Health problems experienced by working women in industrial occupations: a study of selected industries in Nairobi, Kenya
Nzioka, Simon Muteti
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This study was carried out to examine the nature of health problems experienced by women working in industrial occupations and to identify factors that contribute to those health conditions. The basic theoretical perspective was that different industrial firms and prevailing management practices influence work conditions and environment leading to various health conditions. The study was based on the observation that women are increasingly seeking employment in the industrial sector, which is characterized by many cases of health problems. Indeed, over the past three years (1996-1999) the number of women engage in wage employment in the industrial sector in Kenya rose from 12.8% in 1996 to 16.3% in 1997 and to 20.2% in 1998 (Kenya Economic Survey, 1999). While previous studies have reported various health problems in the industrial sector, little attention has been given to the factors that influence the health problems experienced by the women workforce. The study concentrated mainly on textile, pharmaceutical and food processing industries purposely selected on the basis of their increasing representation on women employment. The aim of the study was to identify health problems that women have experienced while performing their duties and the factors that have influenced experienced health problems. The study was carried out with a sample of 100 women workers employed in the three selected industries. The data were collected using mainly survey method while supplementary data were obtained from documented cases and direct observation within the selected industries. Data obtained were analyzed using both the quantitative and qualitative methods, which facilitated assessment of the factors that influence the health conditions of women working in the industrial occupations. The findings of the study showed that working conditions and factors within the work environment largely influence the health conditions of the women employees. It was observed that the age of women employed in the industrial occupations ranged between 23 and 51 years, majority had secondary education, their average salary was Kshs. 7,768.50, and 76% of the women workers had dependants. It was also observed that women working in the industrial occupations experience various health problems, which include stress, headache, chest pains, back pains, throat infections and injuries. It was further observed that working conditions and environment influence the experienced health problems. In addition, it was observed that policy initiatives and management practices were not adequate for the improvement of health conditions of the women employees. The textile industry was found to be characterized by high incidences of the health problems and strenuous working conditions as compared to pharmaceutical and food processing industries. The study concluded that the existing industrial policies have not been effectively enforced and particularly in the textile industry. Additional industrial policies and regulations are required in order to alleviate the health problems experienced by women working in the industrial sector. There is need for practical adoption and strict enforcement of policies and management that encourage fair working conditions and hazard-free work environments.