Spotlight on Kenya

Kenya is currently undergoing a historic transformation.

In 2010, the country adopted a new constitution that gave women unprecedented rights and protections, including the right to own and inherit land and share control over family resources.

And now, the government is drafting the necessary supporting laws and regulations that will ensure secure land rights for all in the country – including women, pastoralists, and tribal communities who still hold their land communally.

“I am one of the women who has benefited from knowing my rights in the constitution. My family will be better off. Women should learn about the constitution, because it will change their lives.”
– Noomali Nkuito, a resident of Ol Pusimoru, Kenya

It is in this critical window of opportunity that Landesa and USAID launched a pilot project in the Rift Valley, one of the most unstable and violence-prone areas of the country.

The impact has been nothing short of dramatic.

Alu Andrew Amadi can see one tangible impact in Ol Pusimoru Secondary School, a cluster of simple cinderblock buildings perched on a hillside in the remote Kenyan highlands, where he is principal.

“Always, the number of girls enrolling in this school has been less than 25 percent of the student body. When I arrived to be principal of this school, there were 19 girls enrolled and 70 boys.”

Where were all the teenage girls?


And farming their husband’s land to provide food for their young children.

“But this year, for the first time, the number of girls is almost equal to the number of boys,” said a beaming Amadi. “This year, we admitted 26 girls out of an entering class of 55.”

“We clearly attribute this to the involvement of Landesa.”

“But this year, for the first time, the number of girls is almost equal to the number of boys.”
– Alu Andrew Amadi, Principal of Ol Pusimoru Secondary School

How Landesa’s engagement led to a boost in girls’ enrollment is a textbook example of the power of women’s land rights.

Photo: Principal Amadi at
Ol Pusimoru Secondary School

Landesa and USAID’s pilot project engages the community’s Kalenjin and Maasai tribal elders and local chiefs, women, youth, and teachers in intensive community conversations and workshops about the new constitution and the rights it affords women. Before the project started, many community members didn’t know much about the new constitution and what little they had heard worried them. It seemed to go against their tribal culture and values.

However, during the project’s months of workshops, discussions, and sometimes heated debates, the tribal elders and chiefs, who are recognized in the new constitution as part of the justice system changed their view. They decided that their community might be better off if they worked to ensure that women and girls in their community actually benefited from the new constitution’s principles – particularly the right to access and manage family resources like land.

Women, eager to gain the skills they need to play a larger role in their home and community, as well as to advocate for themselves, joined in public speaking training.

This video spotlights the project’s substantial impact on the larger community, including: the first women to be elected to the council of tribal elders, and women gaining more control over family land and other family resources.

“How come women are raising men to be great leaders, but can't be leaders themselves? It is our culture that has been oppressive to women. But it is time for this to be discarded. ”
– Simiren Kuyo, Maasai Elder

The impact on Principal Amadi’s school is equally powerful. When women gain joint control over their family’s land, they gain a powerful resource they can use to not only feed their children, but also generate income. And with some control over those funds, thanks to the support of the tribal elders and chiefs, women are earmarking family resources to pay school fees for all their children – girls included.

And women’s new roles as tribal elders, land owners, and managers of family resources, are creating a virtuous cycle, by drawing attention to the need for equal education for girls.

“Parents now are more supportive of girls’ education. They believe that now the girls too can play a role in society,” explained Principal Amadi. “Previously, parents would not want to spend their money investing in a girl. It is like a waste of resources.”

Parents like Gladys Chepkorir, a widow with two young daughters, now see their daughters in a new light.

“This is my daughter, Kayla. Life has changed for my little girl, my second born,” said Gladys, putting her arm around her dimpled 10-year-old. “Before I knew about the rights of girls I didn’t see the need to educate her. But now I have set up an account for her education, to give her opportunity. So she has a better chance.”

Convincing parents like Gladys, who herself dropped out of school to have her first child at the age of 16, to commit resources to educate her daughters was a huge challenge previously, said local Chief David Sang’are. “Getting girls to attend school was really hard… But that is a thing of the past for me, after the Landesa project.”

The students of Ol Pusimoru Secondary School, sitting at their wooden desks in their whitewashed classrooms, seem to recognize this sea change.

“The girls are now rising up and want to compete with the boys,” said Principal Amadi. “And the boys are learning to respect the girls because they see them as equal partners.”