Kenya: minority and indigenous women face multiple discrimination

Minority and indigenous women in Kenya are discriminated against on multiple levels; they are targeted because of their identification with a minority or indigenous group, and as women – both by cultural practices within their own community and because of gender discrimination more widely.

Minority Rights Group's report Challenges at the intersection of gender and ethnic identity in Kenya, examines the challenges and the new opportunities that have emerged with the passing of the new Constitution in 2010. The goal of the report is to reflect the voices and experiences of women from diverse minority and indigenous communities in Kenya. Download the report here.

The report's author, Laura Young, put together this photo story following her research activities in Kenya. 

Gallery

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A fisherman brings in his catch on the western shore of Lake Turkana in an area known as the Gulf. It has traditionally been a breeding area for many fish species. Community-based institutions called beach management units (BMU) have recently been introduced to manage fishing in Kenya's lakes. BMUs try to control the way in which fish catches are handled so as to ensure quality and also try to control destructive fishing practices so as to stem the decline in fish stocks. Actively including women in BMUs will help to ensure that fishing more equitably supports women and their families.
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Suba women elders.
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Theresa Ekiru, a Turkana woman showing the duom palm fruits that she trades for fish that are harvested from Lake Turkana. About 30% of Turkana people are dependent on the lake for their livelihood, according to environmental advocate Billy Kapua, who works with the local organization Friends of Lake Turkana. MRG interviewed women working on the shores of Lake Turkana as part of its recent field research on the concerns of minority women in Kenya. Women in the fishing industry are very vulnerable - they generally do not own the boats or nets that are used to harvest fish. Instead, they are paid by fishermen on Commission, less than a dollar a day, to clean, transport and sell fish in the markets. Communities depending on Lake Turkana for their livelihood are concerned that new exploration for oil near the Lake are going to undermine the stability of already declining fish stocks. “There used to be fish just jumping out of the water, but now there are so little fish in the lake,” described Ekiru.
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Women and children from the Aweri (Boni) community on Kenya's East Coast pose for a photo after a community meeting with MRG researcher Laura Young. The Aweri are a traditionally hunting and gathering community that lived in Kenya's coastal forests. Women in the Aweri community confront numerous challenges, which they attribute to their removal from their traditional territory in order to make room for settlers from other parts of Kenya. Since that time much of the indigenous forest along the coast has been cleared for small scale farming. In addition, the Kenyan government is initiating a new port project in Lamu, which the community fears will lead to more land loss and environmental destruction. Despite many proposals for the Aweri to be permanently resettled and compensated for their losses, the situation remains unresolved. Land loss and lack of title to their land has forced the Aweri into marginal areas where service access, from water to schools, is a challenge.
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These Aweri women pose with the former local councilor from the community, after a meeting with MRG researcher Laura Young. Like many minority groups, political representation is a huge issue for the Aweri. In recent redrawing of boundaries, the Aweri lost this councillor's seat. Women described the fact that this has had a direct impact on their ability to bring their concerns to their local government. “In the past there was a local councillor, who represented our interested in the county council, but in the last election that position was lost, and now it is all controlled by the settlers. Now we don’t feel comfortable going to the new councillor with our concerns” said women during the meeting.
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MRG researcher Laura Young interviewed Anna Egeron, a Turkana widow who comes to the lake to try to get work in order to support herself and her grandson. Her husband, a truck driver, was killed during a road accident. Egeron described the fact that in the past she would have been cared for by her children and would have stayed with her husband's family as a widow but that, “These days everyone is so desperate. It’s because of the drought. Everyone has lost a lot of animals over time and become very poor,” and so many widows are left to fend for themselves. In 2011, the drought in Turkana was extremely severe and led to many deaths from starvation.
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Sanye woman and child.
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MRG researcher Laura Young met with women from Kenya's micro-minority Sanye hunter-gatherer community near Mukonumbi, along the Kenyan east coast.Women's primary concern is land loss and lack of title. Like other indigenous coastal communities, the Sanye were removed from their traditional territory to make room for settlers form other parts of Kenya. The Sanye now live as squatters in small villages where they continually fear that they might be evicted again.
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MRG researcher Laura Young poses with Sanye women from Kenya's eastern coastal region. The Sanye were evicted from their traditional forest territory near a sacred lake in the 1970s. Women from the community said “We lost everything during the evictions, houses, personal property, everything.” Most importantly, the community lost access to the lake – which was their source of livelihood – and to sacred trees – which had significant spiritual attachment. Given new planned development in the area, including a large government port project, the Sanye fear they will be further marginalized and will suffer more land loss.
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MRG and its Kenyan partners work closely with the Abasuba community, a minority group that lives on the shores and islands of Lake Turkana. These dancers were performing at an installation of the new chief of the Suba Elders Development and Cultural Council. The Council is a new governance structure in the community, reflecting its desire to revive its culture after many years of assimilation. The Council has women members, women on its executive secretariat, and also includes a women's section.
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Date: 19/11/2012

Countries:

Kenya

Categories:

Culture and Tradition
Violence/Conflict
Poverty
Indigenous Peoples
Women/Gender

Press Contact Information

Name: Mohamed Matovu

Telephone: 00 256 782 748 189

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