2020 Index score: 56.2
2015 Index score: 55.1
Status: ‘Some progress’ since 2015 and ‘very poor’ overall score
2020 Global ranking: 110 of 144 countries
2020 Regional ranking: 8 of 36 countries in sub-Saharan Africa
Kenya has seen ‘some progress’ in its overall score on the 2022 SDG Gender Index, improving by just over 1 point between 2015 and 2020. There has been ‘fast progress’ for five of the SDGs; however, stagnation and declines on other goals hold back progress for girls and women.
Kenya’s standout performance has been on SDG 8 on work, with an Index score of 82 points, achieving ’very good’ scores on indicators on women in vulnerable work (Ind. 8.2) and on laws on workplace equality (Ind. 8.4). These two scores put Kenya well above the global and regional average scores.
The greatest progress since 2015 has been seen on SDG 9 on innovation. This has been driven by an increase in women’s use of digital banking (Ind. 9.1) from a score of 66 in 2015 to 75 in 2020. Kenya’s ‘fair’ performance on this indicator in 2020 puts the country well above the average scores of 32 and 52 (‘very poor’), respectively, for sub-Saharan Africa and the world.
A strong performance on legal and policy indicators has been seen for SDG 5 on gender equality, as well as on key indicators like women’s land rights (Ind. 1.3). In contrast, women’s representation in decision-making has declined, particularly for the number of women in ministerial roles (Ind. 5.5) despite the two-thirds gender rule – a requirement in the 2010 Constitution that public bodies must comprise no more than two-thirds of the same gender.
The most significant deterioration in progress from 2015 to 2020 has been in relation to SDG 2 on nutrition, for which Kenya has a ‘very poor’ score. One driver has been a reduction in the proportion of women reporting having enough money to buy food (Ind. 2.4), where Kenya’s score dropped from 46 to 25 points between 2015 and 2020. Another driver has been women’s perceptions of sufficient household income (Ind. 1.4), which fell from an already ‘very poor’ score of 46 in 2015 to just 22 points in 2020.
Kenya has made some progress on gender equality, but stagnation and declines keep its overall score very poor.
Reflections from GROOTS Kenya
Kenya’s performance in the 2022 SDG Gender Index is a call to action for all sectors to deeply and more deliberately address gender equality gaps. The Index highlights both significant positive and negative changes overall, and also the specific sectors, issues and attitudes where greater action is needed, including economic empowerment for gender equality, women’s land rights and violence against women and girls.
Kenya’s performance on SDG 5 on gender equality of just 62 points in the Index (rated ‘poor’) is indicative of the failure of the political class to enact the two-thirds gender law – a critical constitutional threshold that aims to achieve gender parity in all sectors. This Bill has failed to pass in parliament for a record three times and, despite the crystal-clear constitutional timelines, there is currently a lack of clarity on the framework for re-tabling the Bill.
While the Index shows significant improvement for Kenya between 2015 and 2020 on SDG 7 on clean energy, the Finance Act in the 2021–2022 budget introduced a value added tax on liquid petroleum gas. Costs have skyrocketed for this dependable source of cooking fuel, making it unaffordable to many households, of which many are female-headed. This recent retrogressive change in energy policy threatens the 5.4-point improvement in the Index on SDG 7 seen by Kenya since 2015. Without a doubt, the cost increase will tip the gender equality balance within the energy sector, noting that it is women who bear the time burden for fetching cooking fuel, thus reducing their time to engage in economic activities.
Laudably, for SDG 8 on work, Kenya’s performance is desirable, achieving a score of 82 (‘good’) in the Index. However, data gaps continue to plague monitoring of gender equality across the SDGs, including those related to decent work and economic empowerment. UN Women recently highlighted that Kenya only tracked data for 41.8 per cent of SDG indicators related to gender equality as of December 2020, and that gaps in data on unpaid care and domestic work and on the gender pay gap are both key areas of concern.