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Gender mainstreaming in macroeconomic policies and poverty reduction strategy in Kenya

By Maureen Were and Jane Kiringai, Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis

Edited by L. Muthoni Wanyeki and Alpana Patel

For The African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Supported by GTZ

SARPN acknowledges permission from FEMNET, as the copyright holder of this report, for permission to post it on SARPN's web.
The report was compiled with the financial assistance of GTZ. For further information on FEMNET, contact Mary Wandia at
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Executive summary

The key challenges facing the Kenyan economy are reversing the economic decline witnessed over the last decade and the rising levels of poverty and income inequality. Consequently, the twin objectives of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) are to reduce poverty in half by the year 2015 and achieve high levels of growth in real incomes per capita. However, gender equality has to be a core theme if the poverty reduction strategy is to be successful. Gender-based asset inequality constrain both growth and poverty reduction. Gender mainstreaming at both macro and sectoral levels of policy formulation is essential for sustainable growth and poverty reduction.

Gender is usually defined as the social meanings given to the biological sex differences-the basis for basic division of labour within societies. Gender inequality often manifests itself in the form macroeconomic policies are thus not gender-neutral; they have tremendous implications for women's employment, poverty, social burden and ultimate societal well-being.

However, gender is not a homogenous group, within gender there are different socio-economic groups and macroeconomic policies will have a different impact on each of these groups. It would therefore be naпve to brand any policy as pro or anti-gender without an in-depth analysis. A trade policy that protects domestic industries through tariff barriers might increase employment for low skill urban women while discriminating against agriculture. Such a policy would be pro urban women and anti-rural women.

The macroeconomic policy framework in Kenya is clearly spelt out in both the PRSP and the various Fiscal Strategy Papers (FSP) and has four key elements. First, the need to create a favourable environment for the private sector to deliver higher growth rates necessary for poverty reduction. Second, the need to reduce the high tax burden, from a ratio of 24% to 22% of GDP. Third, the framework envisages a reduction in the share of government expenditure to GDP from the current level of 27% of GDP. Fourth, is the re-alignment of government expenditure towards support for investment. Clearly there is little scope within this framework to incorporate gender issues. Though commendable, the policy framework of low inflation, low levels of expenditure to GDP, privatisation and leaner, more efficient government to pave the way for a private sector-led growth fails to recognize the importance of the care economy, whose activities also affect the efficiency in the productive sector of the economy. Furthermore, even the private sector led growth envisaged from the framework has so far been elusive.

Since these policies have to be pursued in the medium term, it is necessary to design interventions that would increase women's efficiency and labour productivity. Just as there is much focus on creating an enabling environment for the private sector, there is also need for the government to invest in increasing the productivity of women. Targeted expenditure programs should be designed at reducing the time burden for women, particularly in the care economy, to increase their participation in the productive sector. Such investments would include rural access roads, affordable and appropriate technology among others.

Although gender imbalance is acknowledged in the PRSP document, there is no detailed cognisance of gender dimensions of the proposed policies, or anticipation of gender implications of the outcomes in reference to the different poverty dimensions. This gap might have been occasioned by inadequate exposition of gender issues or lack of a comprehensive disaggregated database to start with, a factor which also constraints the quantitative analysis in this study.

However, it is difficult to build a case for gender mainstreaming without appropriate tools to show expected outcomes as a result of addressing gender inequality. Computable general equilibrium models can provide a framework for quantitative and consistent analysis of economic policies on different groups, the "with and without" counterfactual policy simulations. For a comprehensive analysis of gender issues, such a model would have to be calibrated on a gendered social accounting matrix. This is perhaps the best option for the detailed level of analysis necessary to build a case for gender mainstreaming in policy analysis, this is perhaps the best option.

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