Recent efforts in national planning in Kenya have sought to identify development priorities through consultations. The Government of Kenya, in its effort to eradicate poverty and to promote pro-poor growth, established the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) under the Constituencies Development Fund Act of December 2003.
This study sought to investigate whether the CDF has improved the livelihoods and welfare of women and girls in the Kenyan society and whether women are being enabled to participate more visibly in the local development processes.
The objectives of this study were:
(i) To investigate the needs and priorities of males and females with regard to CDF projects as perceived by them;
(ii) To establish the differences that may exist between the sexes in terms of awareness of the CDF and in terms of participation in CDF management, in project identification and implementation and in other decision-making processes that determine how these funds are invested;
(iii) To evaluate the distributive impact of the CDF projects in the health and education sectors;
(iv) To investigate the factors or challenges for the achievement of greater parity and for the attainment of CDF objectives; and
(v) To put forward policy recommendations.
The study used the capabilities approach to investigate whether the CDF projects and programs have enhanced the functioning of men and women in Tetu, Gatanga and Kamukunji.
The study found that the greatest proportion of the CDF money was used in education in all the three constituencies. This is closely followed by education bursaries and health-related projects. Other projects identified are security, infrastructure, and water. These projects, if well utilised, can raise the constituents’ welfare while at the same time reducing poverty levels.
Unfortunately, gender disaggregated data was not available on the utilisation of these projects to be able to measure the differences in the benefits of these projects as earlier indicated in the objectives. However, the respondents gave information on how often they utilise some of the projects and it emerged that women were the major beneficiaries of the health-related projects although there were complaints that most of these were just buildings with no drugs, doctors or nurses. Also, gender disaggregated data was not available on bursary beneficiaries and so it was not possible to make an informed decision on whether the females were benefiting as much as the men from these bursaries.
As for the water-related projects, the women who were supposed to benefit from these complained that the cost of connection was too high, and consequently most of them were not connected to the mains; that there was corruption in the water offices; and that the water supply was unreliable. Similarly, cattle dip projects drew a lot of complaints, especially since these constituencies practice zero grazing and the idea of mixing their cattle with others in public cattle dips was not appealing to them. They saw these projects as an avenue for embezzlement of public funds.
The infrastructure and environment projects mainly benefited men as they were able to get jobs during the road construction. Women respondents complained that they were never given jobs on these construction and environmental projects.
The study also found that discrimination is embedded in the Constituency Development Committees (CDCs) as the average proportion of women representation in these committees is around 20 per cent. This implies that women are not able to influence project identification, location, implementation and monitoring. It was also found that men who work in CDF projects are paid for their labour while, in most cases, women are not paid and those who are paid are paid much less than their male counterparts.
In terms of CDF bursary awareness, most of the respondents were unaware of its existence and for those who were aware, very few of them, especially women, qualified for these bursaries. It also emerged that the amount given was too little to pay for their intended purposes, especially paying school fees. Hence, most respondents who qualified ended up looking for other sources of funds to pay the school fees for their children.
Most of the respondents complained of many projects that started and never finished. Buildings were put up but with no drugs, doctors, or nurses. Classrooms were put up but with not enough teachers. The only region where there was some praise of the CDF projects was Gatanga constituency mainly because of the roads. Water and electricity projects were mainly benefiting those who could afford but the poor could still not afford these services.
Women would have preferred those projects that would lead to increased output from their farms, through activities such as more visits from agricultural extension officers. They wanted a policy that would assure employment to their daughters be entrenched in CDF projects; and more indicated in what projects and how much to be allocated. They also wanted the health projects to concentrate more on provision of drugs; and increasing the number of doctors, maternity wings, and nurses. They also wanted health facilities equipped with maternity wards, drugs and other necessities; free medical camps and clinics; and increased bursaries to enable access to tertiary level education and markets. They also wanted the Cooperative Bank and other non-bank financial institutions to offer business loans and financial assistance to women’s self-help groups at subsidized rates.
Women also wanted more representation in CDCs, but without them having to campaign and lobby for these offices since they face a lot of intimidation from their male counterparts. In addition to their low level of education and the gender-based violence in their households, these women were intimidated in vying for electoral offices or leadership positions either in CDF or other committees.
Focus group discussion participants said that women were reluctant to take up positions because they lacked the time due to their domestic and other responsibilities. Male discussants said that women had many responsibilities in the home, which men often did not share as tradition does not allow them to. This made it difficult for women to participate in public offices. This is evident from the outcomes of the time-use survey results discussed earlier, where it is clear that time presents a critical challenge to women. Where such participation in public office is required, it implies a higher cost (as compared to men) both in terms of time and finances. This study contends that unless this situation changes, the role of women in public offices, and in this case CDCs, will continue to be limited. Women discussants said that because of fear of intimidation and concern not to be seen as being over-ambitious, women will more likely support a male candidate standing against a female candidate, however good their development records are. This is based on socio-cultural belief common among communities regarding what a leader is supposed to look like. This suggests that ambition and leadership are considered to be more acceptable in men, as opposed to women, and these would seem to be based upon societal perception about what is an acceptable female and male behaviour.
From the research findings, it can therefore be concluded that though the CDF initiative is a noble idea, it has not managed to reduce gender inequality as initially envisaged. In fact, it has enhanced this inequality since the institutions in which the CDF works have not changed at all. They have just reinforced the traditional roles of women as embedded in these institutions.
It was revealed that CDF has not managed to reduce poverty among the most needy and vulnerable (women). The study has shown that the status of women has not changed, and that CDF has rather enhanced the levels of gender inequality in the three constituencies. CDF has actually enhanced women’s marginalization as shown in their almost non-existent participation in project identification, implementation, location, and monitoring. They are also lowly represented in the CDCs and even when their work is required in the CDF projects, they are not paid for it unlike their male counterparts.
The study recommends that to increase women’s participation in CDCs, there is need for affirmative action for a 30 per cent representation for females in line with the Presidential Decree. This would help women to have an impact on project identification, location, implementation and monitoring.
To enhance transparency and the appointment and selection of CDC members, the powers of the MP should be curtailed and the local communities should be given the leeway to vote in members who have records of good leadership and are development-minded taking into consideration affirmative action.
There should also be affirmative action entrenched in the CDF Act and in employment in CDF offices and CDF projects, making sure that there is no discrimination against women for equal work with their male counterparts.
As shown in our analysis of how men and women benefit from the CDF projects, there are more men benefiting than women. This study recommends that women’s priority projects should be given preference as they have the potential to benefit the whole community though not immediately because the benefits are life-long.
Last but not least, the CDF bursary allocations should be increased since, as shown in our analysis, the amount given per student is too little to make any sense. Also, before starting on any new projects, CDF project management committees should make sure that all the other projects started are finished, thereby improving the current situation where over 50 per cent of most constituency projects are unfinished.