Gendered Impact of COVID-19: A Policy Analysis on the Women Workers in the Urban Informal Economy in Kenya
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In 2019, the informal sector in Kenya provided a livelihood to approximately 15 million people. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 resulted in socio-economic shocks that primarily affected the informal workforce and informal enterprises, up to 88 percent of which are owned by women, according to the International Labour Organization. Demand for informal enterprisegenerated goods and services decreased. The pandemic left most informal women workers in Kenya with reduced orno income and an increased care burden. It also has exacerbated their vulnerability to gender-based violence and contributed to diminished disposable incomes necessary to enhance women’s access to health services or to meet their basic needs at home. The experience for women in Kenya mirrored that of many women globally, where the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated already existing gender inequalities. Evidence shows that women were also disproportionately more affected by the pandemic than men. Their engagement in unpaid care work increased significantly, and their time spent in paid worked decreased, scenarios that persist today. With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the International Development Research Centre, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) leads REBUILD, a project that aims to understand how Kenya’s social and economic policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic affected women who work in the country’s informal economy. This report provides an analysis of the scope and nature of policies, strategies, implementation challenges and mitigation methods used by the state, private sector, and civil society, and demonstrates how they affected female workers informal urban economy in Kenya. For the report, we conducted an analytical review of policies, institutional reports, newspaper articles, as well as a literature scan of journal papers, policy reports, and institutional reports published between March 2020 and April 2021. What follows is a summary of our findings and recommendations.