On January 21, 2013, MADRE called on President Obama to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Throughout this week, we will be calling attention to instances in which CEDAW has made a concrete difference in the lives of women around the world.

In 2005, CEDAW was applied to the case of Rono vs. Rono in Kenya to greatly expand women’s right to inheritance and land ownership there under the law.

Prior to the decision, “customary law” held that women could not, in fact, inherit land, even from immediate family members like their father. Over time, that tradition had eroded. In Rono vs. Rono, however, male family members claimed a greater share of inherited land and argued in court that under customary law, their female relatives had no right to inherit at all and were under obligation to accept the male heirs’ judgment on the estate.

The¬†decision found that, in light of CEDAW, women’s human right to land ownership and inheritance should be respected. In the specific case addressed, the women involved retained their land and their ability to feed themselves and their families. Across Kenya, women were given new standing to challenge customs and become landowners in their own right.

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