Unfortunately, exactly land belongs to. In many parts of

Unfortunately, traditional views of women are often so deeply seated that when lawmakers begin attempting to improve women’s land rights, they often find that “Changing attitudes… proved more difficult than altering the lines on a page” (Horan).  Even once legal reform takes place, “there is still a huge gap between the law and customs” (Villa). For women, a formal, legal guarantee to land does not necessarily secure their access to land. The unfortunate reality is that even when the law attempts to secure women’s right to their land, “legal loopholes, gaps in implementation, lax enforcement, and at times sex-discriminatory practices undercut formal guarantees” (“What We Do”). To complicate things even further, many African countries enact a combination of traditional laws and Western statutory laws (Kimani) or “have several systems operating simultaneously” (“Women’s land rights project”). This has resulted in a general confusion as to who exactly land belongs to. In many parts of Africa, “Property rights can be a complex web of national and state laws, customs, traditions, and histories that vary from country to country, even town to town” (“Promoting Land Rights”). In Nigeria, this issue has “enabled rich elites to collude with tribal chiefs to buy up land, which formerly belonged to the kinship group, without anyone, especially women, being able to stop it” (Kimani).  Complicated, dual systems of land rights result in confusion and only serve to perpetuate the problem.Navigating around tradition and other cultural aspects of land inheritance can be a major obstacle to improving land policy.  For example, Kenya’s Succession Act grants men and women equal rights to land, but if a man dies without a will, “the customary law of his group relating to land inheritance will prevail” (Kimani). Unfortunately, few men write wills, and “most Kenyan communities do not allow a woman to inherit property from her husband or father,” as a result, “the equality provisions of the Succession Act generally do not apply” (Kimani). Another cultural factor that the law rarely addresses is the practice of polygamy. Multiple wives often means multiple women claiming legal rights to their husbands’ property. Thus there are “Often senior and junior wives, their children and several sets of in-laws compete for access” (Kimani). But in the end, the men have legal rights to the land, and thus can do whatever he pleases with the land – even selling the land without informing his wife/wives (Kimani).The many cultural aspects that play into this issue demand a multifaceted approach at a solution. So far, legislative changes alone are not sufficient to overcome the cultural factors of women’s land rights. Thus it is no surprise that non-government organizations formed to tackle issues surrounding land rights, such as Landesa, have in some ways, been much more successful. Organizations not associated with state or local governments are able to approach the problem from many different directions. Landesa, for instance, partners with progressive governments and civil society to develop pro-poor and gender-sensitive laws, policies, and programs that strengthen land rights for the poorest people. The organization provides experts who work alongside government officials, leaders and residents to develop solutions to problems of poverty. Their goal is to “reduce poverty, promote economic growth, improve nutrition and health, encourage women’s empowerment, reduce and prevent violent conflict and foster environmental stewardship” (“About Landesa”). In 2015, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation selected Landesa to be the recipient of the Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the largest humanitarian prize in the world, awarded to organizations that make extraordinary contributions to alleviating human suffering (“About Landesa”).