Why the fight for women’s rights is still necessary... over 100 years later


With the latest Global Gender Gap report revealing that it will take over two centuries to achieve gender parity because progress is backsliding, and in the face of an unmatched global movement for women’s rights, equal pay and justice, it is more critical than ever to press for equity.

Kenya is among the countries that moved backwards in gender parity, mainly due to a drop in the share of women in ministerial positions. In the 2017 Global Gender Gap index, Kenya dropped 13 places to rank 76 out of 144 countries with a score of 0.69, which was just above the global average of 0.68 but one point less than what it attained the previous year.

Although Kenya ratified the Equal Remuneration Convention in 2001, there are still significant pay gaps between males and females. Women earn 68 per cent of the salary of men make.

Kenya, which was placed 12th in sub-Saharan Africa, has recorded steady improvements on educational attainment and has fully closed its health and survival gender gaps. Besides education and health, the index also measures economic participation and opportunity as well as political empowerment.

Aptly, the theme of International Women’s Day that will be marked on March 8 is #PressforProgress. Ahead of the day, Nation Newsplex examined how far women in Kenya have come in achieving gender parity. Below are facts on gender inequality in Kenya, sourced from the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2014, Ministry of Education, National Gender and Equality Commission, International Finance Organisation, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, World Economic Forum, Commission for University Education and the State of the Judiciary and the Administration of Justice Annual Report, 2016 – 2017.

The facts show that we cannot be complacent with the gains so far because the gender gap is still too wide.

Who calls the shots in the workplace?

Although Kenya ratified the Equal Remuneration Convention in 2001, there are still significant pay gaps between males and females. Women earn 68 per cent of the salary that men make.

Men earn more than women in all sectors except in international organisations, which have parity. In the private sector the median salary for women is 83 per cent that of men, in the national government it is 79 per cent and in the county governments it is 56 per cent. The median earnings for women working in the informal sector is 60 per cent that of men and for those in constitutional commissions it is 55 per cent. The widest pay gap is in non-governmental organisations, where the median wage for women is 34 per cent that of men.

A third of modern sector employees are women and two-thirds are men, while nearly half (48 per cent) of all micro, small and medium-sized enterprises are owned by women. Most females are employed in the services and agriculture-related activities. The largest proportion is in the education sector, accounting for about 27 per cent of total female-wage employment. It is followed by agriculture, forestry and fishing, which account for about 13 per cent of total female employment. However, a larger share of men are engaged in the more lucrative industries, such as manufacturing and professional, scientific and technical activities.

But even in sectors where women are well represented — as in education, where they make up almost half of all primary school teachers — they are underrepresented in leadership positions. Only one in five primary school principals is a woman.

One in seven women has experienced sexual violence. Of these, one in 83 were sexually assaulted by a colleague or employer.

What is the role of women in feeding the nation?

Four in five farm labourers are women. Women also manage 40 per cent of the country’s smallholder farms yet they own just one per cent of agricultural land and access only 10 per cent of farm credit.

What is the place of women in the family?

More than a third (39 per cent) of married women have experienced either physical and/or sexual spousal violence at some point in their lives compared to nine per cent of men.

Nearly half (46 per cent) of married women do not participate in four common household decisions, including decisions pertaining to their own healthcare, major household purchases and visits to their family or relatives.

Husbands exclusively make the decision on how the earnings of one in 11 employed women is spent. About 41 per cent of women report that decisions about their earnings are made jointly with their husbands while about half (49 per cent) make independent decisions on how their cash earnings are used.

How well are women represented in decision-making?

More than 18 months since the deadline for passing the Gender Bill lapsed, women’s participation in political processes and their representation in decision-making remains muted.

President Uhuru Kenyatta's Cabinet consists of six women (29 per cent) out of 21 which falls short of the two-thirds gender rule. There are seven (20 per cent) principal secretaries out of 35, which is way less than the share needed to comply with the two-thirds gender rule. There are three women (six per cent) governors out of 47. There are 21 women senators (31 per cent), which is just short of the two-thirds of the gender rule, but only three of the women were elected. About one-fifth of the National Assembly consists of women but of the 75 women MPs, only 22 were elected in the competitive seats open to both genders. Six of the MPs were nominated by special interest groups, such as the disabled, while 47 were elected women representatives.

Other categories where the constitutional threshold of two-thirds was met were judges, magistrates, lawyers, county commissioners and members of county assemblies.

How do women fare in higher education?

Women constitute a third of students who study science, technology, engineering and maths. Overall, two in five university students are women.

Why do we still celebrate International Women's Day?

The day was first celebrated in Switzerland, Denmark, Austria and Germany on March 19, 1911. Two years later, it was moved to March 8 and it has been celebrated on this day ever since.

The global day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Since no country has achieved gender equity for women the day also marks a call to action for fast-tracking gender equality.