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Marginalization multiplied: Minority and Indigenous women in Kenya facing discrimination on many fronts
Minority Rights Group International
12 December 2012

Women from minority and indigenous communities in Kenya find themselves caught in the most vulnerable situation due to their ethnic identity as well as gender putting them at particular risk, a new Minority Rights Group International (MRG) report shows.

The report, Challenges at the Intersection of Gender and Ethnic Identity in Kenya, reviews the status of minority and indigenous women who, in addition to facing the brunt of challenges such as poverty and a lack of economic opportunities like the rest of Kenyans, face multiple discrimination, both because of their identification with a minority or indigenous group, and as women. (…)

Like other women, minority and indigenous women in Kenya also face discrimination on the basis of cultural practices within their own community.

Pastoralist women, for instance, still grapple with cultural practices that are harmful to girls, such as female genital mutilation and early marriage, reducing girls’ access to education and substantially entrenching women’s poverty.

Also, insecurity and conflict caused by cattle rustling, and clashes over water, grazing and farm land relatively common between communities in arid and semi-arid areas disproportionately impact on women and children. Retaliatory attacks  between the Orma and Pokomo tribes in the Tana River County in September, for instance, sparked a humanitarian crisis with over 100 deaths and thousands displaced.

Hunter-gatherer women, displaced and forced to become squatters, view their marginalization as a direct result of their displacement while for fisher peoples, environmental degradation and collapsing fish stocks present major fears. (…)

The report calls on the government, civil society and communities themselves to change policies and cultural practices that undermine minority and indigenous women’s participation in decision-making processes, especially as Kenya heads to the polls next year.

‘In addition to providing immediate  humanitarian assistance to displaced communities, ensuring security in marginalized areas and setting up scholarship support to keep minority and indigenous girls in school, the government should in the longer term implement constitutional provisions taking into account the impact of gender and ethnic identity,’ says Kere.


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