By Samuel Nzioka

Meet 29 year old Joyce Dama a resident of Mombasa County, a firstborn in the family of eight who lives on the land she fought too hard to reclaim from her uncles. Ms. Dama endured pain, suffering and resistance from her uncles until she secured her father’s land.

I am Joyce Dama, 29 years old firstborn in a family of eight and a resident of Mombasa County.

I have gone through the worst experiences in life. Even access to education was a tug of war. My father had to explain to his brothers why he had to take a girl to school where a fight ensued and my father broke his foot in the process. This didn’t stop him from sending me to pursue secondary education. I am the only girl in my clan who has studied to the university level. Despite the struggles, I scored a grade of B- and was admitted to Moi University but unfortunately my father passed away in 2009 marking the end of my education.  My life changed completely and I used to spend most of my time crying and worrying as my uncles wanted to throw us out of our father’s land.

My motivation to fight for my family’s land rights was aroused when I attended Sauti ya Wanawake forum. On sharing my sorrows, I was advised on the steps to take enabling me to reclaim our family land and process titles for each of my siblings then depositing them in a bank for safety.

ActionAid Kenya in partnership with Sauti Ya Wanawake trained me among other women on how to utilize our land for improved livelihoods. The skills gained have enabled me to provide for the daily needs of my family and education for my brothers and sisters through proceeds from fish farming and poultry keeping project.

My motivation to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro is to seek justice with regards to women’s access to land and increased women inclusion in decision making at local, county and national level. I would also like to see young women participating in the campaigns as this will motivate and give them a voice.

Each of my siblings has access to a ¾ of an acre piece of land. My land means everything to me since it is where I get my livelihood. I have planted vegetables, built housing for my poultry and practice fish farming. I have faced a lot of resistance from my uncles, elders and some few community members who believe I am too vocal in fighting for women rights in a community where women are despised.

The worst thing that has happened to Mwakirunge residents is failure by the government to involve the residents in scheme demarcation processes which has caused a lot of mix-up’s and struggles. Many people have refused to move out from their land as they have invested dearly yet, forceful evictions may fuel conflicts.

However, the positive thing about Mwakirunge settlement scheme is that through community engagements and sensitization forums, the residents have understood their rights to land and are engaging in alternative livelihood activities like fish farming and poultry keeping. We have also understood the value of land and we are no longer selling our land.

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