OPINIONPeople Daily

Empowering women critical to economic revolution

Dorothy Ombajo

It’s a fact that women in Kenya are poorer than men. According to the World Bank’s 2018 Kenya Economic Update, 35.6 per cent of the national population live on less than the international poverty line of $1.90 (Sh190.5) per day.

The situation is worse for women, particularly those in rural areas and urban slums.  With less access to establishing credit, allocation of funds and education, women are at a high disadvantage. The 2010 Constitution envisaged more women representation in democratic processes—it recognised the need to increase women engagement and overcome traditional attitudes and prejudices.

According to 2018 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Economic Survey, 34 per cent of rural and 24 per cent of urban women and girls live below the poverty line compared to 31 per cent in rural and 19 per cent in urban of their male counterparts.

Yet the situation could have been worse had there not been critical interventions by government and civil  society organisations, including NGOs to empower women economically.

Women and girls, especially those in rural areas, spend long hours doing household chores. Most of these chores interfere with school attendance for girls and the ability to engage in productive activities for older women.

It’s no wonder KNBS data indicates that more boys enrol for school than girls. In 2017 for instance,  enrolment for boys stood at 1,681,530 against girls’ 1,612,283.

High levels of poverty contribute to poor access of education by women, especially in urban slums and rural areas. Most families are unable to cover the cost of their children’s education and opportunity costs for sending children to school are high.

Furthermore, as socio-cultural norms based on patriarchy prevail, families tend to prioritise boys’ education when faced with financial constraints.

In light of these, several non-governmental organisations have started initiatives to complement government efforts towards alleviation of the poverty among women in rural and urban slum areas. One such organisation is the Pangea Network, which works with women and youth in the informal settlements and rural Kenya in seven counties—Nairobi, Kajiado, Vihiga, Siaya, Homa Bay, Mombasa and Kwale.

Through the Kenyan Women’s Network Programme, Pangea provides tools and resources for women’s empowerment. Our empowerment training curriculum works to develop the whole woman from recognition of personal strengths to basic business skills, all building individual capacity to make informed decisions and increase overall quality of life for themselves and their families.

So far, the network has trained over 1,000 women, who were not privileged to complete formal education and lack  regular income yet they bear the burden of providing for their families.  Empowered women have the ability to fight poverty. – The writer is country director, Pangea Network Kenya—[email protected]

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