Kenya Justice Project


Develop a scalable model that educates rural, traditional communities about women’s property rights under Kenya’s 2010 Constitution and builds support for ensuring women can exercise and enforce their rights.


The pilot project was successfully implemented in a remote rural community in Kenya’s Rift Valley.  The community reports a wide array of improvements they attribute to the Justice Project, including improvements in representation and functioning of local justice institutions; increased legal awareness; and improvements in household gender power dynamics. In particular, women in the community report increased access to land, increased support from tribal elders, and reduced gender-based violence; and school officials report greater numbers of girls attending school. In addition, there has been an observable increase in commercial activity in the area, reportedly led by women in the community.

To enable replication of the model in additional communities, Landesa developed a project implementation guide in 2015.

Overview of the project

In 2010, Kenya adopted a new Constitution, which guarantees women equal legal rights and protections – including the right to own and inherit property. The Constitution also formally recognizes the important role traditional elders play in resolving local disputes over property and empowers them to continue doing so, while also requiring them to eliminate discriminatory practices.

Recognizing that legal rights to land are necessary but not alone sufficient to improving women’s access to land, Landesa and USAID launched a pilot project, Enhancing Customary Justice Systems in the Mau Forest, Kenya, better known as the Kenya Justice Project, the next year. The project aimed to ensure that Kenyan women, the majority of whom live in rural areas governed by traditional laws and customs that often disadvantage women, are aware of and can enjoy these new rights and freedoms.

The project aimed to spur positive change within rural communities by spreading awareness of the constitutional rights and responsibilities of women and men related to land and other family resources and by building the capacity of  the informal justice institutions in rural areas, with the goal of transforming traditional elders into supporters of women’s rights. Because traditional elders enjoy strong social legitimacy and influence the allocation of rights to resources (including land), engaging them in strengthening women’s access to justice is key to more secure rights for women and contributes to a more fair and equitable rule of law.

The one-year pilot was implemented by Landesa’s Kenyan staff in a Maasai, Kalenjin, and Ogiek community in Narok County.

The project consists of the following components:

  • Curriculum for training elders/chiefs, women, youth, and teachers explaining land rights, particularly women’s, as outlined in Kenya’s Constitution, as well as elders’ legally recognized role in resolving disputes and responsibility to uphold the Constitution and support women’s  rights.
  • Facilitated community conversations with these groups, to help them to determine and discuss their concerns about and the possible benefits of women’s equal rights.
  • Public speaking training for the women to give them the skills and confidence they need to advocate for themselves.
  • Alternative dispute resolution training for elders and chiefs, focused on reducing bias against women and improving transparency and consistency in decision-making.
  • Peer group sessions led by women, youth, and elders to share information with others in the community.
  • Youth arts curriculum with local schoolchildren to introduce and reinforce key justice messages to the broader community.
  • Community-wide Justice Day events to raise legal awareness within the community as a whole.

Following pilot activities that ended in May 2012, a quantitative and qualitative evaluation was undertaken to measure the short-term impacts of the Justice Project on women’s access to justice and land in Ol Pusimoru.  The evaluation and follow up interviews reveal remarkable impact:

  • Increased women’s access to and ownership of land, as well as increased control and management over family assets.
  • Women report increased legal awareness of their own rights and men report increased knowledge of women’s rights. Women also report increased familiarity with the local justice system and the customary justice system.
  • Increased women’s confidence in access to and the fairness of the customary justice system.
  • Elders and chiefs now require the written consent of spouses before approving the sale or lease of land.  Previously, husbands routinely sold family land without consulting their wives, pocketing the proceeds and leaving their wives with no way to feed their children and pay school fees.
  • Elders have agreed to no longer hear rape cases, recognizing that rape should be treated as a criminal case and handled by the police. Previously, elders would visit the home of the victim and apologize to the family on the rapist’s behalf with no further action taken.
  • Women interviewed reported that upon separation or divorce, elders are working to ensure that the wife retain a portion of the family’s land to live on and farm to support her family.
  • Women interviewed reported that they are inheriting land alongside their brothers. Previously women did not inherit their parents’ land.
  • For the first time in the memory of this community, 22 women have been elected as elders, leading the community and resolving local disputes along with male elders.
  • The number of girls entering secondary school is now equal to the number of boys entering school. Previously, girls were outnumbered by boys three to one.

Current Activities

Landesa is working to secure additional funding to support replication and scaling of the Justice Project model across Kenya, as well as exploring the potential for this model to be applied in additional countries.

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