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A woman shares her experiences about property ownership, inheritance and succession issues during the sensitization exercise at Nyamusi Market, Nyamira County. Photo/Arnold Ageta

By Arnold Ageta

The International Solidarity Foundation (ISF) has concluded its weeklong forums on inheritance, succession, and property rights for women and the girl child.

The forums, which have been running for the last week in Nyamira and Kisii counties, were aimed at sensitizing the community on the rights of women in relation to gender-based violence.

The Kisii community, well known for violating the rights of women regarding land and inheritance issues, was a focal point.

Addressing the media at Nyamusi market during one of the sensitization forums, ISF Communications Officer Damaris Mwikali said they noticed many cases of gender-based violence caused by issues related to land, property, and inheritance.

“We saw the gap and decided to sensitize the community on the issues of land, property rights, succession, and inheritance so that we can curb cases of gender-based violence, which are rampant in Nyamira and Kisii counties,” she said.

Hillary Ongori, an advocate of the High Court of Kenya based in Kisii and one of the facilitators in the forums, stated that the sensitization exercise has primarily focused on women’s rights.

“We have gone all around the community, sensitizing people and chiefs to understand that women have rights in terms of property and inheritance,” he said.

“These rights,” he continued, “have not been established yesterday; they are rights that have existed for a long time.”

He added that they only need to sensitize people that the girl child has a right to inherit property.

“Today we are coming to the closure of these forums that we have been having. We have partnered with the International Solidarity Foundation (ISF) under the Muungano Gender Forum Project,” said Ongori. “We are grateful that the message is getting embraced, that inheritance is not an issue of the boy child only, but girls can also inherit.”

He noted a shift in understanding, as courts nowadays are keen on ensuring that people understand that the girl child must be included as beneficiaries of the deceased.

“What they (courts) are doing is requesting those girls to be there. Now, girls can elect whether they want to inherit or not,” he clarified.

Regarding hindrances in sensitization, Ongori agreed, citing that information has not reached many people.

“That is why we are doing sensitization such as this one so that this information, that inheritance is not an issue of the boy but an issue for both men and women, can be disseminated. Both are entitled to inherit,” he said.

He reminded the public that the Succession Act, enacted in 1981, provides that it is the children of the deceased who are able to inherit.

“It does not specify whether it is a boy or a girl. It says children of the deceased, which means a boy and a girl have an equal right in terms of inheritance under the law,” he added.

ISF Communication Officer, Damaris Mwikali, addressing the media at Nyamusi Market where they had a public forum on gender based violence in relation to property ownership and inheritance. On her right is Bokeira Location Chief, Joseph Aima. ON her left is Hyline Mogambi of Nyamira oth WOmen Sacco. Photo/Arnold Ageta

However, he noted that inheritance cases are undeniably decreasing, and these forums have helped teach people that the first person who has a right to inherit the property of a man is the spouse, and vice versa.

“The cases of widows suffering are going down,” he confirmed. “But we also accept that within the community, there are instances where brothers of the deceased want to take over the inheritance program of that family instead of being spearheaded by the spouse, who is the widow.”

Bokeira Location Chief, Joseph Aima, also confirmed the decline of such cases, stating that many who were holding onto tradition are slowly letting it go.

“People must understand that every child who belongs to the family has equal rights to inheritance, and that is our message to the public,” said Aima.

“As administrators, we advocate for those who are being robbed of their rights. Times have changed, and we are in the era of fair and equal treatment for both males and females.”

He applauded ISF and the Muungano Gender Forum for their educative and informative initiatives.

“They are actually assisting us in educating and sensitizing the public about inheritance and succession rights,” he appreciated. “In my location, they have been of great use to me. We have gone to every corner of my location, giving people this important information.”

Hyline Mogambi of Nyamira North Women Sacco noted also that they receive many cases of violation of inheritance rights of women.

“We are here to support our women so that they have rights to own and inherit land,” said Ms. Mogambi. “Most of these cases are common among widows, where the brothers of the deceased try to send away the widow so that they can own the land of the deceased.”

She said they are partnering with the Muungano Gender Forum to sensitize women on land rights, which have been a challenge for women at the grassroots.

According to Damaris Mwikali, through such forums, the public will embrace the message and accept the fact that both sexes have rights of inheritance, especially when it comes to succession.

ISF, a Finnish NGO, is working in Kisii and Nyamira counties, where they run women’s empowerment and promote gender equality.

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