> SYFFMay 2021

Month: May 2021

Emily Odhiambo: When things fall apart

Have you heard of the happily ever after? To many, it is just a myth. Emily Odhiambo tells us how things fell apart and only got mended after years of deep turmoil.

Fell in love and married at 19 year of age. Abusive relationship. Husband dies. In-law wrangles around one hectare of land. No marriage certificate. Land in question was still in the late father-in-law’s name. NO WAY OUT!

When Emily talks about things falling apart, she has seen it all, and had to face it alone as she cared for their three daughters. Her husband passed away in 2009. Being of no value to her community because she only bore daughters, her fate was sealed: Re-marry or leave!

Her only surviving brother in-law claimed that Emily had 3 daughters and based on the Luo traditions, having daughters meant that she would be given just a small piece of land to survive and not the entire land that belonged to her late husband. When she opted to build a house in her late father in-law’s compound, her brother in-law constructed a house in front of hers in protest.

“I was so depressed and frustrated and almost left my piece of land because each time I asked for assistance, they demanded for a title which I didn’t have. I didn’t have any knowledge to relieve me from this situation. Some told me that the only way out was to find another husband,” she narrates.

“I didn’t want to get married again after the domestic abuse that I had experienced with my late husband. Things were great at first but after the birth of our two daughters, he began coming home late, chasing me away from home and insulting me for not bearing him sons. I fell into depression and lost a lot of weight enduring this for 6 years until his unfortunate death when our house caught fire after he kicked the tin lamp in his drunken state. This left us devastated.

For four years, Emily was stuck between a rock and hard place!

2017 marked the beginning of her access to some form of justice, when her late husband’s sister was going to campus and they had to sell a parcel of land to cater for her fees. The land was transferred from the father to her brother in-law. By sheer luck, her in-law requested her to keep the title deed and that is when she decided to photocopy it. She also searched for a surveyor who assessed the whole land and divided it before Emily went to the Lands Board.

Figure 8: Peace at last! Emily’s smile tells it all!

Having made several visits to their chief, when KELIN was seeking women to be trained for the Securing Your Family’s Future, she was nominated among those to attend. This marked the second major step to her accessing justice.

Emily admits that before the training, she had bottled up anger and frustration but the lessons she learned provided guidance for her to calmly speak with her brother in-law on the issue of dividing the land.

Having the land meant that Emily could access loans to develop herself or take her children to school. The mother of three was able to get a surveyor to split the land into two and though her brother in-law was angry at first, he took a turn for the better.

Lessons Emily learned:

  1. Register your marriage regardless of how young you are when you get married
  2. Have conversations with your partner to ensure you both make a will to protect each other and secure your children’s future
  3. Co-register your land as husband and wife to prevent the kind of turmoil wives and children encounter when husbands and fathers die.
  4. Spread the word to other women to encourage positive conversations that contribute to family harmony.

Figure 9: Emily working in her garden

When things fall apart, be ready to dust off and try again. Emily did this in spite of her extremely devastating experience that lasted years! Now on the other side of her story, she shares with the women in her women’s group of 24 women – Doro Chama where they meet weekly to discuss and learn different issues of interest around securing their families’ futures.

Thomas Dulo: The Peacemaker from Oasi Ondiko

Remember the story of the great Luanda Magere?

Well, it seems to have a recurrent semblance with the story of one of our champions. The land conflict between the Luo and Nandi communities has since ages past never been fully settled, after that wife – the second wife of Luanda Magere – the gift from the Nandi community deceived him into defeat.

Thomas Dulo is among other peace negotiators working for the reconciliation of the two community groups and has done this for 9 years to date. It was here that he was chosen to represent the men and attend the KELIN training dubbed, Securing Your Family’s Future (SYFF) whose purpose is to transform and promote change in peer norms to influence women land tenure.

Hailing from the Oasi Ondiko Ward in Kisumu, Thomas grew up with the belief and conviction that men and only men could own land and make any decisions related to land. His wife was only an observer of decisions made around family property matters.

Thomas skips all the details of his past ways and immediately jumps into telling us how the SYFF training has impacted his outlook to family life and his responsibility as a husband and father.

Figure 5: SYFF Training for men attended by Thomas Dulo

What was the SYFF training about?

The training focused on changing the social norms on women’s land tenure which has been negatively affected over the years by the misapplication of culture resulting in the violation of women’s land rights. Learning this helped me to come out of the gender box and has slowly transformed my perception on women.

Figure 6: Thomas Dulo and his wife

What was your highlight lesson?

One of the main lessons I took with me was the disturbing issue of making a will. In my culture, making a will is considered a taboo, whereby it is seen to be an invitation to death. What I heard during the training however, made me realize that the will is a safeguard for my family in case I pass on and leave them behind. I carefully prepared a will including my wife and daughters who would otherwise not benefit from being my people, because they are women. That would be a very painful event to witness, so I instead chose to secure my family’s future.

Figure 7: The Dulo family smiles at their secure future

I also had the opportunity to apply the lessons to mediating a family land conflict between my brothers. My brothers accepted to split our family the land in a peaceful manner and each is in the process of co-registering their parcel of land with their respective wives.

What do you want your fellow community members to know?

I intend to share this knowledge with my community members and more o through the church, because I believe there will be more impact in the community. I was once ignorant about these things, but because of KELIN, I now know what it means to be a champion in securing the future of families!