MEET Winny Chepkemoi, A YOUNG WOMAN ACTIVIST WORKING FOR ILC MEMBER, KENYA LAND ALLIANCE
Join us as we learn more about her views on food security and land rights, the role of youth in achieving people-centred land governance and the Sustainable Development Goals, and her experience as a woman activist in her organisation and community.
Food is much bigger than what is on our plates. As young land rights activists: what is good food for you? What role does land rights play in bringing good food to the people?
Winny: For me, good food means food that is produced sustainably and respecting our environment. The issue of nutrition is something that we cannot ignore now and neither can we ignore how we manage food waste globally. Good food also means food that promotes diversification through traditional food production systems. How do we manage food insecurity? By promoting local agriculture through school and household gardens. For that we need to secure land tenure and rights. We cannot separate sustainable food production systems from land rights, they are interlinked.
By 2030, our youth will be leading communities, organisations and our world.But we cannot wait until then to take action. We need to act now. What is the biggest challenge that youth face to become leaders to advocate for land rights? What do you suggest to overcome the challenge you mentioned?
Winny: The global youth population is more than 1 billion. In Kenya it accounts for 37% of the total population. The age bracket between 18-24 years is an age group for which land rights are meaningful. However, there are problems. For us in Kenya, it is about data. We have been advocating for women's land rights for the last 10 years, but somehow the youth seem to have been forgotten. To drive a conversation on youth that makes sense, we need data, but we have no data to back it up. We need to put youth at the centre of land rights. The level of awareness is also a big challenge. The issue of land is discussed mostly by the elders. For people between 18-24 years of age, land rights are a secondary problem. They are currently faced with problems such as unemployment. Many youth who finish school need to have a white-collared job to meet the expectations of society. What I realised in the UNFSS Youth Dialogue was that our problems are similar. We need to accelerate this conversation about youth participation in land issues at all levels: from the grassroot level to the international level. Capacity-building programs are important for this. In Kenya we are working on a monitoring mechanism at the grassroot level for women’s land rights; it is time to integrate the youth. Lastly, information is key. What value do land rights add to my life as a young person? We could advocate for land rights, but what if the youth are not interested?
To achieve the SDG land targets (secure land tenure for all by 2030) we must accelerate PCLG. The role of youth is central. What are young people’s main strengths to make this happen and what kind of role that they can play?
Winny: For me the youth is a population that is informed, innovative and fresh: they can access technologies, follow land processes online, use social media to hold governments accountable and can strengthen the accounting framework. Five years ago, that was not happening. This is a population that has new ideas and new ways to drive land reforms and advocate for land rights. In Kenya the youth population represents 60% of the total, this is a big fact that can be utilized to form a strong movement. They have the ability to do it. Land is becoming an essential issue when starting a business. For example, some start-ups led by young people and working on technology are putting land at the centre. This is also a way of promoting land rights with new ideas.
You mentioned the importance of having support from and shared spaces with seniors. Regeneration of leadership is a big challenge for many members. How can we build intergenerational bridges in order to sustain our organizations? What do we need for that?
Winny: In Kenya, there is an exciting transition from the founders of Kenya Land Alliance, and other ILC members. Those who are now picking up leadership positions are young people. Young people are now leading and designing programs on land rights. For me, it is about behavioural change. In 2019, we were training a council of elders on why they should embrace women’s land rights. I remember when we stepped into the meeting, they addressed my boss. I felt like I was not significant in the room. “Maybe her role is to get tea: to make us comfortable”. They were shocked when they heard that I was taking up the meeting. They said: she is not married; how can she talk about land rights? I took up the training even when I still felt inferior. However, over time this is what is happening: more and more young people are leading projects. In the field, the youth have been given key positions including in customary land committees. Youth are now recognized to have the knowledge. We need to move in the same direction. KLA is now in the process of a new strategic plan: involving the issues of youth while moving forward. This will contribute to the sustainability of land rights.
Youth are speaking up and becoming the biggest voice on key global challenges. ILC youth could join this trend and be part of a global voice in the struggle for land rights. We have launched, for example, the youth fellowship seeking at enabling spaces for ILC youth to raise their voices and strengthen their leadership capacities. How do you see these spaces? How can ILC better help youth to become a stronger voice and eventually a movement in land rights?
Winny: A youth representative in the Council is indeed important. On the capacity building programmes, it is good to select youth who are in touch with the practices on the ground, at a grassroots level. We need people that help the organization integrate youth in their work. Something highly useful would be a monitoring guide to include youth and to know the systemic issues that need to be tackled. Also, a platform needs to be created to make space for our young voices. You may not be holding a leadership position in the organization, but you can strengthen your voice. You can integrate your voice into your programs.
Global Land Forum Youth 2022: What youth-related topics would you bring to the table/ discussions?
Winny: We need to bring to the table that we live in times where there are so many inter-linking issues: climate change, food insecurity, social justice, land governance. How can we strengthen youth leadership in these interlinking issues and at different levels? Grassroots level being a crucial one. How to interconnect it to the national one?
On May 4, 2021, three young ILC activists took part in the United Nations Food Systems Summit Global Youth Dialogue - Good Food For All. Winny Chepkemoi (Kenya Land Alliance, Kenya), Melissa Alamo (Pakisama, Philippines) and Neydi Juracan (Comité Campesino del Altiplano - CCDA, Guatemala). The event brought together more than 100 young people from all over the world, who shared their proposals on how to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are their stories.