Support still needed: the failure of Kenya’s pandemic economic relief system and impact on the country’s women
In July, Human Rights Watch published a critical report against the Kenyan Government's pandemic support funding systems, showing the country's most needy were isolated. Women were dominant in this narrative. The report signalled horrendous conditions which will regress feminist progress. Prior to the pandemic, women in Kenya were less likely to operate businesses. Only 1% owned property, so less likely to have loan collateral. Discrimination in business spaces, lack of education, and family pressures meant women struggled to be entrepreneurs. Most operated SMEs with fewer than 20 employees. 30.2% of female headed households lived below the poverty line compared to a 26% male counterpart. While programs existed to address this imbalance, the pandemic hindered opportunities. The Government introduced strict curfews and travel bans. With limited opportunities to earn, many struggled. Generous financial support would instead be dispersed through the popular mobile money platform. However, many could not access these credit options if holding debt from mobile credit microlenders. The lack of social security infrastructure ignored many—especially women. Instead, recent months revealed harrowing situations for women. Some male heads of households abandoned their families; there was a 40% rise in teenage pregnancies as girls were forced into prostitution for sanitary pads; and greater numbers of women were forced into FGM. These are examples highlighted through the past year, but with no indication of improving while Kenya maintains its pandemic response. This poster will outline gendered inequalities in Kenya and how these divisions have affected female economic mobility.