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It’s a juggling act as more women head households

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Mother with baby in a home office. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

Women in Kenya are increasingly playing a bigger leadership role in households, solidifying a cultural shift in a traditionally patriarchal society.

An estimated 32.4 percent of the 11.41 million of the country’s households are headed by women—a remarkable improvement from the past when males dominated family engagements, latest available data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics(KNBS) showed.

Women head more households in rural areas (36 percent) compared to their counterparts in urban areas at 28.7per cent. This is partly attributable to the fact that many males migrate from rural to urban areas in search of employment opportunities, leaving behind women to take care of households.

Turkana tops the list of counties with the highest number of female-run families. Up to 52.1 per cent of the households (246,000) in the county, which is located in the semi-arid north-western Kenya region.

Women heading households is also a prevalent feature in Kitui(46.4 percent), Migori (46.1 percent), Makueni( 46 percent), Mandera (45.8 percent) and Siaya at 45.7 percent.

Garissa County recorded the lowest proportion of female-headed households at 20.3 percent.

And in what may indicate the burden borne by household heads, data by the KNBS showed that nationally, the average household size was estimated at 4.0 members in 2015/16 , which was a decline from 5.1 members reported in 2005/06.

Families with one to two members accounted for 31.6 per cent of all households. The average household size in rural areas was higher at 4.5 members compared to 3.3 members in urban areas. Wajir, Mandera and Garissa Counties recorded high average household sizes of 6.6,6.4 and 5.5 members, respectively. Smaller household sizes were registered in Nyeri, Nairobi and Mombasa.

In terms of age, an overall 52.4percent of household heads were aged between 25 and 44 years. The highest proportion of 14.7 percent of household heads was in the 30-34 years’ age group.

Nationally, homes headed by persons aged 65 years and above accounted for 11.6 per cent of households. In the rural areas, those aged 30-44 years accounted for 36.7 per cent of household heads compared to 42.3percent in urban areas. The KNBS data further shows that children living with both parents accounted for 58.3 per cent of total children. Overall, 21.2 percent of children were living with the mother only, although the father was alive while those residing with mother and father was deceased were 4.1 percent.