NATIONAL ADVOCACY COALITION ON WOMEN ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT IN KENYA
By Jack Odiwa
Advocacy efforts in Kenya related to Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) have struggled to be effective at driving policy change due to a lack of cohesive, coordinated and unified calls to action. In this regard, it is essential that the interaction with government stakeholders is done in a unified and coordinated manner through a functional advocacy coalition. Otherwise, requests and calls to action will come to the same stakeholder from multiple advocacy efforts and cause confusion.
Advocacy efforts have also not been impactful due to lack of clear evidence on what works to drive change.
In order to address this situation, ActionAid Kenya has created a National Advocacy Coalition on Women Economic Empowerment that brings together all stakeholders working on WEE with an intention to streamline and coordinate government engagement while linking research to advocacy.
The overarching strategy for the coalition is to extract evidence from researchers, then translate and package that evidence into clear policy asks and program recommendations, and thereafter push the evidence to policymakers through women-led advocacy organizations as well as policymaker influencers.
The stakeholders forming the national advocacy coalition are drawn from International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs), Non-Governmental Organizations, media, researchers, women’s groups and feminist networks, academic institutions and power influencers.
The work of the coalition is underpinned by ActionAid’s organizational Theory of Change, which is based on the belief that social justice, gender equality, and poverty eradication are achieved through a purposeful individual and collective action to shift unequal and unjust power, from the household level to local, national, and international levels. The empowerment of women living in poverty and exclusion, and their organizations, is crucial to this theory.
Currently the structure of the coalition is made up of two layers: the Steering Committee whose mandate is to provide general leadership for the functioning of the coalition; and Working Groups that act as technical leads in the translation and packaging of the emerging evidence as per the various themes.
ActionAid Kenya is un-apologetic in advancing women’s rights and ensuring that women living in poverty and exclusion are at the center of our work in Kenya. We commit to working with women, children and youth to claim their constitutional rights through three main pillars; Empowerment, Solidarity and Campaigning.
It therefore follows that when change efforts are led primarily by those who are directly affected by a challenge, and supported by individuals committed to achieving social justice, power is transformed. Hence the coalition’s Theory of Change revolves around strengthening women’s organizations and institutions, and supporting them to lift up their collective voices in order to advocate for their economic empowerment and rights among policymakers and other relevant stakeholders.
The national advocacy coalition also aims to build demand for evidence and promote uptake of findings by the national and sub-national governments, donors and practitioners to guide financing and resourcing of WEE projects and programs in Kenya.
Through this coalition, ActionAid Kenya is intentional in strengthening institutions that will drive policy action and sustain WEE outcomes including:
- Women’s advocacy organizations- to understand policy frameworks supporting WEE, frame advocacy plans and processes, and engage target institutions to help shape the policy environment that supports WEE at local, national, and regional levels.
- Research institutions- to continue to build evidence on what works related to women’s work, employment, and enterprise. ActionAid will also support them in the building of cohesive advocacy and communications strategies.
- Government Ministries, Agencies and Departments- to adopt and recognize the relevance of evidence related to women’s economic empowerment for shaping and reshaping the policy environment.
- Link researchers, implementers, and advocates for united and coordinated calls to action regarding prioritization of Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) through policy action in Kenya.
Currently 12 organizations have signed up to this Coalition including: Publish What You Fund (PWYF), International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), Abdul Latiff Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), NATION Media, Nathan Associates, Collaborative Center for Gender and Development (CCGD), Busara Center, Population Council Kenya, Kenyatta University, ActionAid Kenya and Hive. ActionAid Kenya acts is the convener and facilitator for this coalition.
Since the launch of the coalition on 25th November 2021, we have also received dozens of requests from various International & National organizations to join the coalition. This can easily be attributed to the centrality of Women Economic Empowerment in the attainment of other rights as stipulated in national, regional and international frameworks.