International Development Research & Learning

ActionAid Ireland is committed to building on  international development research and best practices. We have ongoing relationships with Dublin City University (DCU) and the Centre for Behaviour Change in University College London..

ActionAid Ireland is collaborating with Dr Niamh Gaynor, Associate Professor in DCU’s School of Law and Government, who was one of nine DCU academics awarded grants in the Irish Research Councils, New Foundations scheme in May 2020. Dr Gaynor’s work will involve exploring the potential for political activism among women’s groups and networks in North-East and South-East Kenya. Read more.

We also recently published a Behaviour Change Manual in collaboration with University College London, following the successful implementation of their Behaviour Change approach in a development context for the first time. Read more.

Engendering local governance: Exploring the potential for political activism among women’s groups and networks in North-East and South-East Kenya

Dr Niamh Gaynor’s research will involve exploring the potential for political activism among women’s groups and networks in North-East and South-East Kenya.  Dr Gaynor will collaborate with ActionAid through our Irish Aid, Department of Foreign Affairs funded, Womens Rights Programme in Kenya.  Her research is funded by the Irish Research Council.

Photo: Dr Niamh Gaynor carrying focus group research on local governance  with a women’s group in 2014 in Matadi, Bas Congo province, DRC.  Photo taken by: Christine Mansiantima.

Background

Much work has been done on mechanisms to increase the number of women in formal politics. Yet, both research and experience show that women’s presence in political office does not necessarily translate into the pursuit of policies of gender equality. This is because quotas can be politicised and employed to strengthen ruling party powers through the strategic recruitment of women who are unwilling or unable to question and challenge authoritarian leadership. It is also because women may lack experience of public debate and office. Lacking the skills and capacity to recognise and articulate interests, build alliances, broker differences and learn modes of cooperation and consensus-building to advance common projects, they may prove ineffective legislators who can be easily manipulated.

In Kenya, although the 2010 Constitution introduced a two-third gender quota at national and local levels, women still face significant challenges as party power; campaign finance mechanisms; gendered attitudes about women’s leadership; and the pervasiveness of (often gendered) violence in elections persists. In short, women’s presence alone is insufficient to ensure gains in gender equality. Spaces are needed where women can build alliances and develop their political skills and capacity.

Research aims

This research looks to community-based groups and networks as sites for such political apprenticeship. Specifically, in the context of ActionAid’s work in Garissa and Kishushe in Kenya, it aims at exploring the potential of women’s groups and networks to help build alliances and develop political skills and capacity to engage in and with a range of local governance institutions at village, ward and county levels.

Want to learn more?

If you want to find out more about this interesting piece of research, contact Niamh at niamh.gaynor@dcu.ie

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