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Class of 2023
African Studies - Government
Melissa is a Government combined with African Studies major and a History minor. Before studying at St. Lawrence University, Melissa studied at United World College Costa Rica, the country where she grew up. Upon arriving at St. Lawrence University, Melissa discovered a passion for East African History and politics, which...

In Kenya, only 6% of rural women have access to land titles, even though they make up approximately 96% of the agricultural labor force. This gap is critical because, in Kenya, the land is an indicator of social status. Moreover, agriculture in Kenya contributes to almost a quarter of the national GDP. This research aimed to understand the significant impacts of the gender gap in land ownership and control on Kenyan rural women’s economic and personal empowerment. The literature offers three main answers to my central question, all of which suggest that women’s limited access to land and property poses a “higher risk of food insecurity,” a “higher risk of poverty,” and a “higher risk of HIV infection.” I tested these hypotheses through interviews during my fieldwork, mainly in Kenya but also in the United States. My findings confirmed that women with limited access to and control over land are more likely to suffer from food insecurity and poverty. However, in my interviews, there was no mention of HIV risk in my interviews, which I attribute to my interview design. My interpretation of the results is that protecting women’s property rights in Kenya should be part of the government and international organizations’ poverty reduction, food insecurity, and public health strategies. I further advocate that protecting women’s property rights in Kenya is a way to protect their mental well-being and sense of community and ensure their participation in all spheres of society.

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