Traditional ideas about the roles of girls and women restrict their contributions to Kenya. These ideas hold women back from contributing to important development goals; especially in the areas of economic growth, nutrition and food security.
Women in Kenya are underrepresented in decision-making positions. They also have less access to education, land, and employment. Those living in rural areas spend long hours collecting water and firewood; interfering with school attendance and leaving them with little time to earn money or engage in other productive activities.
The untapped potential of women and girls is gaining greater attention in Kenya. The country’s new Constitution, passed in 2010, provides a powerful framework for addressing gender equality. It marks a new beginning for women’s rights in Kenya; seeking to remedy the traditional exclusion of women and promote their full involvement in every aspect of growth and development.When Kenyan women have the freedom to reach their potential, all Kenyan families and communities will grow stronger.
Polygamy is traditional, and in the past it was not uncommon for men to have five or six wives. The practice is becoming less typical today as it has been opposed by Christian missionaries, and is increasingly impractical as few men can afford to support multiple partners.
When a man chooses a potential wife, he negotiates a bride price of money or cattle with the woman’s father. The price is generally higher for a first wife than for subsequent ones. The wedding ceremony and feast are celebrated in the husband’s home.
Health Care System
The health care system in Kenya is understaffed and poorly supplied. The government runs clinics throughout the country that focus primarily on preventive medicine. These clinics have had some success in reducing the rate of sleeping sickness and malaria through the use of vaccines, but the country is still plagued with high rates of gastroenteritis, dysentery, diarrhea, sexually transmitted diseases, and trachoma. Access to modern health care is rare, particularly in rural areas, and many people still depend on traditional cures including herbal medicines and healing rituals.
Kenya has one of the world’s highest birth rates, and birth control programs have been largely ineffective. The life expectancy, while higher than in some other African nations, is still only fifty-four years. AIDS has been devastating to the country, and at least five hundred Kenyans die of the disease each day. President Moi has declared the AIDS epidemic a national disaster, but has nonetheless refused to encourage condom use.
For the most part, women are treated as second-class citizens in Kenya. Despite the disproportionate amount of work that women do, men usually control the money and property in a family. Wife beating is common, and women have little legal recourse. Another women’s issue is clitoridectomy, or female genital mutilation, which leaves many women in continual pain and vulnerable to infection. As women gain access to education, their status in society is increasing. Women’s groups such as the National Women’s Council of Kenya have been instrumental in pushing for just laws and in teaching women skills that allow them to earn a living.
Credits: Every culture.com