Six married sisters get deeds for father's land after landmark court ruling

The sisters from Cheborgei village display their title deeds after they won an inheritance suit against their brothers.
The six sisters who won a landmark inheritance case against their brothers have received title deeds for part of the 42 acres piece of land left behind by their father.

On Friday officials from the ministry of land gave the sisters deeds showing that they will each own five acres of the land.

The sisters from Cheborgei village in Bureti constituency, shed tears of joy as they sang and danced their way to receive the deeds from Pauline Muriithia, the Deputy land registrar.

The occasion was witnessed by a group of women rights crusaders from across the country. 

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The 42-acre piece of land originally belonged to sisters' father, Joel Korir who died in 2012.  The two brother who had challenged their sisters' right to inherit the land will share 12 acres of the land.

On July 24 last year, Justice Mumbi Ngugi ruled that in relation to the estate of the Joel Cheruiyot Korir, the six women to inherit the property left behind by their father.

"Until today, I did not have any space to build a house or to plant food crops to feed my family but today words cannot express my joy after the government issued me with a title deed," said 72-years old Rachael Korir, who had filed the suit.

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The mother of eight children explained the she had been forced to move to court after elders sat more than 20 times but couldn't convince her brothers to allow her to inherit her father's land.

"I did not move to court because I wanted but because I was forced to. The elders did not help. I had asked for my brothers to only allow me to settle on a half an acre of the land but they flatly refused. I was really disappointed," said Ms Korir. 

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Ms Korir fellow land beneficiaries are; Easter Korir, Jane Ruto, Elizabeth Sang, Sarah Rotich and Alice Korir. 

The Kenya Land Alliance (KLA) Chief Executive Officer ((CEO) Odenda Lumumba, said they intervened in the case as a key matter of advancing the socio-economic rights and wellbeing of women and their position in society.

“KLA came to assistance of six sisters out of the realization that access, control and ownership of land in Kenya largely remain the domain of men privilege, entrenching patriarchal structures of power and control over community resources, history, culture and tradition," he said. 

Lands Cabinet Secretary Faridah Karoney in the speech read on her behalf by Pauline Muriithia, the Deputy land registrar, celebrated the brave steps made by the sisters in demanding for their right to own, control and use land as a resource. 

"The land laws particularly the land registration Act, the Land Act and the community land act and respective regulations and rules formulated have provided for space for women in transaction to do with land." she said. 

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Karoney, added that it was important to apply affirmative action approaches to enhance the inclusivity of more women in all levels I the economy. 

“This will go a long way to improve the economic wellbeing of many households," she said. 

Naomi Lanoi from the Kenya Land Alliance (KLA) argued that even where land reform provides gender equality in line with the Sustainable Development Goal Number Five, implementation was slow and biased towards men dominance. 

“The lack of serious attention to gender equality reinforces the marginalised position of women and undermines mainstreaming efforts to improve women’s land rights. It also hampers, broadly government and society strategies for economic development," she said. 

The case of the six sisters reflected the de facto existence of a system of statutory law alongside indigenous customary practices in many counties, which allows men to manoeuvre from strict adherence to rule of law as provided by the Constitution and successive land laws.

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The complexity of legal systems narrows women’s access to justice as they often lack basic knowledge about legal procedures and their rights.

For the six the intervention of Fida came in handy to ensure they were issued with title deeds. 

"It still require collective effort to engage with customary traditional institutions in order to deconstruct and re-conceptualize traditional notions of land access, control and ownership, to ensure a sustainable difference for women," said Josephine Mongare, Fida chairperson. 

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