OPINION: Women’s subpar representation in national economic sphere is unacceptable

By Liberty Kituu With women making up over half of Kenya’s population, their subpar representation in the national economic sphere is less than acceptable. Furthermore, women own and run more than 50 percent of all the informal businesses in Kenya making them invaluable economic drivers. Although there has been support for the empowerment of women which can be seen through different initiatives by the Government of Kenya both at national and county levels, there remains gaps which make it difficult for women to participate effectively in the economic development of the country. A research Commissioned by CRAWN Trust on women and the economy indicates that women especially those in the informal sector are continuously excluded in effective decision making and access to resources due to the informal nature of their engagements. Further, the entrenchment of gender inequality and women disempowerment can also be linked to broader institutional inefficiencies such as weak policy and institutional frameworks with not much attention being paid to practical gender needs. These are some of the issues that have contributed to the minimal achievements in the fight for gender equality and women empowerment. The Women and Economy conference held on February 24- 25 shed light on the issues impacting women in Kenya’s economy. The forum was driven by an urgent need for true gender equality in the national economic engine, where women are represented, included and availed as much opportunity as men. Under the theme Reshaping the Kenyan Economy through harnessing women’s potential, it sought to push for realization of women’s true socio-economic potential. The conference attracted both county based and national level engagements anchored in the Women Voice and Leadership (WVL) program that aims at contributing to gender equality and increased enjoyment of human rights by women and girls in Kenya. Speaking during the opening ceremony of the conference, CRAWN Trust’s Executive Director Daisy Amdany drew attention to the importance of empowering women and girls in realizing their potential. ‘‘The forum wants to look at those women that are the backbone of the economy but are so invisible in the society. Those that operate in the micro and small enterprises. The economic empowerment of women is extremely important. When you’re economically empowered, it opens up a world of opportunities’’ she said. Deliberations were centered on four thematic areas: Agribusiness; MSME’S as potential engines of growth and women entrepreneurship; planning and budgeting for women’s economic inclusion opportunities in technology and innovation, manufacturing and value chains, media as well as shaping the narrative on tax and policy regimes for financial access and skills development. Public Service and Gender CAS Beatrice Elachi pointed out the need for women’s inclusion in the economic recovery program particulalry in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic. ‘‘2020 was a very tough year weighed down by the effects of COVID-19. The pandemic closed most of SMEs, but thank God we are moving through to recovery. As the Government and the Ministry of Public Service and Gender it is our responsibility to ensure that women are part and parcel of rebuilding the economy.’’ The Forum was hosted by Community Advocacy and Awareness (CRAWN) Trust and the permanent secretariat to the National Women’s Steering Committee (NWSC); a coalition platform that brings together individuals and organizations working for women’s political, social and economic emancipation. The project was funded by Global Affairs Canada, delivered in Kenya by CARE Canada, CARE Kenya, CRAWN Trust, Uraia Trust, CREAW and Urgent Action Fund-Africa. CRAWN Trust Chairperson Miriam Cherogony echoed sentiments from CAS Elachi by pledging the organization’s support in ensuring that Kenyan women are not left behind in co-creating the economic recovery strategy. ”As the government of Kenya works on the post COVID economic strategy, we at CRAWN Trust are also ready to make our contribution to ensure women of Kenya are not left behind in co-creating the economic recovery strategy.” she added…. ‘‘As an organization, we are grateful to make our continuation through the work we do which includes this great conference. We know that supporting a more inclusive role for women in economic growth contributes not only to strengthened livelihoods but also to the growth of the Nation’s GDP.’’ Young women have business and entrepreneurship aspirations and when they are enabled to pursue and achieve their business development goals without fear of any barriers, they are able to play a bigger role in their families, local communities, county and country. Achieving this ideal goal will mean a more sustainable economy with plenty of opportunity for all Kenyans. The writer is a communications officer at Community Advocacy and Awareness (CRAWN) Trust

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