A citizens score card on the SDGs and the state of marginalisation

SODNET & Ujeengo Global Community Consortium (Consortium on International Development Projects in Kenya -CIDPK)

As members of the civil society, we value our distinct role in holding the government accountable while making positive contributions to Kenyan society. The adoption of the Agenda 2030 and the subsequent Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must be interpreted through the various policy adoptions such as the vision 2030 and its variations inform of the medium term plans. These are postulated in the government manifesto, well exemplified in the Big Four Agenda, that must be interrogated on its implication to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the end result of tacking inequalities in the country. The political violence manifest after the 2017 election has had a negative impact on the economic and social fabric of the country. The political alliance in the Country, between the President Uhuru Kenyatta and the main opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Ondinga, popularly referred to as the “handshake” has since then cooled the political temperatures.  

Kenya is a regional powerhouse, with the most robust economy, society and politics. Kenya's posture can be positively harnessed, to take a leading economic position not only in the region but in the continent as a whole. Kenya's historical background has given her a competitive advantage as an economic hub over other states in the East African region. However, the system of government in Kenya has been characterized by rampant corruption and impunity exemplified by its failure to account for the post-election violence that took place in 2007. The need to restructure Kenya has all along been hindered by lack of adherence to the rule of law and respect for human rights. Many Kenyans have experienced massive violation of their rights for which there was inadequate redress judicially or administratively. Since the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010, Kenyans persevere in expectancy of addressing the challenges they face in pursuit of a sustainable, equitable society, however current circumstances indicate that the government needs to make further gesticulations to achieve true social justice and democracy.

The adoption of devolved system of government in Kenya was a desire of citizens who wanted better access to public services. The objects of devolution as provided for in Articles 174 and 175 of the Constitution are the promotion of democracy and accountability in the exercise of power, fostering national unity by recognizing diversity, enhancing people’s self-governance, enabling communities manage their own affairs, protecting and promoting interests and rights of minorities and the marginalized and ensuring equitable sharing of resources. To achieve these, there must be a framework in place and an enabling environment for to all stakeholders involved in the implantation of devolution. However, the environment for implementation of devolution has not been smooth due to various challenges experienced for the past ten years. Issues such as disagreements between the National Government and County Governments over funding for County functions, poor or the absence of consultation on matters that affect County Governments, little technical support for the implementation of functions, insufficient allocations and delayed disbursements of funds to Counties by the National Treasury, lack of capacity and skills to deliver services, corruption, lack of public participation, and gender inequality are some of the challenges. It is clear that these challenges have affected the implementation of devolution in Kenya, therefore in order to achieve the goal of devolution there should be a better working relationship between the two levels of government.

Devolution in Kenya can be traced back in 1963 when the country got its independence however; this was short-lived due to a lack of substantive founding in the philosophies of either the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) or the Kenya African National Union (KANU) parties which were responsible of implementing it. The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 created a decentralized system of government wherein two of the three arms of government; namely the Legislature and the Executive were devolved to the 47 Political and Administrative Counties as provided for under Article 6. The primary objective of decentralization was to devolve power, resources and representation to the local level. Devolution was seen as the key to unlocking Kenya’s economic potential through the distribution of responsibilities. Decentralization permitted Counties to identify problems; develop policies and plans; collect revenue; execute budgets, accounting and auditing;  monitoring and evaluation; and promote citizen participation in decision-making. Article 174 of the Constitution identified several objects of devolution including giving powers of self-governance to the people and enhancing their participation in the exercise of power in making decisions that affected them. The Article also recognized the rights of communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development.

Previously, most of the resources including public institutions were concentrated in the major urban centers and cities. But, with devolution, each county has equal chances of growth as the share of resources is equal. Equitable share is governed by a set of criteria that include: economic disparities within and among counties and the need to remedy them; the desirability of stable and predictable allocations of revenue; and the need for economic optimization of each county and to provide incentives for each county to optimize its capacity to raise revenue. Currently, the resources are allocated to counties based on a weighted formula: population, 45 percent; poverty rate, 20 percent; land area, 8 percent; fiscal responsibility, 2 percent; and a basic equal share of 25 percent. Twenty five percent of the revenues are to be shared equally among all counties. Two percent of revenue is provided as an incentive for fiscal responsibility, and will be initially shared equally among the counties. Under the fiscal responsibility parameter, counties that manage their resources better and are more effective in mobilizing their own resources should be rewarded by receiving a higher share of the resources. The formula seeks to equalize allocations based on proximate measure of deprivation (poverty rates) and costs of delivering services (land area, size of population). The Division of Revenue Act, 2013 provides for the equitable division of revenue raised nationally between the national and county governments. This formula was adopted by a number of counties from the Commission on Revenue Allocation’s (CRA).

Identify the problems

The status of Kenyan youth, like many youth on the African continent, raises huge concerns for those who care about this large and significant constituency that happens to wield tremendous voting power. Africa is a young continent with a teeming youthful – but is a deeply frustrated and unemployed – population. Nearly 80 per cent of Kenya’s,  more than 40 million people, are under the age of 35. Yet, a significant majority of the youth in Kenya live in hostile environments, where the dominant issues they grapple with include, but are not limited to, unemployment, poverty, unequal opportunities (economic and/or otherwise), ethnic bigotry, marginalization, HIV/AIDS, drugs and substance abuse, mental health issues, crime and violence. Coupled with the crippling unemployment is the fact that the average young person in Kenya is a victim of a gerontocratic economy and polity, where the tendency by the government is to give most public jobs to retirees and political cronies.

Decisions on public matters affecting youth are therefore made by people who are out of touch with the realities of young people in the 21st century. At best, the political elite pay lip service to the youth question, but more often than not, they tend to treat the youth as outsiders in the decision making process, as a group on permanent hold, waiting to be leaders of tomorrow – a tomorrow that has turned out to be a mirage. And if that tomorrow comes, it only does for the old and the frail, and the already very wealthy.

The youth are not only perceived as malleable and vulnerable to ethnic machinations, but sadly, also to religious manipulation. Kenyan youth have been lured to join religion-inspired terror groups such as Al Shabaab. Their recruitment into these terrorist groups is often the result of unaddressed historical injustices and grievances, as well as the marginalization and victimization by the security agencies. In a situation where the youth feel neglected and unwanted, religious radicalization becomes the norm and finds its niche among a terrorized lot that has been denied opportunities.

Socio-economic inequalities, compounded by gender, cultural and geographical discrimination, impede the public health system in Kenya. Young women as well as youth from poor, rural and indigenous communities do not have adequate and equal access to basic health services and information. Kenya’s youth are exposed to a variety of risks, including high rates of alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse, as well as diseases related to sexual and reproductive health.  Although there has been a decrease in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Kenya, new infections are concentrated among youth. The educational system is another major concern in Kenya, main barriers  towards high quality education are poor infrastructure, inadequate learning materials, curricula changes, and a lack of well trained teachers. Nevertheless, over the past decade Kenya has made significant progress in providing universal basic education. Enrolment rates have also increased for secondary and tertiary levels and female enrolment has had a significant increase over the last decade. More girls are now enrolled in secondary and tertiary education than males. Persistent inequalities related to geographical location, cultural identity and gender remain major problems while poverty status and ethnicity are still important factors of poor education outcomes. Indigenous youth face a variety of challenges – they are more likely to be poor, usually from uneducated households and live in rural areas, where access to public services is limited. These factors impede the educational attainments of young indigenous people significantly.

As part of the 2020, review process, it is important to point out that 57% of Kenyans are among the poorest 20% of the global population. The advent of COVID-19 predictions indicate a devastating impact on revenue generation and women’s economic empowerment and security which may further hinder Kenya’s efforts to eradicate poverty and enhancing gender equality and social development programs. Kenya’s recent episode of borrowing to cushion the impact of COVID-19 from international institutions will contribute to the already unsustainable debt of Sh 6.16 trillion (Standard Digital April, 2020). During past epidemics gender inequalities become more exacerbated disproportionately affecting women and girls. In the midst of the pandemic, the full scope of the effects of neoliberalism is being revealed. Not all people will be affected the same way. The ability to isolate, work from home, homeschool your children, stockpile your shelves, access healthcare, and financially (and psychologically) put your life back together after the pandemic is class, gender, race, age, and geography dependent. Counties are already reporting the significant increases in incidents of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), which is compounded by the fact that women’s movements are limited during this pandemic meaning restricted access counselling and support services. It is hoped that the government implore a gender analyze of the socio-economic impacts of its response to COVID-19. 

Grim as it is to imagine now, further epidemics are inevitable, and the temptation to argue that gender is a side issue, a distraction from the real crisis, must be resisted. What we do now will affect the lives of millions of women and girls in future outbreaks. For too long, politicians have assumed that child care and elderly care can be “soaked up” by private citizens—mostly women—effectively providing a huge subsidy to the paid economy. This pandemic should remind us of the true scale of that distortion

Women in Governance: Composition of Women Population projection data reflects that women constitute more than half of the total population in a number of selected counties. Despite this, women’s participation and representation in key leadership positions, governance and decision-making organizations within the government remain lower than that of men. But even then the scales will be different, the problems will be similar. There will be an impact on employment, and in fact corporations are already asking for bailouts; the care burden on women is already massive; the state of emergencies proclaimed around the world will have an effect on women freedoms and human rights; women mobility will be different. But while we cannot (for the time being) do anything about how the virus operates, we can use this momentum to start transforming how our societies operate The Statistics of men and women holding leadership positions at different levels within many counties shows that men remain dominant in leadership positions. In January 2019, the Council of Governors and the Ministry of Public Service signed the Intergovernmental Framework, which was to provide a mechanism for consultation and cooperation between national and county governments on gender and gender mainstreaming. The framework, however is yet to implement the principle that not more than two thirds of the member of elective or appointed bodies should be of the same gender. On a positive note, three women candidates were elected as county governors in Kitui, Kirinyaga and Bomet. Currently there are two women incumbents (as unfortunately the governor of Bomet passed away). 

2017 Election Violence & SGBV: It is important to link the government’s handling of the sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) during and post-election to gender equality SDG #5.  SGBV is linked to traditional notions of women and girls roles in society, coupled with myths and misconceptions of rape and sexual assault. Perpetrators, in the 2017 election, took advantage of the mayhem to …"rape women for political retaliation or personal interest (KNCHR, 2018), SGBV “was used as a political tactic against a particular ethnic or political groupings”. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) found that security agents were responsible for the majority of sexual violence incidences during the 2017 election, at 54.55%, with civilians at 45.45%. KNCHR found a relationship between numbers of violations and intensity of civil unrest, with reported cases of physical and sexual violence (29.34% and 25.17% respectively). Human Rights Watch (December, 2017) also documented cases of rape, gang rape by Kenya’s Security Forces, militia groups and civilians.

Kenya’s movement towards quality gender disaggregated data: Although some actions have been taken to promote gender equality, legislative and policy frameworks have been hampered by sluggish implementation and a lack of gender responsive budgeting. Kenya has stumbled along the way to collection, analysing and disseminating gender based data. The government started collecting gender data sheets since in 2005, however an inability to analyse the data effectively due to a lack of key definitions and guidance on interpretation made gender based data less useful.

Since then Kenya in 2016, made efforts to improve its gender disaggregated data reporting through the county level Health Data Sheets on Family Planning and Reproductive Health under the direction of the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) and Population Reference Bureau (PRB). These data sheets highlighted key indicators related to sexual and reproductive health, including pregnancy and fertility, family planning, and sexual violence, sexual knowledge and practices, and maternal health. Additionally, Kenya was the first African country to include intersex as gender in the 2019 census, which is in line with 2010 Constitution, which protects all persons against discrimination regardless of their sex, race, and on other grounds.

In early 2020, Kenya, for the first time, with the support of UN Women’s Women Country program and other partners launched county gender data sheets for 10 counties. Again an assessment conducted in 2018 found several challenges in the collection of gender data including the inability of county governments to collect data, collate and manage the appropriate data, which was due to inadequate funding, limited technical capacity and weak coordination in the Kenyan statistical system.

In 2020, the Council of Governors in collaboration with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics with support from UN Women Kenya developed the County Gender Data sheets for ten selected counties. These gender data sheets are expected to illuminate the status of gender equality based on household, demographic and vital statistics, health, education, economic empowerment, leadership and governance, and a gender equality index for the counties. They will form a baseline for gender data and provide information that will be used in tracking progress on implementation of gender equality and women empowerment indicators and are expected to inform gender mainstreaming strategies during the mid-term review of the CIDPs 2018-2022.

Food security: People's overall access to food relies to a great extent on the work of rural women. Women comprise, in average, 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. Hence, securing women's human rights is a key strategy in assuring food security for all. Women are involved in a variety of agricultural operations such as crops, livestock and fish farming. They produce food and cash crops at subsistence and commercial levels. At community level women undertake a range of activities that support natural resource management and agricultural development, such as soil and water conservation, afforestation and crop domestication. Food security and nutrition in Kenya is closely linked to the need to sustainable agriculture. Food insecurity in Kenya is closely linked to historical underperformance of the agricultural sector and the lack of consistent focus on food production and suffice at household level pose challenges. Although the government increased budgetary allocations to the state department for Crop development the Department only received 25.3 billion it is only 1% of the national budget for 2018/2019 an increase of 44.4% from last year. But the government needs to focus on on the cross cutting SDGs linked to food security as 32% of the population is still living below the poverty line. The government should undertake reforms to give women equal right to economic resources as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property financial services and inheritance and natural resources in accordance with the national laws.

Women’s Economic Empowerment, Unpaid care and domestic work (UPCDW) & Land Rights: There is little appreciation for women’s unpaid care and domestic work Women take up the chores of both parents. This is further complicated by poor or lack of infrastructure including electricity, lack of clean water and sanitation and insecurity in the informal settlements. Pervasive discrimination and prevailing cultural norms continue to overshadow issues such as, labour force participation and land ownership. In 2018 the Kenya Land Alliance collected and analysed gender disaggregated data on the issuing of title deeds between 2013 and 2017 finding that a dismal 2% of all titles were issued to women under Kenya’s land titling programmed were owned by women (Ref:GROOTS, ?)

CIDPK Recommendations

1. The government should increase budgeted allocation to early childhood develop and education which has been identified in the 2018-22 county Integrated Development Plan (CIDP). Government needs to more adequately undertake reforms to give women equal rights to resources as well as access to ownership and control over land/property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources in accordance with national laws.

2. The government needs to adopt a gendered based approach to addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on women and girls in the counties across the nation. Women and girls will be disproportionally affected due to increased violence, loss of income, loss of economic independence and lack of access to health and reproductive health products and services. Additionally, it must balance its attention to COVID-19 with individuals already struggling with life threatening diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

3. Quality, valid and reliable gender statistics will be the key to a much more government intentionally to ensure that the priorities and needs of women and girls are integrated into government social policy. The government must also be committed to and enhanced understanding cross sectorial data such as education, women’s health, economic empowerment, human rights, and other social determinants of health are disaggregated by gender to gain a more holistic analysis of the issues that affect women and girls. This will illicit a better understanding of the status of gender equality, health and and cross cutting SDGs, and facilitates comparison of social indicators between men and women, and boys and girls in turn improve the governments ability to make effective policy decisions. It will also shed light on the structural ways in which women and girls continue to be excluded from the mainstream social, political, and economic spheres in their communities and countries.

4. The Kenyan Government should take measures that aid the realisation of the constitution and legislative land equity provision including joint titling of matrimonial property, the development of endangered community land use and management plans, and simplify the succession process to more affordable and devaluation of land registrars. The government should allow increased participation of women in economic empowerment activities such as table banks, access to low interest loans and reasonable repayment terms. 

5. Kenya should implement the two-third gender rule espoused in article 27 (8) directing the state to take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of the elective or appoint bodies should be of the same gender. Greater efforts should be made to attain two third gender rule as required by the law including encouraging women seeking for elective positions. Also, Public Service Boards and appointing authorities should be encouraged to abide to the gender rule while recruiting or appointing.

6. Despite the prevailing constructed biases associated with unpaid care and domestic work, Kenya needs to recognised and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of build services infrastructures and social protection policies, aggregated estimation of the economy and gender based budgetary planning, increasing budget allocations to water and and sanitation and early childhood develop, education which has been identified as care reducing infrastructure. There is a need for increased allocation to water and sanitation infrastructure development.

7. The government should remove school fees for girls attending primary and secondary school.

8. Kenya should review election and post-election SBVG's cases with a view to prosecute state security agents who are perpetrators. This would send a clear message that there is no statute of limitation in respect to crimes of sexual violence and rape.

9. Then Kenyan government should implement a program which supports victims of SBVG including legal support for court cases, and quality counselling and healthcare support.

Through participation, the community is empowered to monitor and evaluate the county government’s compliance with the decisions made and demand speedier government operations as well as push local institutions to enhance their capabilities in undertaking functions that have not been usually performed well by the national government. By doing so, the community will have the feeling of belonging thus embracing the development in the society.

The county government work towards improving the economy to reduce poverty, minimize the differences in income opportunities and access to social services, paying special attention the most disadvantaged in the community.

Human Rights International Treaties
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ILO Conventions
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