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In Kenya, committee makeover brings new players and more inclusive data
Photo: Dana Smillie / World Bank
Dana Smillie / World Bank

A couple of years ago, Kenya’s public sector-led and driven Gender Committee was established but its representation was limited and its scope was restricted to validating gender statistics. An assessment noted that despite best efforts, gender statistics were fragmented, the systems needed to produce and use them were inadequate, and there was a deluge of unused data. 

The launch of UN Women's Women Count project in Kenya in 2018 presented stakeholders with the perfect opportunity to transform the Gender Committee. The Inter-Agency Gender Statistics Technical Committee (IAGSTC) was born, with expanded membership and a mandate to address multidimensional challenges through improved coordination, technical assistance, progress monitoring, and collaboration with other groups. 
The move reflected a belief that change required closer coordination between institutions to leverage their respective strengths, resources and networks. 

"In particular, we also wanted to incorporate non-state actors, academia, research organizations and even private sector and media partners,” says Joshua Musyimi, Programme Specialist and Gender Statistics Advisor with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

With KNBS as Chair and the State Department for Gender Affairs as co-chair, the IAGSTC’s members now include the Council of Governors (CoG) and National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) from government; civil society representatives such as the SDGs Forum Kenya and GROOTS Kenya (a national movement of grass-roots women-led groups); academia, including the University of Nairobi (UoN); and development partners, including UN Women, UNFPA and UNICEF. The IAGSTC also works with line ministries responsible for health, agriculture, finance and planning, as well as with private-sector actors, through the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, Kenya Institute for Public Policy and Research. 

“This initiative has been an eye-opener to bring together stakeholders and advance a conversation that has not been a priority,” explains Florence Syevuo, Executive Director of the SDGs Forum Kenya, a 40-member civil society consortium. She says the Committee has “set the pace in Africa and other continents with concrete results.” 

Since its establishment, the IAGSTC has met quarterly to coordinate stakeholders, review progress and approve work plans for the Women Count project in Kenya. It has also offered workshops on topical issues and presented opportunities for collaboration, such as UoN students’ use of KNBS data to develop policy recommendations. This has had a ripple effect, giving rise to more opportunities for the students to showcase and advance their work with national and global stakeholders.  

A recent case study found that the IAGSTC has positively influenced the operations of the national statistical system, making valuable contributions by building coordination and partnerships. It found that the IAGSTC has fostered ownership of the global discourse and anchored it on the SDGs. Thanks partly to the IAGSTC’s SDG gender indicators monitoring, Kenya’s SDG reporting has also improved.

Providing a valuable platform for cross-pollination of ideas across sectors, one major milestone has been a mapping of Kenya’s gender statistics needs and usage in a Gender Sector Statistics Plan, to be launched at the end of July 2020.

IAGSTC engagements in 2019 led to a joint baseline study on women’s access to agricultural finance in Kenya, after which the commissioning agency (the Agricultural Finance Corporation of Kenya), revised its gender policy and financial commitments to address identified gaps in women’s financing for agriculture.

In collaboration with the CoG, the Committee also developed the first-ever county gender data sheets for an initial 10 out of 47 counties in Kenya. The county gender data sheets have not only stimulated demand from other counties but brought about three new women’s empowerment-related legislations in Kitui County and directly informed decision-making on the supply of contraceptives in Kirinyaga County. 

The IAGSTC has even spearheaded the production and use of gender data for new products such as the first-ever Gender and Empowerment chapter in the Kenya Economic Survey in 2020, an important tool in Kenya’s economic planning process. A UN Women Op-Ed explores what this milestone means for improved policy development and resource allocation.

The Committee has also spurred more inclusive gender statistics, integrating citizen-generated data, big data and other sources of complementary data, within agreed standards. During Africa Statistics Week in November, UN Women supported GROOTS Kenya to socialize 35 women’s rights organizations on gender data ecosystems and data use for advocacy. 

“[The IAGSTC is] a good case of how co-creation can bridge the gap between data producers and users and support in measuring the right things,” said GROOTS Kenya Executive Director Fridah Githuku.

CSOs are now producing and using data to monitor SDG 5 and the IAGSTC supported their contributions to Kenya’s Voluntary National Review (VNR) in July 2020. The UN Development Coordination Office pointed to Kenya’s VNR as good practice because it includes the impact of COVID-19 on selected SDGs, including on gender, which provides an opportunity to help Kenya’s Government build back better.

Spillover impacts include increased coordination between participating agencies such as UN Women, UNFPA and UNICEF, such as on the upcoming development of a Gender Dimensions Monograph based on Kenya’s 2019 Census data. 

“Through the Committee, we have really embraced the art of inclusivity and we are increasingly appreciative of other partners inputs,” says Musyimi. “We have been able to review and produce better gender statistics by getting other actors involved in every process we are undertaking.” 

The IAGSTC has equally ensured greater quality and accountability by identifying data gaps as well as through technical contributions, such as UoN and CoG lending their monitoring expertise to the development of Kenya’s first Time-Use Survey. 

“We are on the right track and even more impact will be felt going forward,” said Paul Kuria, committee member for the NGEC. “This Committee will take gender statistics in Kenya to another level.” 

The study concluded that based on the Kenya experience, providing a platform for data producers and users to work together through multi-agency coordination mechanisms such the IAGSTC can bring about transformative change in the way gender data is produced and can ultimately have a great impact on how that data is used to inform critical policies and programming. 

This article is based on a case study on improving coordination within Kenya's National Statistical Systems, highlighting the role of coordination mechanisms in building a supportive policy environment for gender data production and use. The case study series documents promising results from the Women Count programme, to distill critical lessons learned that can be applied, disseminated, and replicated.

Jen Ross is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of UN experience, including with UN-ECLAC, OHCHR and UN Women.

Sylvia Maina developed the case study and provided additional contributions to this article.

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