Affirmative Action in Procurement in Kenya


Affirmative action in procurement is aimed at empowering the minority groups and women. Several affirmative actions in procurement have been put in place, to stop discrimination, inaccess to economic resources and, to improve the economic status of minorities and women in regard to employment, growth, education and business ownership. It is an asset of practices adopted by employers, government agencies and university admission offices to reduce discrimination. This aims at improving the economic status of the minorities like the women in employment, education, business ownership and growth (Holzer, 2005). This paper will look at affirmative action in procurement, in Kenya, as directed by the Kenyan Constitution Article 27(6 and article 27 (7)). Article 27(4) prohibits any form of direct or indirect discrimination based on color, sex, age, disability, religion, belief, language, ethnic origin among others. The right to education for all is normally hindered by factors which are beyond human control especially to women. Monthly periods act as a major booster to school drop outs in Kenyan girls because of lack of sanitary towels. This paper will look at the affirmative action taken by the government of Kenya and in Africa at large to ensure women have equal access to opportunities as men.

Provision of sanitary towels in Kenyan Schools

Affirmative action calls for equal access to services in a country. It aims at providing services to minority groups and even women to ensure equal access to human rights. The affirmative action looks at the advantage enjoyed by one group over the other, inaccess of economical, social and political status. In most African countries, boys are more advantaged than girls in accessing education. Most girls drop out of school after they reach puberty because they cannot handle the catastrophe that comes with it. Reports given by the Girl Child Network abbreviated as GCN and the Commonwealth Educational Fund Kenya (CEF) indicate that nearly one million students in Kenya fail to attend school even after the abolishment of fee payment by the country’s government. Most of these children are girls, according to an investigation done by GCN. The girls miss schools because they lack appropriate and adequate sanitation facilities. Due to the increased sanitary towel cost, girls from poor households have been found to use unhygienic mattress pieces, tissue papers and even leaves.

Most of these girls, during their menstruation, avoid going to school all together, missing out on what the others learn during her absence. GCN’s investigation found out that, a girl who avoids school for four days in a month of 28 days, misses 192 hours and 288 lessons in a calendar year. The menstrual periods which are natural and restricted to girls only, acts as a major hindrance to the girls in exercising their right to education (Mwendwa et al., 2008).

The study done by GCN prompted a joint campaign by CEF and GCN, launching the Sanitary Towel campaign. The campaign targeted the policy makers and the public to demand action at the same time raising awareness. The national media widely aired the campaign forcing the minister for finance to cancel the 16% VAT slapped on sanitary towels. The government was lobbied by GCN, to provide budgetary allocation to the provision of sanitary pads to girls in schools. Ksh 165 000, equivalent to US $2,300 was allocated for the year 2007/ 2008 (Mwendwa et al., 2008). CEF/GCN in conjunction with the Ministry of Education (MoE) has asserted the affirmative action in ensuring that girls enjoy the same opportunities as boys in Education. GCN has worked with communities, to build girl- friendly toilets in 25 Kenyan schools. The success of sanitary pads in Kenya is being used by GCN to influence other African countries like Uganda, Ethiopia and Zambia, whose girls are suffering from the same plight, to adopt the initiative. This is inline with the Kenyan affirmative action in the constitution Article 27 (7). After six months, the rate of girls missing school, where pads were provided, significantly reduced from 21% to 9% (Mwendwa et al., 2008). With almost a half of the Kenyan population living on less than one dollar in one day, buying pads is almost impossible for most school going girls. This activity was aimed at empowering the girls, who are put on the same level with the boys.

Affirmative action of procurement

According to the Kenyan constitution Article 27(6) (7), provisions are made to compensate the disadvantaged people through legislative measures, affirmative action policies and programmes designed to cancel out any disadvantage that may have resulted from past discrimination. The measures taken provide for any benefit on the basis of genuine needs. The Kenyan government acting on the affirmative action, in 2011 allocated 300 million Kenya shillings for the provision of sanitary towels in primary schools. This is part of 2011/ 2012 financial budget. In the Nairobi star Newspaper (Oct 25 2011), the Kenyan prime minister, Raila Odinga, confirmed the allocation of money to the ministry of Education in accordance with the affirmative action of procurement, as directed by the constitution. Since the 30% presidential decree in 2006, Kenya has continued to embrace the affirmative action. The directive given in 2006 aimed at creating equity in employment between women and men and promoting senior positions in the public sector (Otieno, 2011). According to the Gender Governance Program in Kenya (GGP), (2010), the women contribution in leadership and governance, have gradually increased since the formation of the decree. Programs like the Women Enterprises Funds (WEF) set up in 2007 to facilitate women’s access to micro- finance credit and other financial services have helped women grow and develop themselves economically.

During the third re- launch of GGP in 2nd June 2010, the then minister for Gender, Children and Social Development, Esther Murugi, asserted that the affirmative action for procurement is aimed at empowering women economically and addressing poverty. The WEF gives advantage to the rural semi- illiterate women to have access to funds the same as the high ranking women in Kenya. A gender education policy has been introduced to look at the issues relating to gender and education (GPP, 2010). Education being the key to success, the ministry of Education aims at the achievement of gender parity, to give boys and girls equal chances in learning and management at all costs. Because of the free primary and secondary education for example, the transition of girls from primary schools to secondary schools has increased from 40.2% in 2005 to 50% in 2008. The government of Kenya also supports initiatives like Gender Governance Programme (GGP), whose objective is to realize the gender equity achievement and boost women leadership in women and decision making positions. Honorable parliamentary Murugi admitted to a great inequality in appointments at different government levels. These sentiments were repeated by Charity Ngilu, Water minister, at a gender equity forum in Mombasa. Ngilu accused the government of favoring men in giving out tenders. She calls out to the women to be aggressive so as to gain the opportunity to work and do business with the government.

Article 27 (7) of the Kenyan Constitution allows women to have preferential treatment in the awarding of tenders in the government ministries and departments. This is part of the affirmative action aimed at empowering women and giving them the same economic status as men. The objective of affirmative action in procurement is positive discrimination. This positive form discrimination aim is to encourage marginalized groups to actively take part in the implementation as well as decision making processes. It also aims at making a difference in the political climate and culture. Research has revealed that women make the highest number of the poor in the globe. Females account for two- thirds of the world’s illiterate people. AIDs has also become a woman’s disease, with three- quarters of the young people living with AIDs in southern Africa countries being female. According to research, empowering and supporting women highly profits the community. According to the hunger plan, the empowerment of women as agents of change is a key step towards eradicating hunger and poverty. Empowerment of women in Africa and the world at large has brought many women leaders in Key decision making positions, for example, Hilary Clinton who is the secretary of State in US and Ellena Johnson who is the president of Liberia. In Kenya women are holding key economic and political positions, and this has enabled them to fight for equity in all sectors.

Global Attention on Gender Inequality

The sixth African Development Forum (ADFVI) in 2008 discussed gender equality and women empowerment, in Africa. Addressing gender equality and women empowerment in Africa is a global initiative. International organizations like UN and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against women (CEDAW), together with the African Governments endorsed the initiative. CEDAW as the first international treaty dealing exclusively with women rights provides a good platform for the elimination of discrimination against women in all forms. It particularly aims at eliminating discrimination in the political, social life, economic and cultural arena through a range of policy and legal interventions (ADFVI, 2008). The millennium Declaration of 2000 resolves that promoting women equality and empowerment are effective ways of combating hunger, disease and poverty and stimulating sustainable development. The principle of non- discrimination between women and men is enshrined in the founding legal document of the African Union. The constructive Act of the African Union (2000) identifies the fight against gender inequality as one of its functioning principles (ADFVI 2000 p4). States in the African continent have adopted constitutions that promote gender equality. For example, the Ethiopian constitution Article 35(3), addresses the historical legacy of discrimination suffered by women in Ethiopia. In order to remedy the legacy, women are entitled to affirmative measures. These measures are for providing special attention to women to enable them compete and participate with men on the basis of equality in economic, political, social life and, in public and private institutions.

In the economic field, women experience more challenges in accessing good jobs than men. Women’s pay in the formal sector is relatively lower than that of men, and their share of employment in the formal sector is still lower than men’s. Women’s Participation in the political arena is still lower as compared to men. In 2003 and 2007 percentage review of women representatives in parliament, no African country had reached the 50 % mark. Rwanda had the highest in 2003 reaching 49%, with Libya, Congo, Mauritania, Comoros and Somalia having none (ADFVI 2008). This gender disparity in the economic and political sectors calls for affirmative action in the form of laws and policies which can counter the negative discrimination with a positive discrimination.


Gender inequality is the major form of discrimination present in the whole world. A woman will be discriminated against because of color, religion, ethnicity, disability, marital status, dress and even language. Above all forms of discrimination, a woman will face another catastrophe, being a woman. Therefore, a woman faces double discrimination when put in light with a man. Affirmative actions put in place by international agencies and governments aim at fleeing the woman from all these forms of discrimination. Constitutions have been amended by countries to try and give the women an opportunity to be empowered and fit in the economical, social and political arena. Implementing the affirmative actions suggested is not always easy because of limited resources, and, the cultural and traditional beliefs which still continue to hinder women’s empowerment and development.


Gender Governance Program. (2010). Gender Minister Lauds Kenya’s Progress on Affirmative Action. Web.

Holzer, J. (2005). Affirmative action: What do we know? George Town Public Policy Institute. Web.

Mwendwa, et al. (2008). Common Wealth Educational Funds- Kenya: End of Project Evaluation Reports. Web.

Otieno, Brian. (2011). Sanitary Towels to Schools by November, Prime Minister Orders. Nairobi star. Web.

The Constitution of Kenya. (2010). The Constitution. Nairobi: National Council for Law Reporting.

The sixth African Development Forum (ADFVI). (2008). Achieving Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in Africa: progress report. Web.

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