Impact of Land Tenure Reforms on Gusii Women of Kenya, 1894 to 1991
Land tenure reforms among Abagusii which began with establishment of colonial rule in 1894 have created a myriad of challenges to Gusii women. Women’s rights to access and use of community land were lost with the actualization of the Swynnerton Plan of 1954 which provided for issuance of title deeds to men as the land owners. Under the Gusii customary laws, land was property of the whole community. Men were only stewards of this land and not absolute owners.
Through colonialism the concept of capitalism was introduced to the Gusii community. Consequently, land became a commodity for sale at the disposal of male owners. Customary land tenure system was suppressed by individualized system. Married women who historically enjoyed the right to access and use land were disinherited. Their claim to land was dependent on their husbands and fathers. Various land reforms initiatives in Gusii community have failed to promote equity in regard to land rights between men and women. The Registered Land Act for example, empowered men through title deeds. In an attempt to mitigate land conflicts the government of Kenya established Land Disputes Tribunal in 1991.
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