Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Engendering Development through Social Justice the Myth of Commonality in Kenyan Policies

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Engendering Development through Social Justice the Myth of Commonality in Kenyan Policies

Article excerpt


The purpose of this study is to gain a clearer understanding of how policy can ultimately lead to the marginalisation of the same people it seeks to empower through the assumption of commonality and the disregarding of fundamental diversity within the target group. We then proceed to sketch out what can be done to avoid this in gender-based policies in Kenya. Through an in-depth analysis of policy documents and long term strategic plans from the Department of Gender in the Ministry of Gender, Sports, Culture the study hopes to show the areas that have been overlooked in the development of effective gender based policymaking.

The research will investigate and document how policymaking in gender-based development initiatives currently falls short of adequately addressing the social context of intervention by ignoring the prevailing diversity among women as a social group. The research will attempt to answer the following questions:

* Does gender based policy currently take into consideration the diversity that exists in Kenyan women as policy stakeholders?

* What are the limitations in policy that does not address the real social context of policy making by disregarding women's diversity?

* How should/can policy incorporate diversity among women into the national gender-based initiatives?

The study seeks to understand how public policies have been developed to engender social justice and development in Kenya and what this has meant for the search for gender equality in the country. The study further explores how the acceptance of international instruments on gender equality has impacted the development of social policy on gender and ultimately the status of women in Kenya. It also investigates reasons why the acknowledgement of the place of women in development has not revealed tangible results in the improvement of women's lives in Kenya.

The second part will look at engendering development. The concept of gender equality will be explored with particular emphasis on the two approaches of gender mainstreaming and women's empowerment as the avenues to achieving gender equality as posited by the country's gendered policies. The use of the term 'gender' and the assimilation of women into the existing unequal structures and institutions of development and not social transformation in the mainstreaming rhetoric will be explored. Similarly the tendency of empowerment proponents to assume a powerlessness of the Kenyan woman, making them out to be 'victims' while the actual power structures of gender subordination are ignored, will be interrogated.

Ultimately, this section will explore the diversity and multiplicity of the lived realities of women in Kenya, taking a closer look at the myriad levels of heterogeneity of the Kenyan woman arising from the different facets of social identity that are evident in society including culture, race and religion. Finally the analysis reviews existing gender policies and what they have implied for gender equality and women's advancement by overlooking the existing differences among women given their global origins and the tendency to homogenize the concept of 'woman'.

Social Justice

When the women's movement first raised the issue of gender equality, national governments and international donor agencies accepted the goal in principle, but did not have any ready-made policy or instrument to address the set of concerns brought forward by women. Subsequently, developing policies, designing tools and implementing them was a lengthy process since the overriding objective of the women's movement was tantamount to changing the way that development was viewed and the direction that it would take henceforth. Removing gender disparities in human development and access to opportunities implied changing priorities and redistributing resources; the elimination of discriminatory practices meant changing laws and customs that have prevailed over centuries (Jahan, 1996, p. …

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