Policy Brief: Complementing the State: The contribution of the "watchdog groups"

Research conducted by GROOTS Kenya (Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood) and Watch Dog Group Members in Gatundu, in collaboration with the Makerere Institute of Social Research found that community-led initiatives, such as the land and property Watch Dog Groups were able to mitigate the negative impact of property violations on individual women, their dependents and the community at large by providing readily available and affordable access to justice.

Although the Kenyan government has ratified many international human rights conventions, not enough has been done to effectively protect women's property rights. Whild Kenya's statutory laws prohibit discrimination against women and uphold gender equality, the country is not governed by statutory laws alone, but also colonial, customary, and religious laws, combined with biased attitudes, prevailing social stigmas, and lack of awareness, resources and access to formal legal services, that effectively prevents many girls and women from owning, retaining  or inheriting property in Kenya.

Based on this action-research on cases pending in court and those still under investigation in the Gatundu south district, it was found that the community land land property WDGs:

  • Demonstrate that it is possible to have quality collaboration between members of the community and the provincial administration.
  • Curb asset stripping and disinheritance of vulnerable groups.
  • Encourage a community's sense of social responsability.
  • Engage policy makers througha dvocacy and dialogue exchange
  • Work through the support system created by the peer network, as well as making it popular and easy to replicate.

The spearheading and operation of WDGs by grassroots women have succeeded due to state actors' good will, which created an enabling environment for non-state actors to participate in the mediation of land cases. However, such initiatives need to be nurtured and endorse through the establishment of supportive institutional and policy infrastrctures.