Gender Equity Issues in Kenya

Throughout Kenya's history, women have been subjugated to consistent rights abuses while shouldering an overwhelming amount of responsibilities. A prominent example of this relates to agriculture, which creates over 80 percent of Kenya's jobs and 60 percent of income. Currently, women in Kenya do the vast majority of agricultural work and produce/market the majority of food. Yet they earn only a fraction of the income generated and own a nominal percentage of assets. Only 29 percent of those earning a formal wage throughout the country are women, leaving a huge percentage of women to work in the informal sector without any federal support. The effect is severe—nearly 40 percent of households are run solely by women and, because of a lack of fair income, nearly all these homes suffer from poverty or extreme poverty.

Women continue to be educated at an inferior rate to their counterparts, increasing their reliance upon men. They are also limited from owning, acquiring, and controlling property throughout Kenya, regardless of social class, religion, or ethnic group. If women attempt to assert property rights over men or in-laws, they are often ostracized by their families and communities. This practice of disinheritance seems to be on the rise, particularly in areas hit hard by poverty.

Other grave women's rights abuses continue to be practiced throughout the country. Examples include wife inheritance, widows "inherited" by male relatives of the deceased husband; and ritual cleansing, the requirement of sex with a man of low social standing to "cleanse" a widow of her dead husband's "evil spirits." These cultural practices maintain low self-esteem for women while completely ignoring the threat of HIV.

One out of every eight adults in rural Kenya and almost one out of every five adults in urban areas are infected with HIV. The infection rate in girls and young women is exponentially higher than in their male counterparts. Since women are predominantly infected by their husbands, they are essentially left to die when their land, home, and assets are taken from them by their husband's family. The cultural norms described here affect the majority of women in Kenya; yet the government consistently fails to provide resources for the empowerment of women.

FSD and its partner organizations work in the Kakamega and Mombasa regions to supply training, education, microfinance, health care, and other resources for women and their families.

Read more about Gender Equity programs and opportunities initiated by our Community Partners in Kenya.

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