Effects of social-cultural factors on Somali women economic empowerment in Garissa county, Kenya
Tube, Asha R
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The economic empowerment of women is a prerequisite for sustainable development, pro-poor growth and the achievement of all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Gender equality and empowered women are catalysts for multiplying development efforts. Women's economic participation and empowerment are fundamental to strengthening women's rights and enabling women to have control over their lives and exert influence in society. It is about creating just and equitable societies. In the Somali community, women often face discrimination and persistent gender inequalities, with some women experiencing multiple discrimination and exclusion in economic empowerment because of various social cultural factors. The purpose of this study is to establish the social cultural factors that affect women economic empowerment among Somali women in Garissa County. Five research questions were formulated to guide the study. Research question one sought to determine how early marriages affect economic empowerment of Somali women in Garissa County; research question two aimed at assessing how gender roles affect the economic empowerment of Somali women in Garissa County; research question three sought to establish how gender stereotyping affect the economic empowerment of Somali women in Garissa County; research question four aimed at assessing how family responsibilities affect the economic empowerment of Somali women in Garissa County while research question five sought to establish how community perceptions towards women affect the economic empowerment of Somali women in Garissa County. The study employed descriptive survey design. The target population for this study was all members of 50 women from 5 women groups that are being funded by NGOs in Garissa County. The target population also included 5 members of the executive among the 5 NGOs working for women empowerment programmes. The sample comprised of 75 women leaders among the women's group and 20 NGO officials among the NGOs. Data were collected by use of questionnaires and focus group discussions. Findings reveated that early marriages affected women economic empowerment. For example, it was revealed that the community practiced early marriages which hindered girls from accessing education and therefore diminished women participation in economic activities. It was also revealed that girls were married off at a tender age and if that practice was stopped, many Somali women could be empowered. The study also revealed that gender roles affected women economic empowerment. For example, women were pressured to stay at home, look after children and care for the husband and family which limited women from economic development as women had to cope with taking care of their families. The study also revealed that gender stereotyping affected women. economic empowerment. The study further showed that family responsibilities affected women economic empowerment. For example, women roles in the family, such as child bearing hindered their economic empowerment. The community believed in women staying at home while the Somali customs do not recognize women economic empowerment. The Somali community valued women who stayed at home to look after children. The study concluded that women should be socially empowered to change their attitude towards themselves and hence take up economic activities. It was also recommended that there is need for men to share gender responsibility so as to give women a chance to participate in economic activities. There is also need to have capacity building for women so that they can overcome the different challenges they face in order to take up economic activities. The study suggested that a study on the influence of government policy on gender empowerment and its effect on women participation in economic activities should be conducted. It was also suggested that since the study was taken in one administrative division, there is need to carry out a similar study in another area to compare the findings.