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Sisters defy culture to inherit father's land

RIFT VALLEY
By Nikko Tanui | November 29th 2021

In 2019, Rachael Korir from Cheborgei village in Bureti Constituency went against the Kalenjin traditions and customs to inherit family property.

According to her culture, women cannot inherit family property but after she successfully challenged her two brothers in court, she inherited her late father’s 42-acres land.

Ms Korir led her five sisters in suing their brothers Joshua Kiprono, 68, and Samuel Kiplangat, 76, for refusing to allocate them a piece of the family property.

High court Judge Mumbi Ngugi, (then sitting in Kericho) in the judgment observed that Article 27 prohibits discrimination on any basis such as race, colour, ethnic origin, or sex.

The judgment saw each of the six sisters allocated five acres of their father’s land.

But the Cheborgei sisters’ win is just one and far apart, the road by many other Kipsigis women to inherit their fathers is still met by resistance by the menfolk.

As the world marks this year’s 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, lawyer Farida Chepkemoi led women in Kericho County especially those from the Kalenjin community to agitate for their rights.

Ms Chepkemoi argues that the demise of parents often marks the start of bitter land battles between siblings with brothers banishing their sisters from the family estate in a bid to disinherit them.

“Some of the major causes of gender-based violence we are currently handling include economic violence where women are chased from the family property because most families are yet to conduct land succession leading women to be disinherited,” said Chepkemoi.

Such cases are common in Bureti where the Kalenjin tradition and customs are still strong. 

“The Kalenjin community is organised in a unique manner whereby its members follow traditions and customs without question. Women are expected for instance to get married and move out of the family property. This is one of the main enablers of perpetration of gender-based violence,” Chepkemoi said.

University of Kabianga (UoK) Gender Development Director Dr Phanice Wangila said persistent discriminatory cultural norms and practices are among the strongest barriers to women and their right to owning property, including land.

“Weak implementation of policies, insufficient capacity to enforce laws, and a lack of societal will, compound the problem,” she said.

Wangila called on Chief Justice Martha Koome to ensure that land succession and gender-based violence cases are hastened in order for women to beat the odds stacked against their rights. 

But even then, she called on members of the Kalenjin community to break the code of silence in cases of domestic violence.

“Victims of gender-based violence should learn to speak out and not fear their tormentors,” said Wangila.

Speaking in Kericho town after leading UoK’s Gender Club members in a 15km walk to mark the start of 16 days campaign against gender-based violence, Wangila asked the county government of Kericho to establish a safe house for victims.

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