By Florence Gichoya
While Coastal region is endowed with variety of natural resources, it is unfortunate that it’s mostly men who are benefiting. Women are marginalized yet they have a right to play key role in generating income from the resources.
A major concern is women and land ownership in the region. A Mombasa resident said that when it comes to land ownership, the constitution is not followed because traditional cultures and norms take precedent on who owns and manages the natural resources. This norm makes the majority women to lose interest in owning land or venture into economic activities like fishing and mining.
Najib Samshali, the Kenya Alliance board member said that, when girls are born in the region they are socialized differently from boys. They are taught to be home makers and when it comes to inheritance boys often get the lion share. They are not encouraged to own land and as they grow up it’s not surprising they lack interest in owning and managing land resources. It is usually evident in the community barazas when women shy away from making decisions on land issues affecting the local communities. This should not be the case because mothers do a good job in influencing decisions in their families. Dialogue and sensitization should be emphasized so that more women can be empowered.
Najib also emphasized that joint ownership on land should be embraced by married couples. This compels both parties to consult whenever there are grievances. When solving disputes it is good to come up with solutions that are for posterity, blaming one another and finger pointing is degenerating and does not benefit anyone.
Dr Jane Thuo, the Executive Director of Association of Media Women in Kenya said that family conflicts due to land ownership and inheritance should be handled carefully. The foundation of families is love, it should be the glue that holds them together and this can eventually help couples and families to solve disputes. If families lack the harmony and don’t consult each other then there is a possibility of one party crying foul. Families don’t have to break because of conflict over land.
Jane added that spiritual matters play a big role in families, it is imperative that both conflicting parties transform their perceptions and attitudes because what is in the mind dictates the actions. Men and women should complement each other and not compete with each other. Cultures are dynamic and are not cast in stone.
There are some cultures and traditions that dictate that when a woman purchases land, the husband is not allowed to use it. Najib, says that in that instance women can include their children’s names in the registration process. According to Kenya’s constitution, children can be registered as beneficiaries until they attain 18 years when they can acquire IDs and have joint ownership.
Though in some instances women also contribute to their own marginalization by not been assertive when they face discrimination; men are implored to ignore customs that discriminate women in land ownership. Some women are not allowed to inherit land. No culture is superior and citizens should respect all cultures as long as they don’t inhibit women rights.
Najib gave a success story of Aisha a fisherwoman from Malindi, who ventured into fishing business after her husband died. She now owns two boats and is reaping big in commercial fishing. Aisha is currently supplying fish in Mombasa and Nairobi cities.
There is high level of illiteracy especially in Kwale County, women are most affected. The county government and other stakeholders like religious leaders should focus more on girl child education. This will lead to a transformed and productive society for all.
The government should be commended for latest exercise of issuing 60,000 certificates of titles to residents at the Coast. The judiciary should embark on fast tracking pending cases dealing with land issues.
Media should cover stories that help women know their rights and how to access resources without been marginalized. Success stories of women who have ventured in fishing and mining should be shared so that they can inspire other women. The government and civil society organizations should also create awareness and advocacy to ensure women participation in mining and fishing.