My house is my husband - A Kenyan Study of Women´s Access to Land and Housing
Abstract: This thesis explores women’s access to property in Kenya. It consists of three parts. The first gives the Kenyan background, the theoretical and methodological approach. The second presents the findings in relation to the social construct of the gender and elaborates them in the contexts of women´s subsistence work, colonization and its aftermath and women´s formation of organizations. The third part consists of the conclusions, which include a model of change in gender relations at the micro-level. This is a feminist work situated in the field of women and housing and using gender contract theory. It uses data gathered from empirical surveys carried out using random household sample surveys and in depth interviews in three case study settings in Kenya in 1990-1992. The settings were selected in peasant, plantation and urban poor areas. Data from secondary sources are also used to build up a picture of changing gender contracts in the processes of colonization and urbanization. The problem examined is how women in Kenya get access to property, meaning land and housing. Specifically, the social mechanisms that govern men’s and women’s relationships to each other and to property are investigated and the processes through which these relationships change. The gender contract – the set of invisible agreements found in every society about how men and women should behave – is identified as the social mechanism, and two are found to be operating in Kenya, the subsistence gender contract and the market gender contract. According to both, women cannot inherit property. Also, women are responsible for providing their families’ subsistence, including the provision of water, fuel, food and building materials where these are obtained from natural resources. According to the market gender contract, women may buy property while men control property which they inherit as free capital. The Kenyan gender contracts delineate a power relationship in which women’s lack of access to property keeps them in a subordinate position to men and requires them to provide subsistence. Women see the provision of subsistence as a basic human value although many resent their lack of property rights. A model is presented showing how micro level change takes place by means of women’s responses to the situations in which they find themselves. Women’s actions are based on their strategies for improving their lives. Collective action is one strategy with important implications for housing. It is concluded that a gendered housing policy is needed which recognizes women’s access to property as a basic human right and which builds upon their proven housing production capability. It should support the values and objectives of women’s groups, namely the provision of subsistence to their families.
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