Kenya has made substantial progress in improving the enabling environment for women’s economic empowerment and enterprise development by enacting legislation and programmes such as the Kenya Constitution 2010, the Women Enterprise Fund and the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities programme. Despite this progress some of these policies are only partially implemented, denying women the benefits they would accrue from their full implementation. A key challenge that hinders full implementation of these policies is the lack of gender-responsive policy frameworks and inadequate capacity in county governments. In addition, the voice of women in decision-making processes is weak due to their limited involvement in government processes. Women therefore have little influence if any, over structures and processes that set the agenda and determine what issues are important.
CSOs as central pillars of change
One of the objectives of the Enhancing Opportunities for Women’s Enterprises (EOWE) programme is to enhance the implementation of gender-sensitive policies while tackling socio-economic barriers at local levels to enhance economic opportunities for women entrepreneurs. In Kenya, EOWE is building the capacity of local actors, mainly Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), to be central pillars of this change. As non-government and non-market actors, CSOs are in a unique position to foster collaboration among relevant stakeholders, influence agenda-setting and hold the (local) government accountable for their promises and actions. CSOs must, therefore, have a set of tools and skills that are appropriate for influencing county government policies and budgets.
At the beginning of 2018, local actors from eight target counties were trained on policy influencing and budget advocacy. The training aimed to enhance their capacity to mobilise and empower rural women and engage with (local) government to create bottom-up pressure for the implementation of gender-sensitive policies and a greater allocation of county government budgets on priority issues that address the needs of women entrepreneurs. After the training, the local actors used the acquired skills to influence and increase women’s involvement in two key government processes: 1) the county government planning process of the 5 year County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) and 2) the development of the annual budget of the 2018/2019 financial year.
A manual to guide CSOs in their advocacy work
The lessons and experiences from these advocacy activities were used to develop an EOWE Advocacy Manual. The manual aims to guide CSOs to advocate for the empowerment of women entrepreneurs by influencing county government policies and budgets, and promoting women’s involvement in political processes. The manual provides information on the policy environment for Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) in Kenya and presents a set of guidelines and tools on how to influence policies and budgets at the county level through advocacy. In recognition that collaboration with county government is critical to enhance the enabling environment for women entrepreneurs in counties, the manual devotes a short section on actions the county government technical officers can take to support/complement advocacy efforts of CSOs from within the government. Bottom-up pressure from CSOs and women entrepreneurs combined with increased buy-in within the county governments itself could accelerate results.
The manual will be updated as more lessons and experiences are gathered in continued policy influencing and budget advocacy processes in 2019/2020.