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Rwanda, Tanzania lead in women’s land, property rights

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By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI
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Rwanda and Tanzania are among six countries in Africa seen to be working towards securing land rights to at least 30 per cent of their women by 2025.

According to a report by the Africa Land Policy Centre, these six countries—the rest being Botswana, Ethiopia, Senegal and Malawi — have or are working on the policies, institutional and legal frameworks to ensure women have equal access to land.

They also have mechanisms to collect sex-disaggregated and specific data on women’s land tenure security.

“These countries have harmonised legal framework in favour of women’s land and property rights with a focus on gender-responsive inheritance laws. They are also undertaking land reforms that will avail equal opportunities for women to exercise and enforce their rights,” said Joan Kagwanja, a coordinator at the Africa Land Policy Centre (ALPC).

The report, prepared by the UN Economic Commission for Africa, AU Commission and ALPC and presented at the third land and policy conference (November 25 — 29) in Abidjan, shows that these countries have policies and mechanisms of resolving poor land administration such as undeveloped systems, complex administrative processes, transparency hence eliminating the opportunities for corruption.

“Corruption in land administration obstructs women’s access to land, markets and credit by imposing high informal or illegal costs for accessing land related services. In extreme cases, corruption can result in evictions,” she said.

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Women in Africa, the report says, are not adequately represented nor do they meaningfully participate in land governance processes as women are typically not considered as the public face of the family and land administration is a public activity.

They also have difficulty enforcing their rights to land because of a lack of information about their rights or how to exercise them; lack of a fair mediator or dispute resolution system, inability to access enforcement mechanisms due to the cost or distance or other time consuming duties; or unwillingness to enforce rights against other family members.

According to the report, data scarcity limited nationally representative sex disaggregated comparative data has prevented us from better understanding the nature and scale of women’s land tenure insecurity.

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“Reliable comparable data would allow us to both better qualify the problem as well as identify opportunities for addressing the problems,” says the report.

The report indicates that women’s land tenure security is critical for their empowerment and for unlocking transformative social and economic benefits in accordance with the AU Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 for the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Secure land rights for women can also increase women’s ability to enter into agricultural contracts in win-win land based investment models,” says the report.

Women continue to contribute significantly towards agricultural production in Africa but in some circumstances are not able to enjoy their rights to land. It is, therefore, a reality that women and men still do not enjoy the same rights over land,” Ms Kagwanja added.

At the Land Policy conference, Josefa Sacko, AUC commissioner, Agriculture and Rural Economy, said there is still gender gap in access to land in Africa.

“We need to ensure that the way in which land is distributed and used plays an essential role in promoting sustainable development and achieving peace and stability on the continent,” said Ms Sacko.

“For far too long, African women have contributed to the development of our continent without due recognition, adequate support and sufficient benefits. This is in part due to gender-based disparities in access to productive resources and opportunities such as land.”

In 2017, African governments adopted a resolution to grant documented land rights to at least 30 per cent of their female populations by 2025. Reports indicate that women contribute 70 per cent of Africa’s food production and account for nearly half of all farm labour.

Hirut Girma, land and gender expert at ALPC said that if all African countries committed to implementing the resolution agreed upon in 2017, this will be a big win not only for the women but for the community.

“Under the resolution women will be allowed to inherit and rightfully own land without fear,” said Ms Hirut adding that to achieve this governments will have to amend their laws and policies to grant women their right to own land.

She said that inheritance remains an important method of land acquisition for women even though inheritance laws and customs often favour men over women.

Women are less likely to be allocated land through community distribution or inheritance due to norms related to ancestral lands, and statutory legal frameworks may also be discriminatory or poorly drafted, including land law, family law, and civil law.

“Conflicting and overlapping legal and regulatory frameworks and jurisdictions over land and resources can create the potential for opportunistic behaviours. These behaviours may further exclude women and other vulnerable groups,” said Ms Hirut.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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