Home Institution

University of Vermont

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

Kenya: Global Health and Human Rights


This project aims to gain a greater understanding of the current state of women’s land rights in Kisumu County, Kenya. It will discuss current barriers women face in accessing land and how land can impact a woman’s empowerment and in turn, her control over her health. Property rights can provide women with a secure place to live, a place of economic activity and reduce dependence on men. Property ownership can also serve to empower women and “give them greater bargaining power at the household, individual, and community level...increasing agency” (Dworkin,2009). Unfortunately, men have almost always been favored in land rights in traditional land allocation and in customary law. In 2010, Kenya’s new constitution, article 60, eliminates gender discrimination in law, customs, and practices related to land. Since this, little research has evaluated the relationship between land rights and female empowerment in a Kenyan context. 30 in-depth interviews were conducted and a questionnaire collected to analyze the impact land rights has on women’s empowerment from before and after the 2010 constitution. Empowerment was measured on a 0-5 scale based on a set of indicators drawn from the World Bank (Malhotra et al., 2002). A review of the mainstream Kenyan media between January 2019 and May 2019 was used to gain a deeper understanding of the public perception of women’s land rights. Regardless of the clear legal standards now in place, gender-biased public attitude and limited utilization of legal services still lead to women systematically being denied their rights to land. This study prioritized local knowledge and women’s experiences to illustrate possible solutions. The participants suggested more investment in the judiciary and mediation efforts, promotion of will writing, and community campaigns to help dismantle the patriarchal beliefs and traditions that prevent women from accessing their land. These recommendations could help support women’s land claims and lead to empowering women in their own sexual, and non-sexual, health going forward.


African Languages and Societies | African Studies | Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Land Use Law | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Women's Studies


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