Complementing the state: the contribution of the watchdog groups in protecting women s land rights in Gatundu District

In the experience of GROOTS Kenya, HIV-positive widows are often thrown out of their matrimonial homes, their land grabbed by in-laws as they are blamed for their husbands’ deaths and/or feared to die within a short period of time. Due to a lack of awareness on land rights, as well as the importance of retaining legal documents to lodge court cases, the ability of widows and orphans to control land and other family assets in Gatundu district is threatened. To address this situation, grassroots communities assisted by GROOTS Kenya have formed community land and property watchdog groups (WDGs) to protect widows and orphans from losing their land and property through disinheritance and asset stripping. WDGs members receive referrals from home-based care providers, gather information about vulnerable members of the community and use this information to protect and preserve the rights of those unable to afford or access formal legal services. If necessary, they link them to the formal justice system via partners who offer legal aid. This research looks into how the WDGs protect widows and vulnerable children against land rights violations and how they empower the community through monitoring and awareness creation.