Kenya: Enhancing Customary Justice Systems in the Mau Forest

Completed Project
Project Countries: Kenya
Thematic Issues: Women's Empowerment, Customary and Community Tenure
Project Duration: 2010 to 2014
Approximate Funding: $490,000

The Enhancing Customary Justice Systems in the Mau Forest (Justice) Project piloted an approach for improving women’s access to customary justice, particularly related to women’s land rights, by enhancing the customary justice system in one target area. The work also resulted in a clearer understanding of the relationships between customary and statutory institutions and laws, and the development of a model to promote the integration of informal and formal justice systems. The pilot activity complemented other USAID programs in Kenya focused on addressing land/resource tenure, access to justice, and governance challenges, in the upper Mara River catchment area within the Mau Forest Complex, Kenya (“Mau”). By design, this project has relied extensively on assessments and other information, for and under the ProMara project, gathered since February 2010.

The pilot project lasted from 2010 – 2012 and a follow-on project began in 2013. The follow-on project sought to share the Kenya Justice Project approach as well as results and lessons learned from the Project evaluation, particularly focused on formalizing and institutionalizing linkages and processes between the formal and informal justice sectors, consistent with Article 159 of Kenya’s Constitution.

Objectives

  • Develop basic justice modules to train traditional leaders on provisions of the Kenyan Constitution and National Land Policy.
  • Build capacity within the customary justice system to more effectively perform duties.
  • Build women’s capacity to govern and to know, understand, and exercise their rights.
  • Support justice learning related to the Kenyan Constitution and the National Land Policy within schools and families.
  • Raise community’s legal awareness.

Outcomes

  • Chiefs publicly issued a new Katiba (local constitution) to guide their decision making and legal responsibilities to the community.
  • Significant increases in women’s access to land and control over household level decision-making around land and other family assets. In addition, several women in the community now have their names on land titles, including widows.
  • Two of the Ol Pusimoru sub-locations elected 14 women elders out of 50 total in 2012. This election of women as elders is the first within the Maasai and Kalenjin communities. The number of women elders grew to 22 in 2013 and 33 out of 50 elders total in 2014.
  • Chiefs and elders now require spousal consent (with witnesses) for all land transactions, including leases.
  • In the Ol Mariko sub-location, women who received training made the request that elders no longer hear rape cases. The elder council agreed with the request and is now referring all such cases to formal legal systems.
  • Trained 34 women in environmental and forest management and alternative dispute resolution. These women then conducted over 20 peer sessions, reaching more than 268 women.