Barriers for female decision-makers in Kenya’s sanitation sector

Themes: Gender Research Sanitation Urban Sanitation Research Initiative Utilities
Countries: Kenya

Gender inequity at the level of policy, regulation and management limits the voice and participation of women decision-makers and can perpetuate inequities throughout the sanitation sector. To address this, the Urban Sanitation Research Initiative aims to analyse gender inequity in educational and professional settings of sanitation-related organisations.

  • Women working at sanitation-related public-sector institutions in Kenya reported challenges at work, which limited their professional aspirations, their voice and their influence on policies.
  • Barriers exist at all stages of career development: girls face gender bias in school when pursuing technical degrees; young career-women must balance greater familial obligations than men; and mid-career women lack many of the networking opportunities that men have.
  • Bullying and sexual harassment of women have not been adequately addressed thus far, leaving some women with little support and few alternatives.

It is crucial for the sanitation sector to meet the basic needs of their female staff, such as:

  1. Full access to MHM-friendly latrines at all sites, including waste treatment plants and field sites.
  2. Maternity and paternity leave, flexible scheduling and lactation rooms for new mothers
  3. For young mothers and fathers, create nearby or on-site alternatives to workshops and conferences that require travel. When travel is unavoidable, make arrangements for young mothers to return quickly in an emergency.
  4. Provide PPE that are designed for women, for all jobs that require protective gear.
  5. Create a culture that is intolerant to sexual jokes in professional settings. Create confidential systems that protect victims of sexual harassment, and discourage sexual predators.
  6. Create professional groups, systems and events which allow women to network, mentor and support each other, during hours and in locations that are friendly to women.
  7. Educate managers and staff of the benefits of both gender equity among staff, and equal representation of women and men among management.
  8. Make salary structures and promotion policies transparent and ensure that all employees are considered equally.

This research was led by Athena Infonomics; more information about the project and other reports can be found here.