Addressing property rights may impact on women’s experiences of violence

Perceived impact of a land and property rights program on violence against women in rural Kenya: a qualitative investigation.  

Hilliard S, Bukusi E, Grabe S, Lu T, Hatcher AM, Kwena Z, Mwaura-Muiru E, Dworkin SL. Violence Against Women. 2016 Mar 6. pii: 1077801216632613. [Epub ahead of print] 

The current study focuses on a community-led land and property rights program in two rural provinces in western Kenya. The program was designed to respond to women's property rights violations to reduce violence against women and HIV risks at the community level. Through in-depth interviews with 30 women, we examine the perceived impact that this community-level property rights program had on violence against women at the individual and community level. We also examine perceptions as to how reductions in violence were achieved. Finally, we consider how our findings may aid researchers in the design of structural violence-prevention strategies. 

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: This paper reports on women’s experiences of violence following reporting of disinheritance to a community–led property rights violations programme in Kenya. The research was set in two rural districts in Kenya, where HIV prevalence is high (23.8-33%) and property rights violations are common. Interviews were conducted with women who participated in GROOTS-Kenya’s Community Land and Property Watch Dog Model (CWDG). This model is comprised of volunteer women and men. These people monitor women’s disinheritance locally and mediate land disputes. They also refer unresolved cases to formal adjudication mechanisms and raise awareness about women’s rights.  

The researchers found that for nearly all of the women, violence ceased immediately on reporting cases of violent disinheritance to the CWDG. The presence of the CWDG led to a broader reduction in sexual and domestic violence against women at the community level. The women explained that this was for four reasons: (a) improved individual- and community-level knowledge about women’s rights/improved knowledge about violence against women, (b) the existence of a community-based mechanism for reporting cases of violence, (c) the responsiveness of the CWDG to cases of violence, and (d) fears that perpetrators had about the legal consequences of perpetrating violence. This research contributes to a growing body of evidence that addressing structural factors such as economic empowerment is important. However, there is a need to strengthen this approach through providing women with property rights.  Property rights may empower women more than other economic empowerment approaches such as micro-finance.  

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