Why marriage is helping more women to own property
More married women in Kenya own property than those unmarried or divorced, a government report shows.
Even then, few have documents to show ownership of land or houses, according to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of 2022 (KDHS-2022).
Among women who own a house, only nine per cent have a title deed or any other government-recognised document with their name on it.
However, more than 62 per cent of women do not have a title deed for the agricultural land they own, while 13 per cent who own agricultural land have a title deed with their name on it.
House ownership, the report indicates, increases with age and is highest among women aged between 45 and 49, at 63 per cent.
Women in rural areas are more likely to own a house (at 44 per cent) than women in urban areas (at 17 per cent), although women in urban areas are much more likely to have a title deed for the house they own than women in rural areas, KDHS said.
House ownership among women was also found to increase with increasing wealth. “Three per cent of women in the lowest wealth quintile own a house and have their name on the ownership documents, as compared with 29 per cent of women in the highest wealth quintile,” said Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), which produces the KDHS.
Women find themselves vulnerable in mainly patriarchal communities where their rights to own property have been in the past stifled and their claim to wealth thus significantly muffled.
“For women in particular, ownership of assets may provide protection in case of marital dissolution or abandonment, positively influence their position in their homes, and decrease their vulnerability to various forms of violence or discrimination,” the report indicates.
In the 2022 KDHS, respondents were asked if they own a house and agricultural and non-agricultural land alone, jointly with someone else, both alone and jointly, or not at all.
They were also required to tell if their properties are backed by any government-recognised documents and if so, whether such documents were in their names or their spouses’, or other people’s. The women interviewed were between and inclusive of, 15 and 49 and the men between, and inclusive of, ages 15 and 54.
Thirty-three per cent of women own a house, including five per cent who do so alone and 28 per cent who own it jointly with their spouse or partner only. Twenty-five per cent of the women own agricultural land. Three per cent own land alone, while 20 per cent own land jointly with their spouse or partner. Interestingly, only seven per cent of women own non-agricultural land.
A lot of women have found it easy to own property through marriage, the data shows, with a paltry 1.8 per cent who have never been married owning a house. 52.5 per cent of married women, or that cohabiting, own a house, nearly all of them jointly with their spouse or partner. 65.2 per cent of widowed women own a house, and 14 per cent of divorced, or separated, ones own a house.
The rather remote counties of Turkana (17.7 per cent), Samburu (10.7 per cent) and Baringo (10.6 per cent) lead in the percentages of women who own houses alone. Garissa (2.3 per cent), Elgeyo Marakwet (1.6 per cent), and Nairobi (1.4 per cent), are the counties in which the fewest women own houses.
But where houses have title deeds, Nairobi (29.8 per cent) leads the counties in the highest percentage of women registered as proprietors, followed by Garissa (27.6 per cent) and Mombasa (24 per cent).
Wajir (1.2 per cent), Kisii (1.2 per cent) and Nyamira (1.7 per cent) have the least per cent of women who own legally registered houses. Only 1.7 per cent of never-married women own agricultural land. Over 39.4 per cent of those married, or who live with their spouses, own land, again almost all of them jointly with spouses or partners only.
About 48.6 per cent of widows own land, 77 per cent of them alone. 10.7 per cent of divorced women own land.
For non-agricultural land, the figures get direr. Only 1.1 per cent of women who have never been married own non-agricultural land.
10.2 per cent of those married or living together own land. 11.5 per cent of widowed women own non-agricultural land with only 4.1 per cent of divorced or separated women owning land.
While more women living in rural areas are likely to own land, their counterparts in urban areas have higher security of tenure. “32 per cent of women in rural areas own agricultural land, as compared with 14 per cent of women in urban areas.
However, women in urban areas who own agricultural land are three times more likely (27 per cent) to have their name on the title deed than their counterparts in rural areas (9 per cent),” KNBS says. Thirty-one per cent of women who own non-agricultural land have their name on the title deed, while 44 per cent report that the land they own does not have a title deed.
Among men, the numbers increase significantly. Over 18.3 per cent of never-married men own a house.
70.1 per cent of those who are married, or living together with their partners, 76.5 per cent of widowers, and 60.1 per cent of those who are divorced or separated own a house. “Among men who own a house, 83 per cent report that the house does not have a title deed or any other government-recognised document,” said KNBS.
The ownership is higher among those within the 50 to 54 age bracket, with 88.7 per cent of those owning a house as compared to 44.6 per cent of those below the age of 49.
The report also indicates that men who drop out of school or never go to school at all, find a way to own property.
8.7 of never-married men own agricultural land.
The figure is at 53.3 per cent for those married or living together with their spouses or partners, 60.5 per cent for widowed men, and 42.2 per cent for divorcees or those who have separated from their spouses.
In total, 73.3 per cent of men between 50 and 54, and 31.2 per cent of men between 15 and 49, own agricultural land.
Only 2.1 per cent of never-married men own non-agricultural land. 14 per cent of married, or cohabiting, men, 18.9 per cent of widowed and 8.3 per cent of divorcees own non-agricultural land.
46.7 per cent of men without an education own houses alone, compared to 42.6 per cent of those with a primary education, 27.2 per cent of those with a secondary education and 32.2 per cent of those with a higher certificate beyond secondary school.
The absolute numbers for the categories, however, are 250 for those without an education, 2,701 for those with a primary school education, 1862 for secondary education and 1147 for those with higher than secondary school education.