Dynamics of Female-Headed Households in Kigane, Meru County, 1963-2010
Mbijiwe, Dorcas K.
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Despite the prevalence of female-headed households increasing in Kenya today, few studies have been done to document such prevalence and the contributing factors to the same. The purpose of this study was to investigate the dynamics of female-headed households from 1963 to 2010 in Kigane location, Meru County. The study was guided by the following specific objectives: to interrogate the importance of marriage and family among the Meru before 1963, to assess the colonial policies and the emergence of female-headed households in Kigane location. Finally, the study investigated the socio-economic and political factors that led to emergence and prevalence of female-headed households in Kigane Location from 1963 to 2010. This study was guided by the rational choice theory and gender theory. Descriptive survey research design was used for the study. The population for the study was the population of Kigane Location. The target population were male and female household heads, married women and the relevant government officials (Chief and assistant chiefs) who were the key informants in the location of the study. Purposive sampling technique was used to sample the female-headed households and government officials while simple random sampling technique was used to sample male-headed households and married women. Questionnaires, interview schedules and focus group discussions were used to collect data for the study. A total of 123 respondents were targeted by the study out of which 114 responded giving a response rate of 93%. Data was analysed thematically and a narrative done using historical method. It was observed that prior to colonialism, femaleheaded households was not a common phenomenon. With colonialism which created male labour migration women began taking up and heading households. The policies passed during the Kenyatta, Moi and Kib~i regimes influenced women by giving them rights to own land and inherit property, women could have a percentage in holding public offices, accesses to resources in the same capacity as men, women were empowered to become financially stable, women got awareness of their right and equal education opportunities to all. On the social-economic factors leading to the prevalence of female-headed households factors such as education, religion and advocacy institutions were mentioned. Economic factors such as employment, access to land and property and economic hardship were found to lead to the emergence of female-headed households. The study concluded that the policies implemented by the three different regimes empowered women and that the sociopolitical and economic factors led to the emergence of female-headed households in Kigane location. The study recommended that the women representation should be increased both at county and national levels and that the state should ensure gender balance and fare representation of women in all constitutional and developmental bodies, many educated women should come down from the urban and big cities to the rural areas where the majority are still illiterate, unsensitized and poor. This will bridge the gap and help grassroot women organise themselves. The study further recommended that gender equality should be realized through partemership of both men and women, that the leaders should accept positive charge of attitudes and a new way of doing things, that all women should unite and finally that the church roles should be frexible so that they can fully articulate the feminine nature, role and the contribution of women.