Gender Equality in Kenya. Challenges in finding an appropriate strategy

Master's Thesis, 2018

66 Pages


Table of contents



Table of contents

List of figures and tables

Acronyms and abbreviations

Map of Kenya

1.0 Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Problem Statement
1.3 Contextual Theories and Frameworks
1.4 Study objectives
1.5 Significance of the study
1.6 Chapter summary

2.0 Methodology
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Research design
2.3 Study population
2.4 Data collection
2.5 Chapter summary

3.0 Findings
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Factors affecting gender equality in Kenya
3.2.1 Education sector
3.2.2 Employment sector
3.2.3 Gender Roles in Society and School Participation
3.2.4 Gender Based Violence (GBV)
3.2.5 Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
3.3 Kenyan government progress towards SDG #5
3.3.1 Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act
3.3.2 The New Constitution
3.3.3 The National Gender Equality Commission
3.3.4 The Women Enterprise Fund (WEF)
3.3.5 Enactment of legislations and policies
3.4 Role played by men in gender equality
3.5 Role played by the non-governmental organizations
3.5.1 Gender based violence programs
3.5.2 Prevention of sexual exploitation
3.5.3 Menstrual hygiene programs
3.5.3 Employment opportunities for women
3.5.4 Women in Power and Decision-making
3.5.5 Human rights and women
3.6 How Kenya compares with her neighbors on gender issues
3.7 Chapter summary

4.0 Discussions and conclusion.
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Analysis of the state of the Kenyan girl child and women through the CST and IHD lens
4.2.1 The dignity of the human person
4.2.2 Community Participation
4.2.3 Rights and Responsibility
4.2.4 Option for the poor
4.2.5 Solidarity
4.3 Recommendations
4.4 Conclusion



Gender inequality in Kenya is real. The problem of gender inequality still prevails in almost all spheres of life despite the many efforts by the government to try to achieve gender parity. The major reason why this situation has prevailed is due to the complexity of the concept of gender equality and the fact that it has received minimal attention.

Gender equality should go beyond being perceived as ‘sameness’. In reality, majority of the Kenyan women and girls are facing the problem of inequality and discrimination.

This paper looks at the Kenyan situation as far as gender equality is concerned and tries to evaluate the efforts made by the Kenyan government in achieving gender equality. In addition, it seeks to look at the gaps that the government has left out leading to the current situation where there exist educational, social, cultural and economic disparities. It will also look at the efforts by the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in bringing gender parity and the role played by men in achieving gender equality in Kenya. Lastly, this paper proposes several interventions required in order to achieve gender equality in Kenya.

In this paper, data was collected from secondary sources. These included online databases, textbooks, peer and non-peer reviewed journals, blogs and websites, newspapers and mass media reports, theses and dissertations, reports from civil society and other organizations dealing with gender issues. In addition, both qualitative and quantitative sources were reviewed.


I take this chance to express my profound gratitude to my capstone project mentor Prof. Clark for his exceptional guidance, monitoring and constant encouragement throughout this capstone project. I appreciate his close and cordial support, which helped me complete this task through various stages.

I also take this opportunity to thank the faculty of St. John’s University for the wonderful way in which they have imparted knowledge and skills in me, and the St. John’s community for giving me a chance to train with them and most particularly for granting me the financial aid to facilitate my studies.

I am obliged to my classmates in this course for the valuable information they shared and the moral support they offered. I am so grateful for their corporation.

Lastly, I thank the almighty God, my dear wife, Mercy and my children -Joy and Trevor for all the support they rendered me without which this project would not have been possible.

List of figures and tables

Figure 1: Kenya counties map

Figure 2: IHD framework on gender inequality in Kenya

Figure 3: Pokot Enrolment Pyramid for Primary and Secondary Schools

Figure 4: Early marriage, early child bearing

Figure 5: Makeshift classrooms in Pokot County

Figure 6: School enrolment in Pokot County (Percentage of girls)

Figure 7: Major Causes of School Drop-Out among Pokot girls

Figure 8: Primary school enrolment by sex, 1990-2001

Figure 9: Young girl being forced to marriage

Figure 10: Young girls ‘ready’ to undergo FGM

Figure 11: Young Pokot girl after undergoing FGM

Figure 12: Traditional Pokot Circumciser

Figure 13: Proportion of girls and women aged 15-49 years who have undergone FGM

Figure 14: Pokot community celebrated first female doctor

Figure 15: Women’s access to resources in Kenya

Figure 16: Opportunities and gaps in the national gender policy framework

Figure 17: IRC staff at the Lodwar referral hospital gender based violence Centre

Figure 18: Gender Parity Index in Primary Level Enrolment

Figure 19: Seats held by women in national parliament, percentage

Table 1: Components of the IHD model in the Kenyan context

Table 2: Primary Schools Gross Enrolment by Gender and by County (2014-2016)

Table 3: Status of women in management in six Kenyan public universities, 2015

Acronyms and abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Map of Kenya

This image was removed by the editorial team due to copyright issues.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


Figure 1: Kenya counties map


1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background

The term “gender” refers to the set of social norms and practices that regulate the relations between women and men (also known as “gender relations”).1 On the other hand, gender equity denotes the equivalence in life outcomes for women and men, recognizing their different needs and interests, and requiring a redistribution of power and resources.2 According to the European Commission, gender equity entails provision of fairness and justice in the distribution of benefits and responsibilities between women and men, while recognizing that women and men have different needs and power and that these differences should be identified and addressed in a manner that rectifies the imbalances between the sexes.3

Gender equity may also be defined as the process of being fair or impartial to women and men. This this can only be achieved through strategies and measures that counteract the constraints that have blocked men and women in society from playing on a level ground.

The Constitution of Kenya envisions a situation where women and men participate equally and competitively in national development. It is important to note that the national values and principles of governance as envisaged in the current Constitution of Kenya bind all State organs, State officers, public officers and all persons whenever any of them-applies or interprets the Constitution; enacts, applies or interprets any law; or makes or implements public policy decisions.4 The most significant of these values and principles are participation of the people, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalized.5

Gender equity in Kenya is among the many goals the country seeks to achieve in its quest to achieving middle-income status within the next two decades. This has been clearly set out in the country’s economic blueprint dubbed Vision 2030.

This blueprint was launched in 2009 and has seen the country embark on the document’s strategies, which include having a new constitution in place.

The promulgated constitution has many gender equity gains that provide the required legal backing to ensure that both Kenyan women and men share equal enjoyment of resources, opportunities and rewards (Kariuki, 2011). However, there are various interferences that the country still faces in the achievement of gender equity in education development as envisioned in the strategic plan. Some examples of such barriers are cultural, poverty coupled with disease and religious resistance to gender equity, rapid population growth and a lack of sufficient representation in key decision-making sectors. However, there are some countries in the world who have revised their constitution and are ahead of Kenya in making sure that both men and women are given equal opportunities in all sectors. Some of the strategies these countries have used are now being embraced in Kenya.

The 2013 Global Gender Gap rankings placed Kenya 78th out of 136 countries, just below Uruguay and above Cyprus. The highest placed African country is South Africa in 18th position, while regional neighbors Uganda come in at 46th.

The gender gap is smaller in Kenya than in the Czech Republic, Malta, Chile, Mauritius and Botswana.6

There are quite a number of challenges that continue to hinder Kenya’s development and progression as a whole and this also affects the progress in achieving gender equity and equality. These include factors such as diseases, poverty and culture, corruption, and lack of proper gender representation among many others.

The Sustainable Development Goal number 5 emphasizes on the need to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. In my research, I will seek to evaluate the extent in which gender equality has been achieved in Kenya, compare the Kenyan achievements with some other countries in the world and highlight what Kenya needs to do in order to fully achieve this important goal.

With a population of 45.5 million, a 2014 Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.548 and an income Gini coefficient of 47.7 in 2013, Kenya was ranked as one of the countries in Africa with a low human development.7 This puts the country in the low human development category placing it at position 145 out of 188 countries and territories. Between 1980 and 2014, Kenya’s HDI value increased from 0.453 to 0.548, an increase of 21.1% or an average annual increase of about 0.56%. Although this index is higher than that of sub Saharan Africa (0.46), it is still far below the global average of 0.78 in the year 2014. Wealth in Kenya is unequally distributed with a national income Gini coefficient of 47.7 and the inequality adjusted HDI of 0.34.

1.2 Problem Statement

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) # 5 is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. In this paper, I will mainly focus on the following indicators:

i) End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
ii) Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and Private spheres, including trafficking, sexual violence, and other types of exploitation.
iii) Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child early and forced marriage and FGM.
iv) Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of

Public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate.

Close monitoring of the progress towards the various targets would lead to gender equality for the country and the world at large.

Gender equality is the state of having the same rights, status, and opportunities as others, regardless of one's gender8. This means that both men and women, as human being, have equal rights and opportunities irrespective. It also means that all people (men and women) must have equal right to develop their personal abilities and free to make personal choices. State or society therefore will not discriminate between men and women based on gender. Moreover, gender equality emphasizes that natural or biological difference between men and women will not lead to difference in status and rights in all sphere of life between men and women.9

In Kenyan society, gender equality has been a contentious subject since independence, over fifty years ago. The subject is continually quashed by challenges and hindrances that make it very difficult for the country to move forward in achieving gender equality. Subsequently, gender inequality has continually restrained the country’s development politically, socially and economically.

Inasmuch as the Kenyan government is doing much to achieve gender equality in several fields, some cultures are watering down this effort. For instance, in some cultures, wife battering and FGM are still widely practiced. FGM in particular is viewed as the gateway to maturity for the girl child.

Despite this progress, the Kenyan girl child faces major challenges as she struggles to flourish: early marriages, forced marriages, school dropout, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), gender based violence among others. Unless these issues are addressed proactively, women and girls will have minimal contribution to development and the country will lag behind as far at the fifth SDG is concerned.

This research looked at the cultural, political, economic and religious factors that affect gender equality in Kenya, investigated how poverty and education impact gender equality and also explored representation of women in leadership and the contribution by the NGOs towards gender equality. Constitutional provisions, government policies and legislations towards gender equality will also be an area of interest. This was in a bid to evaluate the successes the government of Kenya has made towards achieving SDG #5.

1.3 Contextual Theories and Frameworks

The following contextual theories, frameworks and Catholic Social Teachings (CST) guided this research:

i) The principle of subsidiarity and participation.

This principle focuses on how we can contribute to a more just and fair world. This principle states that the functions of government should be performed at the lowest level possible, as long as they can be performed adequately. If they cannot, then a higher level of government should intervene to provide help. All people have the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Subsidiarity requires that decisions are made by the people closest and most affected by the issues and concerns of the community.

The communities therefore should be empowered to promote and develop their capacity in decision-making so that they can better respond to their own needs.10 The battle against some cultural practices such as FGM, early marriages and forced marriages cannot be won effectively if fought at the national level; those at lower levels should be directly involved.

ii) The principle of solidarity

This was another guiding principle to my research. Principle of solidarity emphasizes on the need for all of us getting involved in ensuring gender equality in our society since this battle cannot be won single handedly. This principle states that everyone belongs to one human family, regardless of their national, religious, ethnic, economic, political and ideological differences.11 This means that everyone has an obligation to promote the rights and development of all peoples across communities, nations, and the world. The focus here should be laid to those who are most marginalized and vulnerable like the women and the girls.

iii) Concept of Poverty.

Poverty is another major problem facing women and girls in Kenya. Culturally, men are the family breadwinners and therefore, they move to urban areas in search for jobs leaving behind the women and girls in the rural areas to take care of the children and tend the farms.

Rural areas have poor infrastructure and are naturally underdeveloped. This coupled with retrogressive cultures together with suppressive customs and traditions have disempowered women in ways that may take generations to reverse. This has eventually reduced women participation in development.

iv) Globalization.

There is a worldwide movement toward economic, financial, trade, and communications integration.12 As such, there is redistribution of opportunities and benefits, which may enhance the economy or lead to rising inequality and aggravated poverty.

Kenya’s challenge is to ensure that women benefit equally in the global village without discrimination whatsoever. They should also be empowered to be able to participate in development equally as men. There is need therefore to compare how Kenya is doing in gender issues with other countries particularly those at similar development levels.

v) The 1995 United Nations World Conference in Beijing.

Governments participating in the fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing China declared inter alia, that women’s empowerment and their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society, including participation in the decision-making process and access to power, are fundamental for the achievement of equality, development and peace.13

They further stated that equal rights, opportunities and access to resources, equal sharing of responsibilities for the family by men and women, and a harmonious partnership between them are critical to their well-being and that of their families as well as to the consolidation of democracy.14

vi) Violence against women.

Violence against women is a serious problem in Kenya today. This vice is propagated through rape, wife battering and sexual harassment. Rape incidences are on the rise as well as other forms of physical and psychological abuse directed towards women and girls. The judicial system has begun to address this urgent issue by creating legislations such as the sexual offensive bill.15

However, this will continue to be a major challenge especially as it is compounded by its interrelation with poverty and HIV/AIDS.

Wife battering is also on the rise in Kenya. This is mainly attributed to some cultural believes. For instance, the Luhyia community of Western Kenya believes that wife beating is a sign of how much you love your wife.

vii) Access to basic resources.

Some of these resources include water and fuel. Most women in Kenya, as earlier noted stay in the rural areas where resources like fuel, water and electricity are so scarce. Women’s control over these resources in Kenya is still not satisfactory.

The lack of infrastructure like proper roads in the rural areas still acts as a barrier for women to gain easy access to these basic resources. This limits their contribution towards development activities in the country.

viii) Access to property rights and land.

Land is vital both because of the predominance of agriculture within the Kenyan economy and because of the significance of land in providing collateral for business financing. Access to land is therefore a key aspect of economic empowerment of women. However, although women in Kenya supply 70% of labor in the agricultural sector, they hold only about 1% of registered land titles in Kenya, with around 5–6 percent of registered titles held in joint names.16 Women’s limited land ownership negatively affects their contribution to Kenya’s economic growth.17 The new constitution allows women to inherit family land equally as men although this is not going without challenges from some communities who still hold to the traditions on land inheritance.18 Article 40 of the Kenyan Constitution, guarantees the right to property ownership , while Article 60 ensures equitable access to land and security of land rights.19

ix) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. It was drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world. The Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages.20 The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.21 Further, it provides that all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.22

This Declaration acknowledges that men and women are not the same but insists on their right to be equal before the law and treated without discrimination.23 To this end, the Declaration recognizes the important role of equity in ensuring that all persons are not only accorded equal opportunities but also are able to take advantage of such opportunities in a fair manner.

x) The Integral Human Development (IHD) framework on gender inequality in Kenya.

The IHD model (Figure 2) developed by the Catholic Relief services (CRS) is based on the concept of IHD as found in Catholic Social Teaching (CST). This framework outlines the strategies, outcomes, structures and systems, assets, constraints and shocks, cycles and trends associated with gender equality in Kenya. The six components are outlined in Table 1 .

This image was removed by the editorial team due to copyright issues.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2: IHD framework on gender inequality in Kenya

Table 1 : Components of the IHD model in the Kenyan context

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1.4 Study objectives

The broad objective of this study was to evaluate the extent to which Kenya has achieved gender equality and to identify the existing interventions and challenges in order to come up with appropriate strategies to address any gaps.

The specific objectives of the study were to:

1. Identify the factors affecting gender equality in Kenya.
2. Identify the successes the Kenyan government has achieved towards gender equality.
3. Document the role played by NGOs in achieving gender equality in Kenya.
4. Explore challenges on Kenya’s path towards gender equality.
5. Recommend strategies for improving gender equality in Kenya.

1.5 Significance of the study

Gender equality is critical for development and must therefore be addressed if any country has to make reasonable progress on its way to achieve development. Women and girls should have a fair playing ground with men and boys to enable them to enjoy a fair contribution in the nation’s development. They must have equal access to resources and opportunities to allow them equal contribution to development. Gender inequality restricts a country’s development both politically, socially and economically. Therefore, if development has to be realized, gender inequality must be minimized if not eliminated.

An understanding of the steps the Kenyan government has taken towards achieving the SDG on gender equality, the existing gaps and potential remedial measures is a critical step in national self-assessment. These findings will be crucial to the government agencies and other NGO’s in guiding them to come up with proper interventions in addressing this issue. In addition, the data gathered during this study can be used in addressing similar challenges in other countries.

1.6 Chapter summary

This chapter has outlined the background of the study, presented the problem statement and the contextual framework that was used for the study. The objectives of the study and a short explanation why this study is important both to Kenya and the international community were also presented.


2.0 Methodology

2.1 Introduction

This chapter outlines the methodology used in this research including the research design, study population and the data sources.

2.2 Research design

This was a descriptive study which mainly focusing on describing the gender issues in Kenya and in particular focusing on what the government and the non-governmental organizations have done so far to deal with gender inequality issues, what gaps exist and what interventions need to be put in place to close those gaps. This design was considered the most appropriate considering the research question and the time factor.

2.3 Study population

The focus population was women and the girls in the Kenyan society. For this study, the specific areas of interest, where inequality is rampant, are the job market, learning institutions, social institutions and the cultural setups.

2.4 Data collection

Data was collected from secondary sources. These included peer and non-peer reviewed journals, blogs and websites, newspapers, social and mass media reports, reports from civil society and other organizations, and online databases. Use of secondary data was preferred due to the following factors: availability and reliability, affordability and time factor.

2.5 Chapter summary

This chapter has looked at the research method employed in data collection. It also looked at the justification for the methods and data sources that the study used to achieve the objectives identified in Chapter 1.


3.0 Findings

3.1 Introduction

This chapter presents the study findings using the study objectives as the framework for presentation of the results. First, the factors affecting gender equality in Kenya are presented, then the successes made by the Kenyan government plus the roles of the civil society and a comparison of Kenya’s performance with selected neighboring countries are presented, Finally, the challenges on Kenya’s path to gender equality are explored. Strategies for addressing these challenges are presented in in Chapter 4.

3.2 Factors affecting gender equality in Kenya

Gender issues are critical in any nation and for development to be achieved, gender equality is a prerequisite.

Gender equality is the equality between women and men, girls and boys in all aspects of life including education, health, nutrition, access to economic assets and resources, political opportunity and freedom from coercion and violence.24

To achieve gender equality, progress must be made across these areas. Women and girls must be empowered to enable them to effectively contribute to development both locally and globally. Women’s empowerment is closely related to, but goes beyond, gender equality to cover not just women’s condition relative to men’s, but their power to make choices and their ability to control their own destiny (Kabeer, 1999). It must go hand in hand with efforts to address gender inequality.

The position of women in Kenya today owes much to the historical evolution of gender relations. During colonial rule, sexist gender stereotypes were imported by British officials who were used to living in a society with a marked gender gap. As a result, wage labor and other economic opportunities were opened up to men, with expectation that women would stay behind to look after the family. Similar attitudes held back women in a variety of other ways.

This section seeks to focus on the gaps that exist as far as gender equality is concerned.

Despite the efforts of the government and other stakeholder, gender inequality is still rampant in several parts of Kenya. Women and girls still face discrimination in job market, cultural setups and other economic circles.

The following are ways in which gender inequality in still being propagated in Kenya despite the many efforts made by the government and non-governmental organizations. These gaps must be addressed if Kenya has to move fast towards the targets for the fifth SDG.

3.2.1 Education sector Insufficient policy

The Kenya national education plans reveal absence of comprehensive gender policies with specific monitoring and evaluation guidelines. For example, few educational policy statements provide guidance on how to address poverty, sexual maturation, early marriages, adolescent pregnancy and gender violence in education in a manner that can be interpreted and implemented easily. The government hardly provides effective guidance on how to ensure that schools are learner-friendly and gender responsive and that they ensure that girls are made to feel safe and comfortable at school.


1 United Nations, “The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality,” Women 2000 and Beyond, December 2008. P.4. Available at [Accessed on 03/04/2015].

2 H. Reeves and S. Baden, “Gender and Development: Concepts and Definitions,” Prepared for the Department for International Development (DFID) for its gender mainstreaming intranet resource. Institute of Development Studies, Report No 55, February 2000, p. 10.

3 European Commission, Gender equality – glossary, available at [Accessed on 19/05/2015].

4 Article 10 (1).

5 Article 10(2) (b) (c).








13 United Nations, Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 4-15 September 1995, A/CONF.177/20/Rev.1. Para. 13. Annex I.

14 Para. 15.

15 Offences Act ( 3 of 2006) 2009.pdf






21 UN General Assembly, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1948, 217 A (III), Preamble. Article 1 thereof also emphasizes on equality of all.

22 Article 7. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

23 Article 2: Universal Declaration of Human Rights

24 Grown C. Rao Gupta, G. Kes, A. (2005) op cit. for an operational framework for approaching gender equality

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Gender Equality in Kenya. Challenges in finding an appropriate strategy
St. John's University
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gender, equality, kenya, challenges
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Joel Njiru (Author), 2018, Gender Equality in Kenya. Challenges in finding an appropriate strategy, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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