Advocating for a gender-responsive policy environment for female entrepreneurs


The development and implementation of gender-sensitive policies and laws, both at national and local levels, is crucial in achieving women’s economic empowerment. As representatives of female entrepreneurs and small-holder farmers, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have the potential to be key catalysts to improve the policy and legislative environment for women entrepreneurs in agriculture. In June 2017, SNV organised a workshop for CSO partners in Kenya to assess and increase their advocacy skills as well as to collaboratively create a plan for targeted advocacy interventions to improve the enabling environment for women’s economic empowerment.

A recent study conducted by SNV analysed the policy environment for women’s economic empowerment in Kenya and found that nationally, a robust policy and legislative framework for women’s economic empowerment (WEE) exists. This is evidenced by recent policy evolutions such as: the Constitution of Kenya, introduction of complementary legislations such as the Matrimonial Property Act, and the implementation of various catalytic funds and programmes such as the Uwezo Fund, the Women Enterprise Fund (WEF), the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) and the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) initiative.

Nonetheless, despite the existence of this framework, several challenges in the enabling environment to effectively achieve women’s economic empowerment still abound, including ineffective implementation of policies, the lack of appropriate policy frameworks to support women’s economic empowerment within county governments and limited programming and implementation capacity of county governments. Moreover, the institutional and policy arrangements do not primarily challenge gendered power relations, a key objective of gender equality and women’s empowerment. More emphasis needs to be placed on addressing the underlying structural issues (such as improving women’s access to innovative and sustainable finance, enhancing ease of doing business and access to markets for women, and increasing women’s participation and representation in leadership and public finance management) that drive inequality and impede women’s economic empowerment.

The present government programmatic approaches have much focus on the practical and immediate needs that do not allow women to move out of the confines of gender roles, rather than strategic needs that allow women access to decision-making and power which have the potential to transform present gender relations.

The study recommends to: harmonise the mandates of the various catalytic funds in order to reduce administrative costs and possibly reach more women; improve coordination mechanisms between county and national government (and the private sector); decentralisation of the functions of national level institutions to county levels; county governments to develop policies that enshrine current programmatic investments to ensure sustainability amidst volatile political environments; and the need to improve access to information (that will spur women’s participation) and gender responsive budgeting.

The study and its recommendation formed the basis for our advocacy strategy that has been developed to improve the focus of our advocacy activities under the “Enhancing Opportunities for Women’s Enterprises” (EOWE) programme. To kick-start the implementation of the advocacy strategy, SNV organised a workshop with all the implementing civil society partners from our 8 project counties (Marsabit, Isiolo, Samburu, Baringo, Laikipia, Makueni, Narok, Kitui). During the workshop the CSO partners collaboratively planned the advocacy interventions to enhance the gender-responsiveness of county policies and plans related to women’s economic empowerment in agriculture and to ensure their implementation.

Furthermore, during the two-day workshop the capacity of the CSO partners to advocate for gender-responsive policies and plans was assessed. Based on the needs and gaps identified during the assessment, a capacity development plan was designed to enhance the capabilities that will enable them to become (more) successful in their advocacy efforts. Overall findings showed that although many local partners have done advocacy before and built some experience in advocating for policy changes or something similar, they mentioned they may lack the knowledge and skills to integrate gender and/or women’s empowerment in their advocacy efforts. Besides the use of gender analysis it was explained how important the participation and representation of women is in decision-making and policy development processes to ensure their voices are heard and their specific needs will be addressed.

The first target policy under our advocacy strategy will be the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP 2013 – 2017), as before the end of 2017 the CIDP review process and development of the next version (2018 – 2022) will be completed. During the workshop CSO partners used the CIDP as a guiding example to discuss how to assess a policy or plan and based on that how to plan and implement advocacy interventions. Each local implementing partner analysed the CIDP of their county on its gender-responsiveness and how well it supports and provides opportunities for women’s economic empowerment in the sectors related to the female farmers/entrepreneurs that we work with and represent (e.g. agriculture, trade & industry, energy, etcetera). After reviewing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the current CIDPs it was realised that often gender-disaggregated data and a proper gender analysis were missing and therefore specific gender-responsive interventions were lacking.

Narok county planning department presents CIDP process & government budget cycle

In order to get a clear picture on the key barriers that female farmers and entrepreneurs are facing, SNV conducted a WEAI (Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index) baseline study, a gender analysis and a KAP (Knowledge, Attitude, Practice) study. These studies revealed that the main domains of lack of empowerment are related to the time use of women (women spend far more time on domestic tasks than men which prevents them from spending time on productive work), control over the use of income and access to financial resources (credit and grants). To address these barriers in a holistic way, it was decided to focus the advocacy efforts on improving the context of women entrepreneurs in agriculture in these three areas.

Part of the plan that the local implementing partners developed consists of ensuring active participation and representation of women entrepreneurs in agriculture by involving them in the process of county policy development through focus group discussions at sub-county levels in cooperatives and chamas (Kiswahili word for "group" and often referred to as "micro-savings groups” mostly consisting of women, but increasingly joined by men as well).

EOWE programme induction workshop for women entrepreneurs in Narok county

The aim of our advocacy activities is that women entrepreneurs in agriculture are given a voice to claim their rights and space in the development of their county. This process is facilitated by the country, the project team and the implementing partners. Making sure the next CIDP of each of the 8 target counties is (more) gender-responsive and ensuring a (more) conducive environment for women entrepreneurs in agriculture to thrive in will be the first objective followed by changes we’d like to see happening in other women’s economic empowerment and gender equality policies and plans as well as the various catalytic funds and programmes mentioned before.

Learn more about how EOWE is advocating for a gender-responsive policy environment for female entrepreneurs:
Analysis of Policy Environment for Women's Economic Empowerment 
- Kenya 
Policy Brief - Kenya 
Advocacy Strategy - Kenya