which is reviewed annually) and leadership.

“Our contribution is now recognised and we are now allowed into meetings with men because we all enjoy equal rights in management of the community land. We have eight men and seven women in the CLMC,” she said.

Nkiloriti and the neighbouring Musul communities are among those that have transferred their land from group ranch to community land. The community got its title deed in February 2020.

Ms Namanusetek said their involvement in decisions such as drafting of by-laws for land use and management, has also enabled them to benefit from conservation income.

Laikipia’s Twala Cultural Group, an umbrella of six women groups from two communities, and with a membership of 203 women, is involved in bee-keeping, beadwork business, hall and collage hire.

Their chairperson Magdalene Rana, told nation.africa that they enjoy unlimited use of a 40-acre land where they undertake the economic activities. The men gave them the land.

Economic empowerment

“The provision for gender involvement on land issues has helped change men’s mind-set and women are slowly enjoying rights to use and manage land for economic empowerment,” Ms Rana said.

“The men gave us 20 acres of land 15 years ago and several years later, an extra 20 acres, which allows us to undertake income generating activities such as bee keeping on large scale” she added.

They use 10 per cent of their income to support member and non-member girl education as a way to ensure they are not married off young or exposed to harmful practices such as FGM.

During a recent learning exchange tour for Marsabit communities in Laikipia, Lokho Abduba from North Horr, said with illiteracy among the impediments to women empowerment, there was need for continued sensitisation on community land registration so that they actively participate in the process.

“Proper land use and management helps avert conflicts and builds community resilience against perennial climatic shocks,” she said during the tour organized by the Indigenous Strategy and Institution for Development (ISID).

The organisation promotes home-grown land management approaches and builds capacity for communities and land stakeholders in implementation of national tenure policies including Community Land Act 2016.

Marsabit communities during a learning tour at Nkiloriti in Laikipia on community land registration on July 12, 2023. Women who previously had limited access to, and control over resources are now increasingly being involved in land management.

Photo credit: Waweru Wairimu | Nation Media Group

Several communities in Marsabit are in the process of registering their communal land, with Rawana the recent to submit requisite documents such as register, sketch of the land and by-laws at the office of the Registrar of Community Land in charge of Isiolo and Marsabit counties in Isiolo town.

Ms Leparsati said registering their land enabled them to benefit from compensation for government projects being undertaken within the community, and that they used the money to buy food and pay school fees for their children.

“The money would have gone to the county government that is allowed by the law to hold in trust all unregistered community land on behalf of the communities,” she said.

Article 40 (3) of the Constitution and Land Act states that no interest in or right over community land may be compulsory acquired by the State except in accordance with the law, for a public purpose or upon prompt payment of just compensation in full or by negotiated settlement.

While the process has been a bit slow in Isiolo due to political wrangling on whether to register the land at ward, sub-county or constituency level, women are hopeful of benefiting.

“We are happy that the constitution has safeguarded our rights and I appreciate men who have embraced women to be at the decision-making table on land and other matters,” Halima Yussuf from Kom said.