What you need to know:
- The National Gender and Equality Commission is rooting for stakeholders to address the multiple challenges rural women are facing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Each beneficiary of Inua Jamii program receives Sh2,000 stipend per month, which NGEC wants extended to rural women.
- Commission also rooted for the government to equip rural women with adequate tools, information and incentives to prepare for and mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had major impacts on the lives of women, especially those living in rural areas, unplanned settlements and hard-to-reach parts of the world.
Rural women have been hardest hit by disruption of distribution of some agricultural inputs, produce and shrinking markets for their produce and wares.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), of the 32.7 million people living in rural areas, 16.7 million are women, a majority of whom depend on small scale agriculture and informal sector for their livelihoods
Some rural women engage in subsistence farming while others participate in economic activities like mat making, yoghurt and soap, among other activities. The shrinking markets for their farm produce and other wares due to the Covid-19 disruption resulted in dwindling economic prospects for them.
The National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) is now rooting for the stakeholders to address the multiple challenges rural women are facing.
The commission, through its chairperson Dr Joyce Mutinda, recently issued a statement that pushes the government to consider disproportionately expanding the social protection program to rural households to cover a higher number of female-headed households, households with children or family members with severe disabilities, and rural women suffering from acute hunger and food insecurities.
The government has a social protection program commonly known as Inua Jamii, a flagship of National Safety Net Program, which offers cash to orphans and vulnerable children, elderly persons, and persons living with severe disabilities.
There are about a million beneficiaries under the program drawn from across the country. Each beneficiary receives Sh2,000 stipend per month, which NGEC wants extended to rural women.
The commission also rooted for the government to equip rural women with adequate tools, information and incentives to prepare for and mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic.
“The Covid -19 pandemic has had major impacts in the lives of women, especially those living in unplanned settlements, rural areas, and hard-to-reach parts of the world. Evidence shows that during emergencies, women disproportionately bear the resulting social and economic shocks,” said Dr Mutinda in the statement.
The NGEC chairperson noted that restriction measures put by the government to slow the spread of Covid-19 disrupted agricultural value chains and food systems, leading to loss of employment and small-scale businesses particularly in the tourism sector, which resulted in an increased burden of care and contributions to unpaid labour.
Rural women, the commission said, have endured the greatest brunt of the Covid-19 as a result of gender roles and responsibilities assigned to women during times of emergencies including taking care of the sick, children and the older members of society.
Further, the commission noted that the pandemic has contributed to mental stress, tension and anxiety particularly among families due to loss of jobs.
The Commission lauded the Government for the on-going NationalCovid-19 Economic Recovery Strategy that seeks to among others address existing inequalities, enhance social cohesion, building community resilience and strengthen social protection.
“Women and particularly the rural women, play a critical role in the response and recovery process and therefore response and recovery measures should be gender-responsive, specific and sensitive to needs and contributions of women and girls,” said Dr Mutinda.
She noted that the commission will continue to play its role in ensuring the principles of equality and inclusion are embraced in all policy, legal and programmatic interventions developed to empower and promote the rights of rural women.
She said they will also coordinate State and non-State actors in providing public education to rural women on the response and recovery strategies formulated to tame socio-economic impacts of Covid-19 pandemic.