Exclusion, Poverty and Inequality in Decentralized Kenyan Forests: Bridging the Divide

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2008

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Abstract

"Women's contributions are essential to the functioning of Kenya's economy. However, because women's contributions are not valued in the same way as men's, women consistently find themselves at a lower economic status than men. Women are largely excluded from economic decision-making, face low wages, have poor working conditions, limited employment and professional opportunities. Their unpaid work is also not measured and not valued in national accounts. Women often face inequality due to the fact that they earn less income and face unequal distribution of resources. The situation is further aggravated by lack of access to education and job segregation. "In the forestry sector, women face similar challenges. Despite the African women's role in the management of natural resources, the limited access to and lack of property rights has continued to escalate the cycle of poverty in which they are trapped. The traditional division of labour has also meant that women are almost solely the food providers for their families. In Kenya, this has forced women to depend more on the natural resources and being the main gender that produces food crops, they have a profound knowledge of plants, animals and other ecological processes. This calls for a more integrated approach in the decentralized forest management. "This paper therefore analyzes the situation of women with regard to decentralization of forest management in Kenya. Using IFRI/SANREM approaches, the paper identifies the major problems faced in promoting womens participation in the management of forests, and outlines the roles of women in forest management. "Results indicate that there are marked differences in participation in community projects and social groups/associations. There is an indication of uneven access, control and distribution of property rights and natural resource benefits. The paper further highlights power relationships in gendered environments and its impacts on the dominance of certain interest groups. Finally, the paper recommends strategies that can be used to overcome the constraints faced by women in NRM."

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exclusion, poverty, inequality, decentralization, women, forestry, IASC

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