Enhancing Customary Justice Systems in the Mau Forest, Kenya: A Strategy for Strengthening Women’s Land Rights

Kenyas new Constitution guarantees all Kenyans the right to access justice, recognizes customary justice institutions to the extent they do not violate the Constitution, and prohibits gender discrimination in land matters. These provisions form the basis for the USAID-supported Kenya Justice Project, which piloted a model for improving women's access to customary justice as a means to strengthen and enforce women?s land rights. An impact evaluation of the pilot found significant and large improvements in women?s knowledge of their rights, women?s confidence in the dispute resolution process and outcomes, men?s respect of women?s rights, and modest improvements in physical and social accessibility of the local justice system for women. Evaluators found tangible improvements of justice institutions directly linked to the project: women in the pilot community can now bring claims independently to the village elders; elders and chiefs now require written spousal consent before approving any land sales or leases; and for the first time in its history, the community elected 17 women to serve as elders alongside men. The pilot demonstrates that the typically all-male customary institution can overcome biases to transform itself into an institution that recognizes and enforces constitutional rights, including those of women.

File Type: pdf
Categories: Kenya
Author: Deborah Espinosa, Florence Santos