Country Background: Kenya

Gender equality in Kenya

Progress on gender equality has been made in Kenya; particularly around women’s political participation, with specifications for gender equity in decision making included in Kenya’s new constitution of 2007. However, women still face many barriers in all spheres, including education, health, employment and public life.

The Committee for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) most recently examined Kenya in 2011. It recognised the ongoing efforts in the country to increase the enrolment and retention of girls in schools, but it noted a high prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment of girls by male teachers and students. It reported that discrimination against women in the labour market persists, with a low rate of female engagement in paid work, and a wide wage gap between women and men. Female headed households are disproportionately represented among the chronically poor and women experience constraints such as limited access to land, capital and microfinance facilities. Violence against women persists in Kenya, along with harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, polygamy, bride price and wife inheritance.

GBV in Kenya

The prevalence of GBV in Kenya is high. As revealed by the 2008-09 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, a staggering 45 percent of women aged 15-49 have experienced either physical or sexual violence - mostly committed by their husbands or partners. Some of the causes behind the high prevalence of GBV in Kenya include traditional gender norms that support male superiority and entitlement, social norms that tolerate or justify violence against women, as well as weak community sanctions against perpetrators. It is critical to understand the national context of Kenya; particularly its electoral history and the varying levels of violence associated with it.

Kenya gained Independence in 1963 and was governed under a one-party system until the first democratic multiparty election in 1992 – subsequent elections taking place in approximately five-year intervals, with the most recent concluded in 2013. Past elections in Kenya have been characterised by varying degrees of violence centring mainly on issues of land and ethnicity. Accusations that the government manipulated the election process in the 2007 election plunged the country into mayhem, with Kenya spiralling into an unprecedented political, economic and humanitarian crisis which resulted in the death of some 1,300 people and the displacement of approximately 300,000 (Muhula 2009). Women and girls in particular suffered from a marked escalation in sexual and gender-based violence in this period, which also affected men and boys directly and indirectly. The post election violence in Kenya that took place in 2007/8 (unfolding most dramatically between 27 December 2007 and 29 February 2008) compounded the already high incidence of GBV in the country, particularly in the areas affected by the conflicts such as Nairobi, Naivasha, Nakuru, Burnt forest, Eldoret and Kisumu (CREAW 2008). Women and girls experienced extreme sexual harassment, rape, female genital mutilation, psychological torture, forced divorce or separation, and physical abuse which sometimes led to death.

While the political crisis and violence was resolved at the end of February 2008 through the National Accord and Reconciliation Act (2008), the level of GBV experienced revealed some of the deeper problems the country is facing in addressing these and related issues of gendered inequity, including oppressive notions of masculinity. The imbrications of GBV within broader contestations and violence in Kenya have made both women’s and men’s organisations begin to reassess the roles of men within the response to GBV.

Social Watch’s Gender Equity Index (GEI)

The GEI[1] measures the gap between women and men in education, economic participation and empowerment. It ranges from 0 to 100, with lower values indicating greater gender inequality. Here are the values for Kenya.

Gender Equity Index Indicators2012
Education Literacy gap between men and women; male and female enrolment rates in primary, secondary and tertiary education86

Economic activity% of women and men in paid jobs, excluding agriculture; income ratio of men to women

Empowerment% of women in professional, technical, managerial and administrative jobs; number of seats women have in parliament, and in decision-making ministerial posts14
GEI value (out of 100)58
GEI ranking (out of 154 countries)

The OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI)

The SIGI index[2] aims to measure the root causes behind gender inequalities. Each of the five indicator groups is coded between 0, meaning no or very low inequality, and 1, indicating very high inequality. Here are the values for Kenya.

SIGI Index Indicators2012
Physical integrityViolence against women, female genital mutilation and reproductive integrity0.55
Son bias
Gender bias in mortality and sex ratios, and fertility preferences
Family code
Parental authority, inheritance rights, legal age of marriage and early marriage
Civil liberties
Access to public space and political voice
Resources and entitlements
Measures women’s access to land, property and credit
SIGI value (between 0 and 1) 0.24
SIGI ranking (out of 86 countries) 46

[1] See:

[2] See: