Eric Ole Reson.
By MMWCA Comms Team
The membership of landowners committees, critical conservancies governing organs, for Mara Conservancies were all men. Interestingly, it was a normal thing because, in any case, men owned the land as the titles were in their names. They were thereby perturbed when the push for women’s inclusion started.
The Association had an uphill task of persuading the men why women needed to sit on the committees and preparing women to rise to the leadership role. It was particularly challenging for the existing conservancies with committees, as including women meant reconstituting the membership or altering the committees. The Association began sensitisation of the community and later specific training for the appointed women leaders.
The Association has successfully helped conservancies achieve the tho-third gender rule, with 90 women serving in various landowners’ committees across the conservancies. But, as MMWCA’s Chief Programmes Officer Eric Reson notes, having women on the committees was not enough, “even if women were recruited into the committees, they still had a lot of capacity issues because they could not speak before the men, hence still disadvantaged even if they sat on the boards.” The Association set up a Mara Women’s Forum to serve as a platform for the capacity-building of women leaders.
Women leaders have advocated for the employment of female rangers and equitable distribution of bursaries.
There was, therefore, an urgent need to build their capacity to engage and make decisions. The Association tailored programmes to address this challenge, and the effort to make women’s voices count continues. However, there has been some success in this regard: “Women leaders have advocated for the employment of female rangers and equitable distribution of bursaries,” says MMWCA’s Senior Gender Officer Angela Paswa.
Eric also notes a lack of a mechanism for incorporating women in leadership. “Nothing in the constitution or articles of association of the conservancies or the trust deed addresses women’s representation, and we are simply invoking the two-third gender principle.”
Eric explains that the constitutions of conservancies defined landowners as people with title deeds. So the first intervention was to find a way of ensuring that women are also described as landowners.
“We started with the conservancies we have restructured to define who a landowner is, and the spouse of a landowner was included in the definition of a landowner. Effectively, the spouses of the landowners have members of the conservancies,” posits Eric.
Women will henceforth participate in the annual general meetings of the conservancies and legitimately be represented not by appointment but by right because the specific conservancy’s constitution gives them that right.
Restructuring the Women’s Forum
With the new arrangement recognising women as landowners, the Mara Women’s Forum will be registered as a trust. It will also transform from an exclusive capacity-building forum for women leaders to cover all the women landowners (including the spouses of males who hold titles).
The Association will help conservancies to set up women’s caucuses in the conservancies. The women’s
caucuses will have elections at the conservancy and cluster levels and hold annual general meetings.
The MMWCA’s Constitution now requires that at least of the three cluster representatives should be a woman. Further, the Women’s Forum Chairperson sits on MMWCA’s Executive Committee.