Young country, young society
In addition to ethnic references, there are two social factors in almost all Kenyans that, despite all the upheavals and modernization tendencies, are indispensable: the family. And the country. What is meant is the land of the ancestors. Some groups have their dead on “tribal lands” bury what is connected, for example, a Luo family in Nairobi, the hundreds has to accompany to Kisumu dead relatives kilometers with the cost and effort. All of this is on the move, and no general statement can be made, except that Kenya is a very young society, almost 40 percent of which consists of children under 14 years of age.
In addition to the social backbone of society, the multigenerational family also forms a hierarchical framework for each individual, perhaps even more so in the countryside and among the nomads than among the more independent medium-sized companies in the big cities. It’s an age hierarchy and it’s a power relationship where men have more to say than women. “Hit her and she’ll know that you love her,” MP Wafula Wabuge is quoted as saying with advice on dealing with women. That was in 1979.
The fact that Kenya’s parliament refuses to this day to criminalize rape in marriage is just as absurd for Kenya’s politically conscious women as is sex tourism (which the German Lea Ackermann in particular fights with her organization Solwodi).
The still practiced and widespread genital mutilation (FGM) of women and girls is one of the greatest challenges in Kenya, a major country in African continent according to picktrue, not only for women’s rights activists, but also for health policy and medicine. And of course for those affected themselves, who begin to fight back. UNICEF estimates that over a fifth of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 are circumcised. This practice, which is used in various extreme forms depending on the ethnic group, has been prohibited by law for many years; but bans do not necessarily change behavior, but often only to exercise the archaic tradition in secret or to bring the act forward so that the children cannot defend themselves against it.
In any case, at the lower end of the social scale are often the children and at the very bottom the girls who are sent to fetch water instead of to school and have to marry young after being mutilated. Almost a quarter of girls are married before their 18th birthday and 4 percent are married before their 15th birthday. 15 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are already mothers, according to data from 2014 – numbers that are unlikely to have improved during the Corona crisis in 2020.
Despite considerable progress, particularly in the sphere of political presence, women still have many hurdles to overcome, the British Institute for Development Studies summarizes the gender balance in Kenya in an overview. Even productivity in agriculture suffers from the structural disadvantage of women in society, according to a study by the UN.
The fact that homosexuality in Kenya is considered by many to be un-African and unmanly and is punishable also arises from an awareness of tradition that is now openly criticized as misguided by gay activists. But neither parties and certainly not the churches stand by this minority.
Social affairs: Help against the risk of poverty
Social welfare and provision as a means of combating poverty has always been part of official social policy, but the results of the efforts must be described as mixed. In addition, it is to be feared that the corona crisis will push even more people below the poverty line. Meager pensions, an ever-low avoidance of uncertainty, which is expressed in the low number of insured persons of around 8 million insured persons (after all: with relatives that is a good 50% of the population) as well as increased individual health and economic risks from illnesses to bad harvests push people repeatedly below the poverty line or prevent them from getting out of their misery. The social division is blatant, as in many African countries. With an experiment on basic social security, the US NGO GiveDirectly is now trying to provide poor Kenyans in particular with a kind of unconditional basic income for start-up investments. A long-term study with 6000 beneficiaries who receive around 20 euros per month is to determine whether this triggers growth and is sustainable. According to GiveDirectly, the project had been expanded to 60,000 families by mid-2019, so a total of 300,000 people would receive a low level of basic security.
The state pension fund NSSF collects 6 percent of the gross wages each from employers and employees for the pension fund, but firstly, a large number of Kenyans do not benefit from this protection, and secondly, the distributions are not enough to survive after retirement of 60 years. The largest health insurer NHIF, which is mandatory for civil servants and employees, has around 5.8 million customers, a fraction of the population. There is no significant protection in the event of unemployment.
In the meantime, however, private insurers have discovered the growing middle class as customers. Companies see Kenya as a growth market. However, risks such as pregnancy, HIV / AIDS and dental care are often excluded from protection. In addition, there have been repeated cases in which private insurers have filed for bankruptcy and doctors and clinics have been left at their expense. Headlines from patients held like prisoners in the hospital to extort payment in this way are not the exception.