Leah Mugehera Khasoha Alumni Profile
The Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) launched an Alumni Profile Series in which alumni of CCSI’s Executive Training on Sustainable Investments in Agriculture are interviewed about their career paths.
In this profile, Leah Mugehera Khasoha, Women’s Land Rights Program Officer with Oxfam International and a 2017 Executive Training alumnus, discusses her work and the barriers women face in securing land rights.
1. What do you do for work? What does a typical day look like?
I work on women’s land rights with a focus on this issue within the African continent. I focus on Africa because within most African countries women have weak land rights and are still struggling to have access and ownership of land. This has always been challenging due to the social norms, culture, traditions and beliefs that severely sideline women; most cultures are patriarchal.
My day depends on whether am in the country or away working to implement project activities. The first thing I do before I settle in to do my daily duties is go online and familiarize myself with the latest trends and news related to women’s struggle regarding land matters in African countries. This helps me see which countries are headed in the right direction in support of land rights for women.
2. How has your career trajectory led you to where you are today?
I have always been a women’s rights activist, working on various gender issues since the beginning of my career, but my passion was mostly drawn towards this emotive topic (land) and especially after having seen women from my own community and in Kenya lose out on their land rights; due to disinheritance when they are married and/ or widowed.
3. What is one of your most memorable moments in your career and why?
The Kilimanjaro Initiative Meeting on Women’s Land Rights that was organized in October 2016. More than 500 women from 22 countries in Africa convened in Tanzania. A group of 22 women climbed the highest mountain in Africa (Mt. Kilimanjaro) as a symbolic gesture of the daily challenges they face in their struggle to realize their land rights. This group also presented the rural women’s charter of demands to the Africa Union Chairperson who made commitments to see its implementation by the African Heads of States. Another memorable moment was in January 2017, during the African Union (AU) Summit, when the charter of demands was adopted by the AU and presented to the Africa Heads of States present at the Summit. The African Heads of State committed to the domestication and implementation of this charter of demands.
4. What major issue related to sustainable investments in land/agriculture are you particularly interested in at the moment?
I am interested in the gendered dimensions of and the impacts that Large Scale Land Based Investments (LSLBIs) have. Women have weak land rights and large scale acquisitions result in adverse effects on women’s ownership of and access to land.
5. What was your main lesson learned or take away from the CCSI Executive Training on Sustainable Investments in Agriculture? How do you apply that lesson in your work?
Through the CCSI Executive Training on Sustainable Investments in Agriculture I gathered a more in-depth understanding of how important it is to engage the community when an investor is about to approach a specific piece on land. This connects to the issue of the transparency of any related land deals and encourages the protection of human rights, especially of people connected to the land.
6. What advice would you give to young professionals in your area of work?
There is a need for young professionals to go above and beyond and start thinking about advocating for land rights for young women. Women are proven to be more marginalized in Africa when it comes to land rights. Many women miss out on the right to own land in their communities since it is believed that they can only acquire land through marriage. Many communities do not think about making this valuable resource accessible to women. Much more work is needed to address these issues.