Iteso land rights for married women

Within Iteso Culture, a married woman is one for whom all formalities of Iteso marriage have been done and have been satisfactorily concluded, including:

  • Aitodiar – introduction ceremony
  • Abilakinio – bride gifts determination ceremony
  • Eiyis – delivery of the bride gifts
  • Ainyamario – escorting and receiving of the bride to her ere (home).

Ejakait Emmanuel George Owaraga and his bride Magloire at their marriage ceremony in Paris, after all Iteso marriage ceremonies had been fulfilled in Uganda. Ejakait Owaraga is the son of the Late Ejakait Engineer George William Obityo Owaraga, Chief of the Ikaribwok Isekelio Clan of Pallisa, now rested.

Iteso norms and practices instruct that the clan of her husband shall allocate a married woman land on which to jointly build ere with her husband and on which to farm, for the benefit of her ekale (household).

Hence, marriage in Ateso is: “aiduk” or “adukokin” (to build).

Thereafter, as long as she remains edukokina (married), she continues to enjoy protected ownership rights over the land which she was allocated, in order that she established ere and as her amisiri (farmland) or amisirin (farmlands).

“Land ownership in Iteso Culture means a customary usufructory title nearly amounting to full ownership. In particular, it implies the right to cultivate, to excavate, to build, to bury the dead, to cut trees, to lend, to subdivide, and to bequeath the land or any part of it. It does not imply the right to sell or rent the land.”

J. C. D. Lawrence in his book “The Iteso – Fifty years of Change in a nilo-hamitic tribe of Uganda”

It is, indeed, the norm in Iteso Culture that ownership of a married woman of land that she is allocated by her husband’s clan, she enjoys until her death, even in the event that she is widowed.

At her death, her husband’s clan may formally transfer her ownership rights to her children or if there be no living adult children, the clan may then transfer the ownership to another clan member.

During her life time, in the event that she is separated from her husband, and she chooses to stay at her marital home, Iteso culture permits her to do so undisturbed and to maintain her land ownership rights protected over the land allocated to her by her estranged husband’s clan.

Iteso central logic is that a woman separated from her husband is still a mother within the clan and so she will stay on the land to raise her children – biological and/or cultural, who in fact are children of the clan; and to keep the land for her children.

Ajakait Alinga Norah with her niece and nephew at her Alinga Farms at her father’s ancestral home in Kadoki Village in Pallisa.

However, while she is separated and she stays in her marital home, she is not permitted eirumane (to be a concubine – live with a man, without Iteso marriage ceremonies being done), especially so, to bring another man into the home and to the marital bed, whether it be for the purpose of eirumane nor even for the purpose of aiduk.

If she so does, she ceases to have landownership rights bestowed on her by her husband’s clan; and it would most likely cause her expulsion off the land. If she chooses to return to her ancestral home – expelled or not, Iteso Culture provides that she should be provided for by her father’s clan, which in fact is her clan.

In the event of divorce and the bride gifts are returned to her father’s clan; a married woman now divorced ceases to enjoy the ownership rights accorded to her by her husbands clan. Similarly, it then becomes the duty of her father’s clan to provide her with access to land.

This means that within Iteso Culture, when engaging on matters related to married women’s land rights, it is important for one to establish the claim of marriage. There is a clear definition within Iteso Culture of a woman that is considered duly married.

De facto, a woman who chooses eirumane, within the Iteso Culture, is not recognized as a wife or as a married woman; and she does not have any land rights from the clan of her mate.

Chief Okwalinga Emokol Michael, Head of the Imorio Sub-Clan of the Irarak Clan of the Iteso; and the Iteso Cultural Ambassador.


The wisdom and the knowledge of Iteso Culture herein contained I largely learned and re-confirmed from an educative presentation that Chief Okwalinga made on Friday, 30th July 2021, during a dialogue titled: “Women’s Rights from a Cultural Lens: Perspectives from Iteso;” a dialogue that was organised by Ateker Professionals’ Initiative for Development (APID).” During his presentation, Chief Okwalinga asserted that: “Anyone who claims that women in Teso had no land rights prior, they would be largely wrong.” In subsequent posts, I will share my learning on Iteso land rights for unmarried women.

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