Eradication of poverty in all forms and everywhere is at the forefront of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The Agenda recognizes that poverty is not restricted only to financial means but includes multiple dimensions. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also explicitly recognize that the needs of women, children, and men vary; hence the approach for alleviating poverty among each of the groups should be different. In 2016, SPRI supported the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in making the first step towards monitoring SDG 1.2. attainment by carrying out a ‘Child Poverty Study’ using a multidimensional approach (UNICEF’s Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis – MODA). The study not only set the baseline for measuring the success of the Government’s efforts to achieving SDG 1.2, but also provides ample evidence for necessary sectoral interventions and child-sensitive policymaking and budgeting aimed at poverty eradication.

Among others, the ‘Child Poverty Study’ (2017) of the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) found that: i) There are large inequities in child poverty depending on where the children live with rates ranging between 7% in Nairobi to 85% in Turkana; ii) Deprivation in sanitation, housing, and water are the highest contributors to multidimensional child poverty in Kenya; iii) Child poverty in Kenya is multidimensional as 87% of children under 18 are simultaneously deprived of more than one basic need and service; iv) Child poverty is highly associated with the education level of the mother, area of residence, economic activity of parents, and household size and structure; and v) Even though monetary and multidimensional child poverty in Kenya are correlated, there are large differences in poverty incidence across counties depending on how poverty is measured.

The 2017 ‘Child Poverty Study’ reveals very useful details on multidimensional child poverty in Kenya and points to necessary interventions in the sectors of service provision like education, healthcare, and WASH to tackle it. However, since the analysis was carried out using the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey data (KDHS 2014) – which lacks income/expenditure data – it provides no evidence on the most vulnerable children who are both deprived of basic needs and services and also lack financial means, which is crucial for informing policy design and budgeting at both national and county level. In addition, the literature on poverty in Kenya provides limited evidence on differences in determinants of monetary and multidimensional poverty of children and households.

Existing literature on poverty in Kenya also lacks a comprehensive analysis on gender equality and women’s empowerment necessary for measuring SDG 5 Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls. Even though the KDHS (2014) data contains substantial evidence for such measurements, the available Child – MODA allows only usage of indicators that apply to both girls and boys under 18 years. As such, the KNBS ‘Child Poverty Study’ (2017) sheds light into gender inequalities in education, access to information, and access to health-related knowledge, but does not include other girl-specific indicators which are detrimental to life-time exclusion of girls. Additionally, the analysis is limited to girls under 18.

Kenya ranks fairly low in the Gender Inequality Index of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the 135th out of 188 countries, it has a very high adolescent birth rate (90.9%), and the percentage of women of age 25+ years with at least some secondary education and their labor force participation rate is 10 percentage points lower compared to men (UNDP Gender Inequality Index, 2015). Child marriage, early pregnancy, gender-based violence, lack of control over productive resources, low community participation, lack of decision-making power in accessing family planning services and making major decisions in the household, etc., pose serious hindrance to gender equality and women’s empowerment. The challenges with which girls and women are faced can have important long run consequences. Girls and women represent around half of the Kenyan population. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to also analyze women’s empowerment in Kenya.

Comprehensive knowledge on the overlap between monetary and multidimensional poverty and determinants of the two poverty measures at the child, youth, and women’s level is limited in Kenya. There is limited information also on a comprehensive and contextualized measure of women’s empowerment. Evidence on each of the topics is essential for the design of gender-sensitive policies and programs that have long-term impacts in poverty eradication among children and youth, and in enhancing gender equality. The findings from this research exercise will also be used to measure progress of the Government of Kenya in achieving SDG 1.2 and SDG 5.

The aim of this research is to conduct comprehensive analysis related to children’s vulnerability, deprivation, and poverty, including determinants, relationship with women’s empowerment, and resilience, in order to enhance evidence-based, gender-sensitive policy-making in the area of child poverty reduction. The research exercise aims to examine the following topics: (1) Policy perspectives from measurement of monetary and multidimensional child poverty and their overlap; (2) Differences in determinants of monetary and multidimensional poverty at the child and household level; (3) Dimensions of women’s poverty and empowerment and relationship with children’s health, nutritional, educational, and protection status; (4) Differences in resilience between women and men, implications for children’s well-being, and policy options; (5) Gender inequalities across counties of Kenya.

Findings of the research exercise will be used to advocate for: i. Enhancing equality and equity in realization of children’s rights across the country; and ii. Improving effectiveness of child poverty reduction policies and programs through evidence-based, gender-sensitive design, and coordinated and sustainable governance structures at all levels.

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