By Gift Briton

Despite women empowerment being one of the most strategic mechanisms for spurring economic productivity and growth, gender inequality remains a major impediment to women’s growth and well-being worldwide.

Globally, gender gap in economic participation and opportunity has closed by 60%, according to the global gender gap report (2022). In sub-Saharan Africa, the gap has bridged by over 67%.

To facilitate women participation in government economic opportunities, the Kenyan government introduced Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) program, mandating all public procurement entities to set aside at least 30% of their procurement opportunities to enterprises owned by special groups including women.

However, ten years since it was launch, most public procurement entities still do not comply with the requirement.

Elizabeth Obando, Team Lead, Women Economic Empowerment at United Nation(UN)

Speaking during the inaugural AGPO conference at the university, Elizabeth Obando, Team Lead, Women Economic Empowerment at United Nation(UN) said that one of the things hindering women from being economically empowered includes gender roles, norms, traditions and assumptions that hinder women from taking part in actual work.

“Most institutions are not complying with the 30% threshold. Collaboration between institutions and making sure that the procurement officers are trained so that they comply with the policy, creating awareness and simplification of the bidders manual so that it would be easier for women to bid is crucial,” she said.

According to a research study by Strathmore University aiming to establish effectiveness of the program in achieving women’s economic empowerment, majority of the women across the country are not even aware of the existence of AGPO.

Furthermore, numerous socio-cultural barriers also still hinder the realization of gender-responsive government procurement processes.

The findings show that marital status, size and age of the business and less time spent in managing the business mainly due to women three times more likely to spend time on unpaid care work than their male counterparts, were also found to be among the major deterrents.

Obando added that there is need multi-sectoral approach between the government and private sectors to work together with a common goal and further called upon all stake holders to rally behind the AGPO initiative to ensure its success.

“There is need for greater participation by the private sector,” she said noted.

Adding on to the role of private sector in promoting gender responsive procurement. Fawzia Kimanthi, Chief Consumer Business Officer at Safaricom, noted that by incorporating gender consideration into procurement processes and engaging in collaborative efforts, private sector organizations can help create a more inclusive and equitable business environment.

“At Safaricom, we have adopted nine of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) within the procurement department with the most important one being SDG10 which is focusing around reducing inequalities. The private sector has a responsibility to leveraging the buying power and supply chains to ensure gender equality. I believe that women owned businesses are a major contributor to global economic growth,” she said.

Fawzia Kimanthi, Chief Consumer Business Officer at Safaricom

Kimanthi also mentioned that there are two major things that hinder women from participating in these opportunities, including accessing financing, and the fact that women tend to look at what they do as though it is not big enough.

To ensure that women succeed in getting significant procurement opportunities, she outlined five collaborative steps, including defining the available procurement opportunities and letting them know about the existence of such opportunities exists, building capacity for the women to participate through training and mentorships, policy enablement, forming partnership for delivery and tracking the impact.

“Diversity and inclusion is a force that has immense power to transform an organization. I believe that the private sector can leverage its influence, resources and market power to drive gender equality and contribute to gender responsive procurement. We need to put in place an enabling foundation to make sure that women can actually take advantage,” she added.

The State Department for Gender established an intergovernmental frame which now brings all state and non-state actors at national and county level dealing with gender. So we really need to come together to create synergy to see now we can move together to ensure that as a team, we deliver the gender agenda.