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Key findings
  • A majority (56%) of Kenyans say equal opportunities and treatment for women have improved over the past few years. Better-educated women and men are more likely to report progress toward gender equality than their less-educated counterparts.
  • Large majorities of Kenyans say women and girls already enjoy equal opportunities when it comes to primary (92%) and secondary education (90%) and earning an income (82%). A far smaller majority (58%) agree that women have the same chance as men to own or inherit land.
  • About one in seven women (15%) say they experienced gender-based discrimination or harassment at least once during the previous year.
  • More than three-fourths (78%) of Kenyans say that a man is “never” justified in beating his wife, but three in 10 men (29%) disagree.
  • About three-fourths (73%) of Kenyans say women should have the same chance as men of being elected to political office. Men (66%) and citizens with no formal education (51%) are less supportive of equal opportunity at the ballot box.

Gender equality is a principle of sustainable development that is globally acknowledged by United Nations and regional agencies, development partners, and national governments. Although the principle is operationalized through policies, legal provisions, and programs in most jurisdictions, implementation and experience vary across regions and countries, and in most cases fall short of the goal. As the United Nations Development Programme notes in its 2016 Africa Human Development Report, “gender equality for African women and girls is still far from satisfactory” (UNDP, 2016).

One measure of how far we’ve come in pursuit of gender equality – and how far we still have to go – is the experience of everyday women and men. A special module in Afrobarometer’s Round 7 survey asked Kenyans about their views and experiences with regard to progress toward equal rights, gender-based discrimination and violence, the election of women to political office, and women’s political and civic engagement. Their responses reveal that Kenyans see gains in gender equality but that support for women’s empowerment is still uneven, particularly among men – a fact that can undermine programs aimed at integrating the principle of gender equality in development agendas and policy dialogues.

Winnie Mitullah

Winnie previously served as the core partner director for East Africa at Afrobarometer