There exists a big gap between rural and urban women and girls in terms of access to equal opportunities .
I was raised up in a rural setting, attended a local public primary school and by God’s grace attended one of the top provincial schools in the Western region. While in high school I got exposed to so many things including a computer.
Naisiae (Not her real name) on the other hand grew up in rural Turkana. When she was growing up, all she could see were young girls as young as 14 years of age get circumcised and married off. She was lucky to attend a local primary school and managed to sit for her KCPE exams. However, she didn’t understand why she had to get an education just to be somebody’s wife. She eventually went through the cut and landed herself a husband thereafter whom they have six children.
Naisiae is not alone. Just like many other girls in the rural and marginalized areas, the only success stories in her community are those of her peers getting married to wealthy men; and by wealthy, I mean owning lots of herds of cattle. Rural and urban women and girls have different role models to look up to. Unlike Naisiae, I look up to women like Tabitha Karanja of Keroche Breweries, Julie Gichuru and many others. Women who’ve proved that everything is possible regardless of your gender.
After clearing my high school, I got admitted to one of the universities in Nairobi to pursue a science degree course. Being in Nairobi, I was able to join a few tech hubs and meetups to enhance my knowledge and grow my career.
Think of all the tech hubs, business training or entrepreneurship hubs you know of in Kenya. The likes Ihub, Nailab, Akirachix, Safaricom WIT, Nairobi garage etc. They are all concentrated in the urban areas, in this case Nairobi. So how do you expect Naisiae to compete with me when I have access to all these resources? Can anything be done to reverse this trend?
Girls and Women in the rural areas mainly depend on access to natural resources than do those in the urban areas. Women in the urban areas have been presented with several opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Bridging the gender divide involves making sure that rural and urban women and girls access the same opportunities as those presented to those in the urban areas. It’s about ensuring that all women and girls benefit from current opportunities brought by new technologies. These opportunities include the access to ICTs like mobile phones, the internet and supportive environments for mentorship and skills training.
But until this issue is addressed, I am sorry we still have a long way to go in achieving gender parity here in Kenya. We all hope that devolution is going to bring the above-mentioned resources closer to women in the rural areas and that they can compete on the same stage as their urban counterparts.