Empowering women through government supported programmes in Kenya

Empowering women through government supported programmes in Kenya
By Raphael Muya, IEA
The Government of Kenya take cognizance of the importance of social protection programmes for helping the vulnerable population especially women with the aim of alleviating poverty. Through Women Economic Empowerment strategy 2020-2025 under ministry of Public Service and Gender Affairs , the government is committed to advancing women economic empowerment prosperity and gender equality. Indeed, the strategy mention that sustainable and economic growth cannot happen without full participation of women and girls and Kenya has the potential to be one of the Africa success stories from its youthful population, new constitution and a dynamic private sector. Therefore, empowering women through government programmes perhaps would be a catalyst in the country’s success story on women participation in economic growth.Nzomo (1989) mention that Kenya has come a long way since independence when there was hardly any mention of women in the development policy documents. Indeed, throughout the 1960s and early 1970s the post -colonial Kenya government behaved and acted as if the gender question relevance was not important. This situation started receiving elevated attention in the mid 1980s with the help of the international donors, use of government officers and the non-governmental organizations. At the international level, governments, development partners and non-governmental organizations played a pivotal role for women empowerment through employment of strategies and advocating for gender mainstreaming in the government programmes to enable women get involved in income generating project and move them away from the traditional assignments and often thought oppressive household work.

Kenya ushered the new constitution in 2010 which came in hardy with new political and economic governance. Article 27(3) states that women and men have the right to equal treatment including the right to equal opportunities in political, cultural and social spheres. Kenyan Government should strengthen programmes on Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) which will in turn increase income levels for women, enhance women’s decision-making powers and control over resources[1]. Specifically, investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home. Thus, initiatives towards improving WEE are important for economic development of any country.

Kenya Government programmes on WEE

In aligning the country’s long-term agenda to vision 2030, the government of kenya has initiatives geared towards women empowerment domiciled in the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). These programmes are significant for the transformation of social development and cushioning the vulnerable members of the community.

First, the government of Kenya has been increasing participation of women and other vulnerable groups in all economic, social and political decision-making processes through the government established affirmative action funds. These funds include; Women Enterprise Fund (WEF), Youth Enterprise Funds, Uwezo Fund and Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO). Notably these funds are important to realization of key Sustainable Development Goal number (5) on gender quality and number (8) on inclusive economic growth and the creation of decent work. For example, the establishment AGPO Programme is aimed at empowering women by giving them more opportunities to do business with government. Women and other marginalized groups are allowed to procure 30% of public goods and services. However, reports show that women are restricted to low value tenders.


Secondly, budgets are the strongest expression of a government’s political priorities but little success is seen in incorporation of women economic empowerment initiatives in the budget making process as reported by the National Gender Equality Commission in an assessment of Kenya’s gains with gender responsive budgeting.The Women and Men in Kenya Facts and Figures Booklet (KNBS, 2017), Gender Data Sheet (UN Women, 2017) and the Status of Women Report (UN Women, 2018) among others were developed to support government’s commitment to gender mainstreaming (State Department for Gender, 2021). There is effort in gender mainstreaming as seen in the various publication but disaggregated gender data across ministries is still not available.

Thirdly, the state department of gender through its strategy paper takes cognizance and provide technical lead in the implementation of gender provisions as stipulated in the constitution and international obligations and also acknowledges gender inequality as a major challenge affecting socio-economic growth and inclusivity in the country. The inequality is more prevalent in education, job placements, appointments and business opportunities resulting to escalation of social vices. Various programs have been put in place in the state department that include gender mainstreaming, affirmative action, gender responsive budgeting and availing catalytic funds that support vulnerable groups and provision of social schemes. As part of strategies to address the effects of Covid-19 pandemic, the sector shows how the government initiated some strategies and containment measures including economic stimulus programmes to cushion women and men, boys and girls and are vulnerable group.


Safety net programme have shown  positive impacts for gender equality on women economic empowerment. Cash transfer to women’s headed households can lead to a larger economic improvement at the household level since female tend to invest more in economic assets. The government of Kenya should maintain the programmes focusing on WEE for the realization of broader long term goals including health, education and other social economic strategies for women, household and community at large. The government of Kenya should also use the already existing programmes in the various state departments and make the programmes more focused on WEE by ensuring effective implementation and maximum programme outcome on women’s initiatives in the Kenyan context.


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