Empowering mothers financially key to boosting kenya's economy

A woman crushing rocks at a quarry in Kiganjo, Nyeri. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

If you were to conduct a vox pop on people’s source of inspiration or success, no doubt you would find that a large number attribute this to their mothers.

The immense influence that mothers wield in society cannot be over-emphasised.

 The contribution of mothers transcends their immediate familial roles; they are the bedrock of society. Many great a leader is a product of a mother who never gave up.

As we commemorate International Mother’s Day, it is important to not only honour our mothers’ boundless love, compassionate care, resilience, and sacrifices but also to recognise their pivotal role as the driving force behind our nation’s economic growth.  

Research by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicates that women produce between 60 and 80 per cent of the food in most developing countries and are responsible for half of the world’s food production, yet their role as food producers and providers - and their critical contribution to household food security - is only recently being recognised.

 Closer home, the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra) baseline report on Women’s Access to Agricultural Finance in Kenya states that access to agricultural finance remains dismally low, particularly for females, with rates below 15 per cent.

Despite mobile money emerging as the most popular channel for accessing agri-finance, the utilisation among women diminishes with age, highlighting a disparity in access to such financing, especially for older women.  Women in Kenya continue to encounter multi-faceted disadvantages that impede their access to value-adding finance.

Vision 2030, Kenya’s long-term development blueprint, acknowledges agriculture as a pivotal sector in achieving 10 per cent economic growth by 2030.

The blueprint recommends the establishment of devolved funds targeting women and other vulnerable groups, particularly those residing in impoverished arid and semi-arid regions. Findings from the Time Use Survey Report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (Knbs), UN Women, and World Bank reveal a significant underreporting of mothers’ contributions to Kenya’s GDP.

Women in Kenya dedicate an average of 240 minutes to unpaid domestic and care work, contrasting starkly with men’s 50 minutes. Unemployed women, in particular, spend over 300 minutes on unpaid domestic services for their households and family members, exacerbating their economic dependency.

Further, according to statistics by Knbs, a third of households in Kenya are headed by women. In stark contrast, data from the Kenya Land Alliance reveals that only one per cent of women in Kenya possess land outright, while an additional six per cent hold land jointly.

This bias in land ownership is largely attributable to the patriarchal system prevalent in many communities but is also a factor in the discrepancy in access to credit.  

Most women are engaged in the informal sector, where access to credit may be further constrained by socio-cultural factors limiting their access to collateral security.

Interestingly, statistics from the 2021 FinAccess Household Survey show that the gap in financial access between men and women in Kenya has continually improved, reducing from 8.5 per cent in 2016, to 5.2 per cent in 2019, and then to 4.2 per cent in 2021.

Whilst we are making strides in the right direction, a lot still needs to be done to enhance financial inclusion in households.

I have observed the amazing ability of women to stretch very minimal financial resources to meet the needs of households. It would be interesting to see the multiplier effect given the appropriate access to credit and other financial resources.

In the spirit of elevating households and indeed our economy, it behoves us to dismantle barriers to financial inclusion and foster the economic empowerment of mothers. This Mother’s Day let’s take our hats off to mothers and mother figures – for toiling tirelessly and going the extra mile not only for their children but also for our nation.

By AFP 2 hrs ago
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