Empowering Women in Kenya
As of 2022, 52% of the overall population of Kenya is living in extreme poverty. The majority of the impoverished population lives in rural areas, where the primary source of income is agriculture. The Neema Project focuses on empowering women in Kenya who may suffer abuse and unemployment.

Women in Rural Kenya

According to data from 2020, only 29% of Kenyan women are empowered. While progressive reforms have improved women’s lives in Kenya, rural areas still have gender restrictions that impact women. As of 2022, 78% of individuals living in Kenya live in rural areas. This ultimately means that farming and agriculture are the main sources of income. In the agricultural process, women are limited in the resources they have access to. Men hold control over financial services and farming technology and exclude women in policy decisions.

According to a 2021 study that occurred in Kenya, 78.3% of adult women face severe food insecurity. With high poverty rates and little political voice, women in Kenya find it much harder to overcome hunger. The study also found that 22.8% of Kenyan women older than 15 years experience violence at some point in their lives. Women in rural sectors of Kenya face adverse living conditions that prohibit them from improving their lives. Whether it be through gender-based policy or violence, it is difficult for Kenyan women to obtain adequate employment. Empowering women in Kenya is crucial to overcoming these obstacles.

The Neema Project

Founded in 2014, The Neema Project emerged in an attempt to restore faith and hope to women in Kenya. Since its inception, The Neema Project has provided aid to 134 young women and more than 50 children.

One of the women Neema provided aid to is Maureen, who could not afford to attend high school due to living in extreme poverty following the death of her father. Living with her aunt, Maureen applied to Neema in 2018 and it granted her admission. Since her time in the program, Maureen was able to obtain the medical aid she needed for a severe bone infection she had since she was 10 years old. Maureen had undergone abuse and trauma prior to joining Neema; counseling allowed her to find peace within herself despite all the hardship she has endured. Now at the age of 28, Maureen is now in a healthy marriage, has a baby boy as well as her own business. Maureen’s story exemplifies how Neema’s foundation is not only empowering women in Kenya but also creating a lasting impact on women living in inadequate conditions.

Neema has now begun a campaign titled Securing Her Future. The purpose of the said campaign is to secure a permanent structure that would enable the organization to aid a greater number of women. The goal is to obtain the funding needed by 2024, Neema to create a more suitable facility that would house classrooms, a chapel, kitchens and even daycare.

– Micaela Carrillo
Photo: Flickr

Universal Patient Portal
AfyaRekod, a Kenyan health-related business launched a completely computerized universal patient access system that gives patients and medical personnel immediate access to health information and medical records. The system has more than 150,000 users in Kenya and it utilizes a blockchain-powered technology and intends to revolutionize the way patients receive care throughout Africa and around the world. 

The History of AfyaRekod

In 2019, John Kamara established AfyaRekod as an Adanian Lab start-up, financially backed by Mac Venture Capital and Next Chymia. This came about due to Kamara’s personal experience of how the absence of medical records and static data can lead to substandard medical management when his friend tragically passed away after receiving the wrong medical attention in an emergency room. Consequently, Kamara created an AI platform to monitor health data, with the intention of connecting the dots between health care and treatment anywhere and anytime for patients, medical experts, providers and organizations.

AfyaRekod Universal Patient Portal

AfyaRekod Universal Patient Portal presents a safe, distributed and intelligent telehealth option to individuals, as well as a broad selection of healthcare facilities, trackers, reminders and notifications that people can access through various channels and devices. This portal is especially helpful for those living with chronic diseases, pregnant women and those with hereditary conditions, in addition to parents. Moreover, the AfyaRekod platform provides healthcare practitioners with an electronic health management system with digital tools to oversee essential aspects of hospitals and clinics. It encompasses many features, such as hospital and patient management, knowledge management, inventory management and an AI-driven reporting tool that permits organizations to make informed decisions, and forecast and spot illnesses in the early stages.

 AfyaRekod Patient Portal Alliances

AfyaRekod Universal Patient Portal is currently active in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon, Zambia and the United States. It is a part of the NVIDIA AI program via AICE Africa and is accessible through an app (for Android and iOS) and a web portal (rekod.com). It has formed various key alliances, such as The Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK), Healthy Mind Foundation (Nigeria), Alchemy (South Africa), AURA (South Africa), GE Healthcare, Telkom, The Africa Block-Chain Center, The AI Center of Excellence, Adanian Labs and Lishe Living.

The Kenyan health tech startup AfyaRekod also recently linked up with United Kingdom-based Medi-science International Limited with the common goal of developing technology that provides working solutions to people across the globe.

Looking Ahead

AfyaRekod has revolutionized the way people access health care in Kenya with the introduction of its Universal Patient Portal. The portal provides immediate access to health information, medical records and more via easy-to-access computer systems, allowing both patients and medical personnel to make well-informed decisions regarding their health in a timely manner. This revolutionary new patient care system promises to revolutionize the healthcare industry in Kenya and beyond making it easier than ever before to make well-informed decisions about one’s own health while receiving the care they need.

Frida Sendoro
Photo: Flickr

Prison Conditions in Kenya 
The prison system in Kenya is one of the worst prison systems in the world. Prison conditions are gruesome. Hygiene is very low and violence is very high among inmates. Starvation and a lack of medical care are also very common throughout prisons in Kenya.

Poverty and Prison Conditions

Within the prison system in Kenya, inmates have to endure cruel and horrible conditions. The majority of inmates that are in prison suffering from these gruesome conditions are poor. According to Prison Insider, “A study on death-row convicts found that poor and uneducated Kenyans are languishing in prison for either robbery with violence or murder.” Whether on death row or not, poor Kenyans are living in degrading prison conditions just because they are poor.

Kenyans that are poor end up in prison because the police purposely target them. Police officers in Kenya have a history of abusing their power and harassing poor and marginalized people. Since these individuals are very poor, they cannot bribe police officers to release them and they cannot defend themselves due to a lack of legal knowledge. They also cannot hire an attorney so their only option is to go to jail and live in conditions that are inhumane.

Poor Hygiene

Poor inmates in prison have to “wallow in misery and want.” While on the other hand, inmates with money can have self-contained cells with amenities such as flushable toilets and TVs with satellites. Omar Ismael, who is 64 years old and served nine years at Manyani prison, explained that close to 100 inmates share one bathroom and one toilet. Inmates in prison usually end up catching diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia as well as scabies and diarrhea due to how unsanitary things are. Terrible conditions within prisons also consist of overcrowding which is a result of poor infrastructure. Aging buildings and inadequate cells are also part of the problem when it comes to harsh prison conditions.

In western Kakamega prison, inmates have gone five years with no clean running water. Clean water for drinking and showering was not available to inmates. Since inmates didn’t have access to clean water, their poor diets got worse. Water shortages in this prison also led to toilet clogging and overflowing.

Women Facing Poor Prison Conditions

Females that commit crimes often have a background of poverty. Poverty forces women to commit crimes because they have to find a way to support their families. Women in certain countries are often imprisoned for offenses such as prostitution and adultery which are criminalized and called status offenses.

Women that are imprisoned in Kenya often face two of the worst prison conditions which are a lack of sanitation and a lack of proper hygiene products. In May 2020, the Kenya Prisons Service stopped all visits to prisons in order to control the spread of COVID-19. In Korinda Prison, the suspension of all visits severely impacted more than 100 women because these visits supplied women with the necessary hygiene and sanitation products from family members and organizations. Mary Makokha, who is executive director of Busia-based organization REEP, told NATION “They had no panties, no sanitary towels. Women were walking around with blood running down their legs.”

Improving Hygiene and Sanitation

Despite cruel and inhumane prison conditions plaguing inmates in various prisons across Kenya, some are taking measures to improve and fix conditions. Nestle Kenya and the Rotary International District 9212 collaborated with National Business Compact on COVID-19 to improve hygiene conditions in prisons through Nairobi. This collaboration allowed the Kenya Prisons Service to administer 20,000 liters of water a day along with soap and 18 hand washing stations. The National Business Compact on COVID-19 donated soap and hand washing stations to promote and allow inmates to wash their hands more often.

Unfortunately, prison conditions in Kenya are very grim. Inmates that are poor have to endure a lack of hygiene and sanitation which is not safe at all, especially during a deadly pandemic. Poor inmates should not have to face such grueling prison conditions just because they are poor but if more programs and organizations partner together to supply more water and hygiene products to prisons, living conditions can improve for inmates.

– Yonina Anglin
Photo: Unsplash

Priyanka Chopra's ActivismPriyanka Chopra’s activism in Kenya sparked interest on social media, where the actress documented her trip and appealed to her followers to support UNICEF’s efforts against Kenya’s hunger crisis. The “Matrix Resurrections” star is an established goodwill ambassador of UNICEF and has traveled to the country to help its children and people to obtain the funds and resources for food and other basic necessities.

What is Happening in Kenya

Kenya is currently experiencing the worst drought in 40 years. Four consecutive seasons of inadequate rain have plagued areas of the country.

In addition, it is estimated that nearly 900,000 children under the age of 5 suffer from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition and are in need of treatment. To help drought-affected families in the Horn of Africa, UNICEF provides emergency WASH kits and rehabilitates and upgrades non-functional boreholes in schools, villages, and health centers.

Besides, with the support of UNICEF and USAID, the Ministry of Health and the Kenya Red Cross Society conducted an outreach clinic to assess children under 5 for malnutrition and immunize them.

Since the shortage of supply – one of the longest and most severe in recent history – is said to persist into the forthcoming year, humanitarians are urging greater support to prevent famine in the Horn of Africa. At the same time, they must prepare to continue their life-saving work in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

Chopra’s Activism

Priyanka Chopra’s activism in Kenya included a trip to Turkana County, one of the 15 areas affected by the droughts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, where one out of three children suffers from severe malnutrition.

“In the Horn of Africa children are starving to death and millions more are on the brink of starvation right now. Most of the families I met are living on less than $1 a day, and some had not eaten for three days,” Chopra said to UNICEF. “UNICEF’s life-saving efforts on the ground are helping to curb this hunger crisis, which includes distribution of nutrient-packed therapeutic foods that can save a child’s life,” continued Chopra.

As part of her visit, the actress spoke with members of the Sopel Village community suffering from the drought, including some who have migrated for water and pasture for their animals. Now that a solar-powered borehole has been constructed in Sopel, residents and students at the local health facility and primary school have reliable and safe access to water, UNICEF reports.

Raising Awareness

The actress has also documented her visit to the Lodwar Pediatric Stabilization Center where health workers treat most severe cases of malnutrition in children. In her post, Chopra said she hoped she would never have to do such a thing again but knows she will and encouraged her followers to donate to help solve the crisis.

The videos of encouragement and report shared on her Instagram pages have gained reactions from hundreds of thousands of individuals, raising awareness of the harsh situation that Kenya and its people are currently going through.

Following the birth of her first child, the celebrity said that this situation affected her differently. “What I especially saw when I went to the Ghana region was that it was very difficult for me especially as a new mother to see so many children suffering the way they were,” said Chopra. “To see those women standing by their children and not eating for days to make sure their children eat just goes to show that there is so much strength in human beings and especially in women,” she added.

Priyanka Chopra’s activism in Kenya comes immediately after another of her humanitarian works. The Matrix Resurrection star has recently made the news for her support of Iranian women who have been protesting the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, praising their courage in fighting to defend their rights, Outlook India reports.

Priyanka Chopra’s activism in Kenya is a source of hope, as demonstrated on her Instagram account, where the actress has expressed faith that, with the money, resources, and help required, Kenya will see a better future. “What you think is small, is the small that I don’t have,” the actress wrote quoting a teacher struggling to fund the school he runs in Sopel village with UNICEF. She concluded her post by encouraging the public to donate.

– Caterina Rossi
Photo: Flickr

Startups in Kenya
Startups in Kenya are notable contributors to its economy, making up 30% of the national value. Home to more than 200 startups, Kenya is a regional leader in terms of a successful startup ecosystem, which is improving the lives of Kenyans by bringing modern and sustainable solutions to society’s biggest day-to-day issues. According to a 2022 report by StartupBlink, Kenya is amongst the top five startup ecosystems in the Middle East and Africa region and is third in Africa.

Startups in Kenya Increasing Capital

Kenyan startups broke their own records in the amount of funding raised yearly since 2019. In 2021, Kenyan startups had $291 million worth of investments in total. A major portion of investments goes to startups operating in financial tech, agriculture and energy industries.

With more than 30% of the population having access to the internet compared to 17% in 2017, Kenyans are able to reap more of the benefits tech startup companies bring. Government support to local tech startups began with the project of Konza Technopolis, a hub for tech companies just outside of Nairobi.

The idea for one of the first startups in Kenya emerged in response to the problem of insufficient systems set up for money transfers. For Kenyans working in the city to send money to their relatives in the countryside, the logistics of money transfers have always been complicated. Startups such as M-Pesa helped facilitate money transfers through mobile phones, eliminating the reality of a commute from the city to the countryside.

M-Pesa

M-Pesa allows Kenyans to use their mobile phones to keep and transfer money, without the need for the internet. Mobile numbers act as account numbers and transactions only need a SIM card to go through, making it more accessible to the communities without internet access. Essentially, M-Pesa’s goal is to achieve financial inclusion in Kenyan society.

Although M-Pesa came to life through the joint partnership of two well-established communication companies, the idea of M-Pesa emerged both from the companies and the Kenyan people to respond to a long-lasting problem that has occurred for a long time.

M-Pesa is currently available and used in 10 countries with 50 million active users in Africa. Analysts estimate the company’s value to be around $3 billion.

M-KOPA

With six global offices and more than 1,000 employees, M-KOPA came alive in 2010 with the dream of improving living conditions for Kenyans by making goods and services easier to attain. The company’s 2021 impact report shows that less than half the adults in Kenya have access to bank accounts, limiting Kenyans’ participation in the formal economy.

With limited access to financial institutions and tools, establishing a credit score becomes a challenge. M-KOPA provides a pay-as-you-go financial model for the ownership of tech products ranging from phones to solar energy home products like TVs and refrigerators. The enterprise further loans cash and an insurance plan called Hospicash.

The startup currently has 20 million customers in its network and has helped 75% of customers earn additional income by making pay-as-you-go devices available for their use to further support their enterprises. Besides finance-tech startups, retail and e-commerce startups in Kenya play a significant role as well, in improving livelihoods by facilitating the integration of sellers into the market.

Twiga Foods

The startup set off by facilitating the selling of bananas from farmers to retailers. The goal of the company is to lay out a durable and modern solution to the insufficient and inefficient supply chain in Kenya. By signing up for the software as a vendor, Kenyans can easily bring together their good with retailers with the facilitation of Twiga Foods startup. A solution as such brings food security to the people and real financial profit to the sellers struggling to safely put their goods on the market. Generating $50 million in income in 2021, Twiga is a great asset to the Kenyan economy.

Lory Systems

Launched in 2016, Lori Systems is an app providing logistics services and controlling haulage across markets. In Africa, more than 70% of a product’s cost is due to logistics, compared to 6% in a country like the U.S. Lori Systems aims to lower the cost of logistics which automatically lowers the cost of the product, making it easier to attain. Lori Systems operates in six countries in Africa and specializes in the transport of goods such as bulk grains, fertilizers, containers steel and bitumen.

Apollo Agriculture

Apollo Agriculture is an agro-tech company that assists small-scale farmers in maximizing their profits. Apollo combines all of a farmer’s requirements, including guidance, insurance, market access and finance for farm inputs in order to provide them with the services they need to grow their businesses and maximize crop productivity.

The startup uses satellite data imagery of farms and machine learning to run the process of determining a farmer’s credit score. Apollo Agriculture is rather new to Kenya’s startup ecosystem, as the company originated in 2016. About 30% of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) comes from agriculture, making agriculture a notable asset for the Kenyan economy. The creation of startups such as Apollo Agriculture is a big first step in improving livelihoods from the roots. Startups in Kenya raised more money in the first half of 2022 than they did in 2021, coming close to $1 billion, leaving a promising impression for the rest of the year and the future.

– Selin Oztuncman
Photo: Unsplash

Maasai Community Tackling Poverty
As the Indigenous Maasai community faces adverse losses of their homes, primarily due to the loss of Indigenous land rights, they face impoverished conditions that affect their survivability. However, community efforts to reclaim their land, ensure their rights and engage in profitable capitalistic ventures are how the Maasai community is tackling poverty.

The Indigenous Maasai Community

Native to the Indigenous Maasai community in Kenya is the Maasai Mara, an open savanna that has provided food, water and land for the pastoralist community for generations. However, a decline in access to and freedom in the Maasai Mara has expressed detrimental outcomes, as poverty rates increase amongst the Maasai community. Chief among the challenges is the increasing loss of Indigenous land rights, with the Maasai community having to leave their lands into unaccustomed livelihoods as tourism takes center stage.

Biodiversity Loss and Poverty

The Indigenous knowledge of the Maasai community on biodiversity conservation is relevant and imperative in contemporary conversations about sustainability. However, with strategies to undermine the full realization of Indigenous land rights, the Maasai community faces a stark reality of poverty. According to Nelson Ole Reiyia, a co-founder of the Nashulai Maasai Conservancy, “we saw a bleak future, threatened by land selling, land grabs for commodification, by tourist preserves, by the collapse of our rivers and grasslands, and by unsustainable fragmentation as electric fences carved up and closed off the wildlife migratory corridors.” In actuality, biodiversity loss driven by the commodification of indigenous ecosystems leads to high poverty rates in the affected indigenous communities.

Therefore, as biodiversity loss strains the ecosystem, further affecting tourism and other economic activities, the marginalization of the Maasai community poses substantial risks to their well-being. Narok County, home to the Maasai Mara National Park, reported an absolute poverty rate of 33.7%, with 12% of the population suffering from food poverty. Additionally, the loss of Indigenous land rights has led to long-term food insecurity, as the members lack the resources to live their pastoralist lifestyle. Arguably, the failure of the government to support their livelihoods and incorporate their indigenous knowledge in biodiversity conservation has worsened their financial conditions, forcing many into poverty.

Indigenous Maasai Community Efforts to Eradicate Poverty

How the Maasai community is tackling poverty is a matter of local, national, and global efforts to realize their indigenous land rights and engage them in commercial activities within the contemporary world. As biodiversity conservation accelerates the recognition of the challenges of the Maasai community, its members are increasingly proactive in promoting biodiversity conservation as they articulate ways to eradicate poverty. The Nashulai Maasai Conservancy is one such drive that has facilitated a river restoration program to provide clean water, an organic village-kitchen garden and fundraising drives to mitigate food insecurity.

Biodiversity Conservation and Poverty Eradication

Biodiversity conservation idealizes innovative, nature-based solutions as necessary to mitigating poverty, especially since they incorporate multiple perspectives, including the local. The Maasai community has showcased resilience in guarding existing ecosystems, with their indigenous lifestyles at the root of their knowledge. Through community leadership, the Maasai community in Nashulai Maasai Conservancy has established a management plan based on rotation grazing to capture the advantages of the migratory patterns witnessed in the Maasai Mara. This development plays into the Maasai community’s indigenous knowledge through their age-old customs and traditions. Ultimately, an infusion of current knowledge on agriculture captures the best of both worlds.

Realizing Indigenous Land Rights

Establishing social, political and economic frameworks around indigenous land rights is how the Maasai community is tackling poverty. The Maasai community in Tanzania has encouraged political and legal recognition of Indigenous land rights as they fight against government efforts to evict them from the land. In Kenya, efforts by the Maasai community to establish capitalistic and poverty eradication schemes have been critical in advancing their economic capabilities to retain their land rights. Moreover, funding of conservancies has taken point in driving recognition of the indigenous Maasai community.

With biodiversity loss causing notable challenges in accessing resources, the World Wild Life (WWL) has lauded achieving indigenous land rights as a necessary step in combating climate change and ensuring a financially sustainable future. Notably, collaborations with national and global organizations such as the Nawiri Group to create sustainable practices are how the Maasai community is tackling poverty.

As the Maasai community sustains the indigenous lifestyle, biodiversity conservation through community efforts and the realization of land rights is tackling poverty. However, the onus is on the Kenyan government to accelerate its efforts through policies and laws that preserve their culture and traditions.

– Hanying Wang
Photo: Flickr

Gender Wage Gap in Kenya
The gender wage gap refers to the “difference between average gross hourly earnings of male-paid employees and female-paid employees as a percentage of average gross hourly earnings of male-paid employees.” It exists because some men and women receive a different amount of money for work of comparable value. This wage gap is both the “cause and consequence” of gender inequality. There are many reasons for the gender wage gap in Kenya, and although they exist in other nations around the world, it is more acute in developing countries. The East African nation is more gender unequal than its counterparts in the developed world, meaning that most women are employed in lower-paid work where they work for longer hours. This is before they have to go home and complete the rest of their daily domestic and childcare responsibilities.

The Kenyan Context

Over the last three decades, efforts have occurred to close the gender wage gap in Kenya, representing a struggle within the East African nation. In 1993, the government Task Force for the Review of Laws Relating to Women originated to help foster women’s equal participation in society and economic empowerment. In 2007, the government enacted the Employment Act, which promised all employees fundamental rights,  basic working conditions and pay.

Nevertheless, this legislation has not been fruitful in achieving pay parity for women. In 2019, Equileap published a report on gender equality in Kenya, finding that on average, women earn 32% less than their male counterparts, compared to 23% globally. This disproportion means that the country sits at the 20th position on the Global Gender Gap Index of 2020, behind the other East African nations of Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. Compared to the rest of the world, Kenya ranks 109 out of 153 countries, a 33-position drop compared to 2018.

The informal economy in Kenya is a significant employer for women, with 87% being employed within it. Despite this importance, the sector lacks standard employment contracts, social protection and adequate pay, meaning that women are unable to obtain a decent livelihood, let alone have the same level of income as men.

Reasons Why the Gender Wage Gap Persists in Kenya

Here are the three main reasons why the gender wage gap is prevalent in Kenya.

  1. The Inability of Women to Effectively Negotiate Their Pay. Women tend to misunderstand or underestimate their own value, compared to men. This means that even if they are successful in the pay negotiation process, they often shy away, being happy with less than what men have satisfaction with.
  2. Gender Insensitivity Persists in Workplaces. Like the rest of the world, organizations and businesses in Kenya operate in a structured way. As a result, women often join at the bottom of the scale, while men join at the middle or top end. Women also experience disadvantages due to child-rearing responsibilities, pregnancy and maternity leave, all of which can set them back on the career ladder.
  3. The Presence of Bias in Workplaces. Small and medium-sized enterprises provide formal employment for a large proportion of the Kenyan population. Regardless, less than 5% of these companies have female chairs. Furthermore, in the 1980s, women did not receive benefits as authorities assumed that their husbands would provide their insurance and allowance, a view that many still accept today.

The U.N. estimates that closing the gender wage gap in the East African nation is an essential way to achieving gender-related SDG commitments.” Many organizations have grasped this reality to tackle this issue. They include:

Womankind Worldwide

 In 2010, the Kenyan government passed a new constitution which was the first in its history to recognize gender equality. Key statements as part of this included:

  • Every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law.
  • Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and fundamental freedoms.
  • Women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.

Womankind Worldwide started working in Kenya after the promises created in this constitution remained unmet; women are still unable to make key decisions that impact their lives and communities. The organization has vowed to support women’s rights activists in the country so that the barriers that women and girls are facing can reduce.

In reference to the gender wage gap in Kenya, Womankind Worldwide has urged  ‘gender responsive’ action for businesses. This includes reviewing existing activities (such as pay and promotion) that undergird institutionalized forms of gender inequalities.

Kenya Female Advisory Organisation (KEFEADO)

In 1994, Dolphine Okech and her daughter Dr. Jane Okech, both of whom were educationalists that committed themselves to gender equality, founded KEFEADO in Kisumu, Kenya. The NGO exists to “promote gender equity, equal opportunities and rights for all” so that it can change cultural attitudes towards issues such as sexual abuse, gender-based violence and employment equality. It is working to develop gender rights policies that bridge pay inequality gaps along with ensuring that institutions respond to the specific needs of special interest groups, namely women and youth. It is also aiming to end disparities in education, health and work.

Regarding the gender wage gap in Kenya, KEFEADO has advocated for gender-responsive budgeting (GRB). In 2020, the organization organized a three-day training for members of the Kisumu county assembly as a way of advocating and fighting for employment equality between men and women. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the event. Overall, the training was a success as this budgeting was fast-tracked.

National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC)

In 2011, the National Gender and Equality and Commission Act established the NGEC, following Article 249 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. As a Constitutional Commission, the NGEC focuses on promoting constitutionalism, democratic values and principles, and protecting the sovereignty of the people, especially in relation to the marginalized. This includes women, youth, children, minorities and older members of society.

According to this mandate, the NGEC has successfully mainstreamed issues of gender and women in national and county policies, laws and administrative rules. Gender mainstreaming is a core function of this, and they use it to ensure that the concerns that both men and women experience are frontal in all spheres such as economic, political and societal. One way that it has achieved this is through raising awareness. As per the 2019-2024 Strategic Plan for Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination, the organization proposes that educating and partnering up with the public is a good way to raise consciousness on such issues (including the gender wage gap).

Over these last few decades, the gender wage gap in Kenya has appeared to have worsened. Although this is true to an extent, there is now much more awareness and understanding of the issue. Furthermore, the ascent of organizations fighting for pay parity in Kenya presents an optimistic future, one where pay is gender equality and women are obtaining the same financial remuneration as their male counterparts.

– Harkiran Bharij
Photo: Flickr

Entrepreneurship Protects Human Health
According to a 2022 George Washington University School of Business article, an entrepreneurial mindset capable of applying analytical tools is key to innovations in health care and primarily those relevant to technology. The emergence of COVID-19 is one among many instances that highlights the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation in relieving the world from soaring economic costs, especially since the pandemic cost the U.S. economy more than $202 billion alone. Here are some examples of organizations that show how entrepreneurship protects human health.

EarthEnable

Around 75% of Rwanda’s population is unable to access clean floors, which facilitates the prevalence of parasites and bacteria among the general population, and subsequently, undermines public health. In Rwanda, diarrhea claims the lives of 1.8 million people each year as a direct symptom of dirty floors, especially as many households do not assume the financial capability to renovate their floors.

To strengthen Rwanda’s health care system, EarthEnable, a for-profit hybrid organization in Rwanda has adopted earthen floors as an affordable and sustainable solution to dirty floors. Earthen floors consist of domestically sourced natural materials containing water, clay, sand and laterite, collectively forming a durable surface. While some people enjoy free access to the latter, others must pay $63 for the average household of 25 square meters. Payments occur over three installments to tailor for different financial circumstances.

In the first quarter of 2022, EarthEnable installed kempt floors totaling 376,080.85 square meters, demonstrating its impact across approximately more than 14,987 households and paralleling benefits to 62,944 individuals. While the organization currently operates in 20 different Rwandan districts, plans for further expansions are due to take place in 2022-2023. Such entrepreneurship protects human health and allows Rwanda’s population to lead a prosperous life.

Innovations in Health Care

Inclined to support health-related innovations, Innovations in Healthcare devoted its operations to finding solutions to current healthcare challenges since its inception in 2011. Assistance from the World Economic Forum, Duke Medicine and Mckinsey & Company, facilitated research and development before the nonprofit’s launch.

The organization’s 100+ global network of innovator organizations work to supplement access to inexpensive and high-quality health care. Entrepreneurs with competitive innovations undergo selection to join the innovators’ network and benefit from the necessary guidelines to advance their work.

Innovations in Healthcare currently operates in more than 90 different countries, where the organization leads and supports a variety of programs. Accelerating Saving Lives at Birth is one such program, which focuses on empowering maternal and newborn health on the global level. With funding from USAID among five others, the program facilitated more than 50 innovations, seeking to accelerate the sustainability and effectiveness of saving lives as part of its birth portfolio.

The Making More Health Venture4Change is another program that seeks to bridge the gap between rural and urban areas by providing affordable hygiene solutions. By offering entrepreneurial training and utilizing students’ knowledge to develop the latter solutions, the program can implement eminent impact. This is especially important since more than 50% of the global population lack access to safe sanitation according to a UNICEF report.

Moving Mountains Kenya

Health care in Kenya suffers from an array of challenges, including inclined maternal and child deaths, and rampant levels of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis cases. A by-product of such health issues is increased social and economic burdens, evident in the fact that 83% of Kenyans lack the financial strength to meet health care costs, pushing an additional 1.5 million people into poverty per year.

Stimulated by the belief in improved health care for achieving equality, Moving Mountains works to lead and support programs and projects devoted to enhancing Kenya’s health care, in line with what the community and government deem suitable. The nonprofit has been operating in Kenya for 20+ years and its impact has extended across several communities, which their medical camps can demonstrate.

The organization’s medical camps aid the communities of either the highly populated and underprivileged Nyanza Province in western Kenya or rural communities near and within Embu town. In the camps, medical students and professionals work alongside Kenyan and public health staff to provide free-of-charge medical checkups, diagnoses, treatments and referrals to domestic hospitals for Kenyans. Each camp seeks to attain significant and tangible developmental impact, relying on process analysis to verify its influence.

Looking Ahead

Entrepreneurship protects human health through its ability to develop new ideas and solutions that cater to many health care challenges. Entrepreneurship is a significant component of the work of several nonprofits and for-profit organizations such as EarthEnable, Innovations in Healthcare and Moving Mountains.

̶  Noor Al-Zubi
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in KenyaDuring the closing weeks of July 2022, most of the world experienced a global heatwave that brought about soaring temperatures. Even many cities in the United States experienced temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. However, while many Americans enjoyed their indoor air conditioning, the same cannot be said for those living in poverty across the globe.

Effects of the Global Heatwave

The abnormally high temperatures that the world experienced in July were only a taste of what countries in eastern Africa have been experiencing for the last several months. This extreme heat can have detrimental effects on people living in developing countries as it significantly hampers food production and crop yield from farming. Kenya is experiencing some of the worst droughts, with many farmers losing 70% of their crops since May and more than 2 million livestock deaths.

Extreme Heat and Sickness

Extremely hot temperatures can also lead directly to sickness, especially in children. Many pathogens thrive better in hot water and food which can cause illnesses. Furthermore, reduced livestock production due to heat-related deaths means that children cannot consume high protein meals which further contributes to rising malnutrition levels.

Extreme heat experienced by children was shown to increase the rate of chronic malnutrition by 12% according to a study at Princeton University.

Other Issues Affecting The Food Supply

There are other issues affecting food supply and crop production besides extreme heat waves. The International Rescue Committee recently updated its Emergency Watchlist indicating that many countries in Eastern Africa could be facing imminent catastrophe if they do not receive international aid soon. Countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are on the precipice of a devastating famine that could affect millions.

This famine comes as a result of a drastic decrease in food production in Ukraine due to the nation’s recent conflict with Russia. Nearly 90% of East Africa’s wheat consumption came from Ukraine and Russia. This coupled with the severe droughts already crippling food production within their own countries, east Africa is in a dire situation.

USAID Programs in Kenya

Although the outlook for Kenya appears bleak, many countries are taking up the mantle to support these struggling nations. The United States through its USAID agency has promised to provide Kenya with $235 million dollars to help alleviate the hunger of nearly 900,000 children living through severe malnutrition, according to its website. This money will provide emergency food, nutritional aid, support for farmers and clean water to more than 1 million people in Kenya. This program may prove to be pivotal in preventing the worst famine of the 21st century.

Preventing a Food Crisis

Although Kenya is on a path toward famine, many countries like the United States have made significant contributions toward preventing this famine in Eastern Africa. Despite extreme heatwaves and droughts, as well as reduced global food production, millions of lives can be saved thanks to the efforts of USAID programs in Kenya providing emergency monetary relief.

The International Rescue Committee has made it clear that these countries are in desperate need of more emergency relief lest they face a famine crisis. Hopefully, the precedent set by the United States will encourage more relief for the millions struggling in Kenya and Eastern Africa.

Declan Harkness
Photo: Unsplash

inadequacy-and-inequality-in-the-kibera-slumKibera is an informal settlement, or slum, in Nairobi, Kenya — the largest slum on the African continent. Rampant poverty in the Kibera slum is the source of numerous grievances and foundational inadequacies. Factors such as gender discrimination, crime, widespread unemployment and inaccessible electricity feed the continuation of poor conditions in the Kibera slum.

Slums in developing countries are narrowly defined as areas of “overcrowding, poor and informal housing, inadequate access to safe water and sanitation and insecurity of tenure.” A growing proportion of the population born into overcrowded impoverished conditions curbs movement toward a healthy economic foundation. Increasing inequality and the lack of infrastructure in the Kibera slum foster a poor quality of life.

Factors Exacerbating Poverty in Slums

  • Gender discrimination and gender roles in slum society. Women are expected to care and provide for their children more than men. Due to societal expectations, girls are discouraged from attending school. In the “Slum Survivors” documentary produced by Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) in 2007, Carol, a slum-dweller from Kibera, explains her father’s refusal to send her to high school as he believed the education of girls “is a waste of money.” Instead of completing school, many young girls become young mothers or child brides. A lack of education among girls serves to exacerbate cycles of poverty. Discriminatory cultural norms and institutions account for the rising percentage of female-headed households, which Carol explains from an imprisoning rather than an empowering standpoint as female-headed households face higher rates of poverty.
  • Criminal activity. Due to high rates of poverty, some resort to the illegal sale of alcohol and wood derived from illegal logging to make a living, among other illegal business activities. Crime is widespread in urban slums, such as Kibera — Crime surveys conducted by the Security Research and Information Centre (SRIC) with support from the Government of Kenya and UNDP Kenya reported that “98.8% of the respondents had witnessed crime being committed in the last three months of the study period.” The study highlights rampant poverty and low incomes in slums as the driving factors behind crimes in Kenya’s major slums. Kenya struggles to keep up with the rapid growth of cities, leading to a lack of housing, infrastructure and opportunities.
  • High unemployment rates. Economic instability and a lack of job opportunities encourage crime and contribute to the 50% unemployment rate in the Kibera slum. Due to high rates of poverty and unemployment, many individuals are unable to afford vital medicine or hospital bills. Incentives for quick and easy money encourage waste dumping and illegally cutting trees at night.
  • Inadequate electricity access. The Kibera slum relies on unsafe and poor-quality electricity. Electric fires and electrocutions are not uncommon in the slum. A partnership between Kenya Power and Lighting Corporation and the World Bank has led to improved access to safe electricity for slum-dwellers in the last couple of years. However, a number of Kenyans still resort to buying illegal connections from local cartels.

Poverty in Developing Countries Impacts the US

A remote and unattainable outlook prevents action from the international community. Distance between continents widens the rich-poor gap between the United States and low-income countries. Developed countries may view urban poverty in developing nations as out of their reach. Domestic issues almost always take precedence over worldwide injustices, with foreign aid accounting for less than 1% of the U.S. federal budget. Contrary to popular belief, Kibera’s poverty impacts the U.S. — impoverished countries are unable to afford U.S. goods and products. By investing in the development of lower-income countries, the U.S. can expand its markets and further grow the U.S. economy.

USAID’s Initiatives in Kenya

USAID has created numerous programs with tangible courses of action and projects that are currently underway. In 2022, USAID and the Government of Kenya (GOK) signed a five-year agreement to bolster education and employment opportunities for Kenya’s youth. The ultimate goal is “preparing a new generation of young African leaders with the skills and mindset to transform the region and the continent.”

The agreement discusses commitments to improve “education, youth workforce development and youth leadership programming” with a special focus on marginalized girls. USAID says “the GOK has committed to co-finance at least 15% of the total joint investments in education and youth development priorities in Kenya and East Africa.”

This partnership is creating jobs and empowering youth, working to reduce gender-related obstacles and illegal activity. Moreover, USAID’s Small Business Development Center program “strengthens the capacity” of micro, small and medium businesses (MSMEs) in Kenya and establishes “linkages to U.S. counterparts.” USAID’s actions will help some of “Kenya’s 1.5 million formally registered MSMEs and [more than] 5 million informal MSMEs.”

Looking Ahead

Poor conditions in the Kibera slum make it difficult to revitalize the economy and move closer to equality. For instance, low socioeconomic standards and an insufficient justice system elevate vulnerability to crime and marginalization. Even though those living in preferable living conditions outside of slums may feel removed from the problem, everyone’s perception and actions have an impact. Inequitable resource distribution pertains to every socioeconomic group in an unprecedentedly globalized world.

– Anna Zawistowski
Photo: Wikimedia Commons