New Report Identifies Gender Inequality as a Barrier to Kenya’s Development
New Institute of Economic Affairs report identifies gender inequality as a barrier to Kenya’s development
The Institute of Economic Affairs’ (IEA) latest report on the socio-economic status of women in Kenya says women have made minimal strides in their quest to bridge the inequality gap. However, this state of affairs is not blamed solely on women but on the prevailing political system. The report titled Profile of Women’s Socio-Economic Status in Kenya shows low education levels among women in comparison to men. On primary school participation, the overall enrolment rate of boys is higher than that of their female counterparts, but North Eastern Province still lags far behind compared to the other provinces in Kenya by recording the lowest figures for girls’ enrolment in school. The figure stands at 27.6% followed by Nairobi recording a percentage of 40.1%.
Secondary school data on the other hand shows that the rate of women’s enrolment is much lower. This is based on the fact that the female students face the challenges of early marriage and some parents prefer to educate their sons over daughters. The trend continues into institutions of higher learning where again the number of female students at university level is much lower than their male counterparts and their preference is for the arts courses. The situation depicts the low progression of female students across education levels.
In the labour force, women constitute 30% of the overall wage employment. The highest percentage is recorded in the education sector (45%) while the lowest is in the building and construction industry (7%), manufacturing 18%, electricity and water 18%. More women tend to venture into the small micro enterprises (SMEs). Although women operate 54% of the total enterprises in the country where they dominate wholesale and retail businesses, rural manufacturing and urban agriculture sectors. Men are well represented in such sectors as urban manufacturing, transport, financial and social services. It is also pointed out in the report that, representation of both men and women in decision making processes is critical for effective implementation of policies that affect the general population. However a negligible proportion of women are represented in senior and middle level policy formulation and implementation processes.
In the judicial system, women are represented in the lower cadres among district and resident magistrates. Out of the 15 Appeal Judges, there is only one female among them. The report also says that the legal structures enacted face the risk of failing to materialize because of lack of budgetary allocations. Other challenges include the delay of debates before parliament and the long legislation processes. Further, the report says that the government and other stakeholders in the health sector have implemented various initiatives targeted at improving the health of women who in essence, are more vulnerable than men to infections. Interventions include constituency HIV/AIDS fund, national insurance fund, funding for malaria, TB programs and other health related expenditures.
The same report identifies the challenges of dealing with domestic violence as being more to do with attitudinal or cultural perceptions than policy. While it may be argued that the key issue related to persistence of gender violence is the rate of economic dependence of women on men, it is also worth noting that due to cultural reasons even economically independent women persevere and therefore allow the vice of domestic violence to persist. Domestic violence has locks out potential and opportunities for women who cannot develop themselves because they are afraid of their husbands’ attitude and reactions.
Enhancing gender equality is critical for any country’s development. Despite the fact that the women represent 51% of the Kenyan population, their representation in post primary education, wage employment, enterprise ownership and decision making process is limited, they are also adversely affected by such factors as traditional and social practices, poverty and domestic violence among other challenges. Improving women’s profile in all sectors and reducing gender disparities will not only benefit women but also men, children, the poor and rich as well. This will also enhance women’s empowerment and contribute to sustainable economic growth, reduce poverty and social injustices. The national budget could also be tailored to address gender issues in order to reduce gender inequalities.