How Rachel Korir's 40-year struggle won women rights to inherit land
- Mr Korir says she only wanted one acre to till and feed her children but her family was incensed and flat refused.
- She called in community arbitrators but they family would not budge.
- Frustrated, she filed a case in court and enjoined her five sisters - all of them married.
For over 40 years, she fought in vain to be allocated just one out 42 acres of the family land which she wanted to till and feed her children.
She was not only denied the small piece of land and barred from practicing any form of farming but also faced an eviction from the property at the tail end of 1999.
Going against the grain and all expectations, she took the bull by the horn and filed a case in court on behalf of five of her sisters — all married — demanding a share of the family estate.
It was a journey literally paved with thorns that Mrs Recho Korir, a mother of seven and the third-born in a family of eight, has had to endure to get her rights.
This rural struggle for land ownership took place at their Kapchebo village in Bureti Consituency, Kericho County.
Ms Korir’s mother died in 2006 and her father six years later but the fight to get just a small piece of land to till started way back.
“This is a journey that started in the 1970s when my father Joel Korir and my two brothers — Samwel Kiplangat and Joshua Cheruiyot — barred me from tilling part of the land to feed my children,” Mrs Korir said.
In 1999, there was an attempt to kick her out of the family land because she was married, and as such, the family reasoned she should not inherit part of her father’s estate.
“I only wanted them to allow me to use one out of the 42 acres, but they were adamant that I did not deserve it. I called in my uncles to arbitrate on the matter but still my family members did not budge and I moved to court to challenge their decision,” said Mrs Korir
First, she had to convince her sisters that the only way to get justice was to file a case in court in what was seen to be an affront against the Kipsigis community’s tradition and beliefs on inheritance.
She took it upon herself to file the case and enjoined her five sisters: Esther Korir, Alice Korir, Jane Ruto, Elizabeth Sang and Sarah Rotich.
At one time she contemplated suicide but was talked out of it by Ms Naomi Lanoi, the head of Women Lands Rights at the Kenya Lands Alliance and whose organisation partnered with Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida) to offer legal services for the six women.
“At one point, I could not manage the stress that came with the case and the tribulations I had been subjected to over the years. I repeatedly thought of taking my own life to end the misery,” said Mrs Korir in an interview.
She added: “But after sharing the issues with Ms Lanoi and others, I got convinced that suicide was not an option out of the problems. I am glad that I have lived to see and enjoy the fruits of my struggle.”
Justice Mumbi Ngugi after the protracted legal tussle at the Kericho High Court awarded the six women five acres each of their late parent’S estate – in a landmark ruling delivered on July, 24, 2017.
In a colourful ceremony, the women were handed their title deeds by the Deputy Chief Lands Registrar Pauline Muriitha on behalf of the Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney in a function attended by hundreds of locals and Kipsigis Council of Elders chairman Bishop (rtd) Paul Leleito and his Nandi counterpart Benjamin Kitur.
The kind and friendly grandmother who lives in a tiny round mud wall house roofed with old iron sheets says with her new title deed, she will now develop the land and build a decent house.
Mrs Sang, speaking on behalf of the other sisters, said it was sad one of them died on 2015 before the case was concluded.
“This is an historic moment and a wake-up call to others in society that family property should be divided equally among children,” said Mrs Sang.
Their brothers did not attend the ceremony in protest having lost 30 acres they would have kept all to themselves had they given into the early demands to hand their sister one acre.
Ms Karoney said the government will partner with various stakeholders on training of land officials in order to ensure that women land rights are entrenched while discharging service to the public.
“The women not only took a bold step but also dared to stand and make history. We need more of such women to ensure that the women’s agenda is included in all spheres of our economy,” said Ms Karoney.
She said the right by women to access, use and own land as a resource is a constitutional right which should not be taken away.
“Land and health issues relating to women must be given the attention they deserve in the society for the sake of cohesion and development in the society,” said Ms Lanoi.
Ms Lanoi said there were many cases of women being discriminated against in inheritance and management of family property across the country.
“According to the Kenya Land Alliance Title Deed Issuance Audit Report, out of a sample size of 1,000,099 million out of 3,200,000 million titles issued , women only got 103,043 title deeds representing 10.3 percent while men got 865,095 titles representing 86.5 per cent,” said Mrs Betty Nyabuto, who is the secretary National Gender and Equality Commission.
The data sampled shows that out of 10,129,074 hectares of land between 2013 and 2017, women got 163,253 hectares representing 1.62 percent while men got 9,903,304 hectares representing 97.6 percent.
“Discriminatory laws and cultural practices regarding women access to and control of land and matrimonial property continue to undermine their constitutional right to own property,” said Mrs Nyabuto.
She said there was every reason to celebrate the landmark ruling because it inspires hope to the millions of women in the country that they have a guaranteed right to own and acquire property. including land.
Mrs Josephine Mongare, the Fida national chairperson said there was need to sensitise communities to discard archaic cultural practices and beliefs which discriminate against women in succession matters.