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A group of women stand off with men blocking access to property. Illustration by Vikas Thakur for Unbias the News.

Women’s inheritance, the inequality that hits the world silently

Behind the Scenes of "How Women Fight for Inheritance Rights in Kenya"

Since I was a child, I heard from my mother that we have agricultural land in Upper Egypt, which my mother inherited on both sides from her mother and father. I heard many stories, and as I grew older, I saw my mother’s attempts to dispute the family’s men over her rights, to no avail.

In one of the attempts, one of the family’s men put his weapon in my mom’s face. And for years, they found workarounds to forbid her from having her inheritance. My mother was asking men for her rights and the right of my grandmother to my mother in other agricultural lands that she did not get until she died, so her daughter – my mother – completed her journey in claiming the right. Even sometimes from her own brother. I could not tell the personal story, and I have watched many stories in my journalistic life on the same subject in Egypt.

When the author Jackson Ambula sent us the story idea, I was excited, because I knew little about how women are treated in Kenya in the matter of inheritance, especially in remote areas.

Sometimes the media, amid the great momentum of major events and the globalization of social media, which has become filled with inspiring and sad stories, forget that there are things that are repeated every day, such as inheritance, and that directly and abundantly affect the economic empowerment of women and the progress of peoples.

That is why we had to talk to the women who have suffered from this constant injustice, and see how the government and society are trying to overcome these obstacles.

This issue resonates with many women around the world, as 40% of Economies Limit Women’s Property Rights. According to the World Bank Group’s recently released report Women, Business and the Law 2020, two-fifths of countries worldwide limit women’s property rights. In 19 countries, women do not have equal ownership rights to immovable property. In 44 countries, male and female surviving spouses do not have equal rights to inherit assets.

The world data bank blog mentioned reforms related to property ownership and inheritance are the most difficult to pass, especially in countries where social norms dictate how land is gained and passed to future generations.

 

We chose to tell this story because it is about women in rural areas in Kenya and because inheritance is a blind spot in the economic empowerment of women in the whole world. It is our target in Unbias the News, to tell underreported stories and shed light on inequalities with hope for change.

Please consider a donation to support the work of our all-women newsroom. We create a space for journalists facing structural barriers, working towards a more equitable, inclusive world of journalism. Join our mission today!

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