Various national, regional and international conventions and documentation have emphasised that enabling the population, regardless of gender to actively participate in social and economic wellbeing is critical for long-term and sustainable social, political and economic development of any society.
In Kenya, gender equity has taken centre stage resulting in the development and enactment of various legal and policy interventions including enactment of the National Commission on Gender and Development Act in 2003 and subsequent establishment of the National Commission on Gender and Development in November the same year; introduction of gender desks in key parastatals and police stations; the introduction of the women’s enterprise fund; the passing of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2006 and the 30% presidential decree on affirmative action in public appointments, among others.
Although, females constitute 51% of the population in Kenya, gender disparities are still persistent in most sectors. This study presents a socio-economic profile of women in Kenya. The analysis shows that there is low female representation in post primary education, formal employment, enterprise ownership outside wholesale and retail trade, and political decision making processes.
Gender inequalities can be attributed to limited access and control over productive resources, access to financial services, insufficient access to education, lack of skill, limited access to technology, cultural impediments and other constraints limiting employment options and participation in decision making. All these serve to seriously constrain women’s ability to effectively participate in and benefit from economic development.
Policy interventions towards removing barriers to general female well-being include economic and knowledge empowerment, increasing access to financial services, employment and participation in decision making. This will also require design and implementation of programmes to transform gender related norms and behaviour in relation to care, work and responsibilities. Awareness programmes will require pre- and/or co-requisite transformation of mindsets within Government, decision makers, young girls and boys, men and even women themselves on the gender consequences of policies and programmes in the country. A more wholesome approach based on genuine political willingness, involvement of religious, media, family units, private sector agencies and civil societies in intense action oriented activism in transforming and nurturing positive attitudes and appreciation of unique roles played by women is recommended.