Kenya on the path to gender parity but hurdles abound

Raila Odinga and Martha Karua

ODM leader Raila Odinga and Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua during a political rally.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • On Monday, Azimio La Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga nominated the Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as his running mate.
  • Roots Party Presidential aspirant George Wajackoyah has also nominated Justina Wamae as his running mate.
  • Mr Reuben Kigame, who is running as an independent, has named Irene Ng'endo to deputise him.

The nomination of women as running mates by at least three presidential contestants and a number of gubernatorial runners has given gender champions a reason to smile.

For a long time, women have been complaining about lack of political inclusion, with Kenyan politics largely remaining a men’s affair.

On Monday, Azimio La Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga nominated the Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as his running mate.

Roots Party Presidential aspirant George Wajackoyah has also nominated Justina Wamae as his running mate. Mr Reuben Kigame, who is running as an independent, has named Irene Ng'endo to deputise him.

The nomination of these women has given fresh hope to the gender equality push.

Gender experts opine that these developments show Kenya is headed in the right direction in the journey towards ensuring an equal society.

However, challenges still abound in political representation, with nomination lists by political parties failing to meet the gender rule. This has resulted in a stand-off with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). The matter is currently in court.


Many women still shy from contesting political office because of the heavy financial resources required to mount serious campaigns.

Things are, however, not all gloomy as a report by SDGs Kenya Forum released last month noted a progress towards gender equality due to increased adoption of resources and related policies.

Kenya last year committed to injecting the requisite resources and putting in place relevant policies.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said Kenya had earmarked funding for gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and response by injecting Sh230 million by 2022 and increasing the funding up to Sh500 million by 2026. He spoke during the opening ceremony of the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) in Paris, France.

He disclosed Kenya had made several commitments to the GBV fight to accelerate the pace and deliver concrete results by 2026 and beyond. This includes fully enforcing GBV laws and policies by adopting an indicator in the government performance contracting framework to track duty-bearers’ accountability on enforcement and implementation of GBV laws and policies by 2022.

 The Head of State added the country would ratify and implement the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 190 on eliminating GBV and harassment in the world of work by 2026.

“The government will also establish a GBV survivors fund through a co-financing model in partnership with the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders for economic empowerment of GBV survivors,” said Mr Kenyatta.

Data-driven policies

To enhance data-driven policies, he said Kenya would introduce a module on GBV in the 2022 Kenya Demographic Health Survey to strengthen the use of gender statistics in informing the design, scale-up and evaluation of female genital mutilation and GBV programming.

Mr Kenyatta added that a GBV management and information system would be developed by 2022 to strengthen prevention and response programming. To strengthen service delivery for victims, the government would integrate GBV services, including medical, legal and psychological support, into the essential minimum package of the Universal Health Coverage by 2022.

In October last year, the government also launched the policare policy to cater for GBV victims. This was the brainchild of Superintendent of Police Zipporah Nderitu, who advocated a 24-hour toll-free service for sexual and GBV victims.

Policare, which is being implemented by the National Police Service (NPS), was launched by First Lady Margret Kenyatta at the Kenya School of Government. It will act as a one stop centre, offering integrated services to victims and host interview rooms for women and children.

The centres will also have a crime records room, a triage, forensic evidence storage room, trauma centres, room for medical examination, and P3 issuance and male and female holding cells.


This policy focuses on provision of holistic services in enhancing collaboration and synergy within the criminal justice system and elimination of victimisation and interference with victims and witnesses.

They also seek expeditious justice and closure of SGBV cases by ensuring knowledge management and capacity building for effective victim support and justice.

The centres, to be established across the country, will be fully equipped to provide medical-legal, psychosocial and forensic services. The NPS will develop the capacity of police officers to deal with SGBV cases and the handling and storage of forensics.

It will also lead to the development of a database of lawyers offering pro-bono services, paralegals and volunteer counsellors to assist victims.

SDGs Kenya Forum country coordinator Florence Syevuo said they are committed to collectively accelerating the momentum towards sustainable development at county, national, regional and global levels.

“Kenyans want to see an accelerated socio-economic transformation to hasten and participate in actions that address the challenges and opportunities that citizens face at the local level, reducing inequality and alleviating poverty,” said Ms Syevuo.


The forum, in its report, also indicates that the analysis of access to government procurement opportunities (AGPO) shows that despite its shortcomings, government procurement schemes remain one of the most sustainable efforts towards women's economic empowerment.

The aim of the AGPO programme is to facilitate enterprises owned by women, youth and persons with disabilities to be able to participate in government procurement. It ensures the implementation of the legal requirement that 30 per cent of government procurement opportunities be set aside specifically for these groups.

According to a report, Impact of Kenya’s Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) on Women, Youth and Persons Living with Disabilities by Hivos East Africa, women were awarded 52 per cent of government tenders between 2013 and 2016, with the youth bagging 36 and persons living with disabilities getting 12 per cent.

The findings also indicate women-owned registered firms that bid for tenders were at 41 per cent.

However, out of 2,232 tenders, only 172 were awarded to Agpo registered firms, translating into only 7.7 per cent of the legally prescribed 30 per cent.


The report also enumerates some of the challenges facing women entrepreneurs in their bid to bag government tenders. It singles out lack of understanding of the bidding process; lack of invoice financing to fund the tenders; and late payments.

Most of the tenders, the study found, are construction-related, while most Agpo firms are registered in the service sector, specifically trade.

In another move aimed at accelerating the gender equality push in devolved units, six counties have put in place gender policies. They are Narok County, Makueni, Kisumu, Meru, Migori and Isiolo.

Kajiado in 2019 became the first county to develop and launch a gender policy, which is firmly grounded in the principles of equality, inclusivity, and non-discrimination.

It provides the legal framework required to fast-track the eradication of FGM at the county level by creating decentralised governance structures that will be cascaded to the ward level.

The forum also notes increased investment in gender equality and women empowerment programmes to have accelerated gender equality.