Empowering Women in Kenya: A Look at Progress on International Women’s Day

Over the last decade, Kenya has made significant strides in promoting gender equality and women’s rights, from providing free education and healthcare to increasing women’s participation in the political sector. As we mark International Women’s Day, let us look at some of Kenya’s progress.

Women in politics

Adopting the new constitution in 2010 brought a new light to women’s political participation. The constitution stipulates gender equality and explicitly prohibits discrimination based on gender.

According to the constitution, women hold at least a third of all elective and appointive government positions. This has led to an increase in the number of women holding political offices in the country. Apart from women’s representative positions, many women have contested elective seats and defeated their male counterparts. Some notable female governors include Anne Waiguru of Kirinyaga County, Kawira Mwangaza of Meru County, and Gladys Wanga of Homa Bay County.

Women in economics

The last decade has seen an increase in women contributing to the economic sector. According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC) report for 2019, women in Kenya comprise 48% of the labor force and 34% of SME owners. This is an increase from where it was about a decade ago. Kenya has witnessed a rise in the number of women managers and the growth of female-led enterprises. Fintech companies such as Tala, Pezesha, and Hustler Fund allow SMEs to borrow money at meager interest rates.

Last week saw the relaunch of the Women’s Enterprise Fund by President William Ruto to advance financial inclusion in the country. Kenyan women such as Tabitha Karanja, who owns Keroche breweries. Jane Karuku, the managing director of EABL, Rebecca Miano of Kengen, and Terryanne Chebet, who owns Keyara Organics,

Women’s rights

Kenya has also taken steps to address gender-based violence, a significant obstacle to women’s rights. This is done by enacting laws to protect women from violence. The Sexual Offences Act of 2006 criminalises sexual offences such as rape, sexual harassment, and female genital mutilation.

Over the past few years, people caught putting girls through FGM have been arrested and given lengthy prison sentences.

In addition to these legal and policy measures, cultural and social changes have helped advance women’s rights in the country. Kenya has seen a rise in women’s groups and organizations that advocate for women’s rights and provide support and resources to women. Organizations such as Inua Dada, started by Stanbic Bank and led by Janet Mbugua and Usikimye, are all geared towards protecting and helping women. Another notable name is Lynne Ngugi, who is dedicated to highlighting women’s stories and plight via her YouTube channel.

The challenges

Despite these achievements, there is still much work to be done to ensure that women in Kenya enjoy full equality and that their rights are protected. A documentary by the BBC released last week highlighted the sexual abuse women face in the job sector. The documentary was just the tip of the iceberg because the vice is not just in the tea industry but all other sectors.

Despite the progress made, Kenya has yet to attain the third political rule. Only 16 women were elected as members of parliament out of the total 216 seats available.

Another challenge is that women still need easy access to funds to either start or grow their businesses, as they are seen as liabilities.

Main photo: Alice Wambui Mwangi Kenya training girls on menstrual health and providing them with reusable washable sanitary pads to help girls stay in school with dignity and confidence. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Days-for-Girls_in_Kenya.jpg#/media/File:Days-for-Girls_in_Kenya.jpg

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