Provision of Social Protection Services by Non-state Actors in Nyanza Region, Kenya: Assessing Women’s Empowerment

In Kenya, women are more likely than men to suffer poverty and its associated vulnerabilities, mainly because they are excluded from decision-making on economic issues, they have limited access to the factors of production, particularly land, and traditional customs allocate them undervalued roles and constrain their voice and mobility. Many of the 300,000 non-state actors (NSAs) providing social protection services in the country are helping women address these challenges and improve their livelihood. This study sought to find out whether these social protection services were empowering women, expanding their livelihood skills and enhancing their ability to make strategic life choices, which they were previously denied.

The study mapped NSA social protection providers and services in Bondo, Kisii, Kisumu and Siaya Districts in Nyanza region, followed by an in-depth survey of selected NSAs and their beneficiaries. Most of the NSA programmes were transforming the lives of poor women and empowering them, particularly programmes focusing on income generation, access to credit and savings, skills and leadership training, and civic education.

NSAs need to be supported to effectively deliver services by coordinating their activities and strengthening their role in gender-sensitive social protection programming. Their anti-poverty programmes could be made more empowering and gender sensitive if the targeted groups were involved in their design and implementation. This would require that the beneficiaries be regarded as active agents of change and equal stakeholders in the development processes of social protection programmes. It is vital that linkages be established between policy actors for exchange of knowledge and lesson learning, and that investment be made in building capacity for planning and implementation for programme implementers to develop skills that will ensure gender-sensitive programme designs translate into gender-sensitive implementation. NSAs can support people facing challenges with practical help, but they can also promote public action to challenge the state to transform laws.

Keywords: Kenya, vulnerability, empowerment, non-state actor, gender

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