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The narrative that the boy-child is in grave danger because he has been neglected is on the rise. Proponents tend to point to loose circumstantial evidence to illustrate this point.
These include ‘more’ resources directed to girls’ interventions, ascribed gender roles such as taking care of cattle and cattle rustling that expose boys and high incidences of school dropouts in certain contexts among others.
This is a gendered argument and for it to be valid, at the minimum, one must demonstrate that girls have obtained notable advantages at the expense of boys.
We, therefore, would expect to see girls doing better than, or equally well as boys across the board. This then translates into noteworthy achievements among women folk as a whole.
To establish this, I have looked at a few indicators that can give us an idea on the level of women’s achievement. I will divide these indicators into two groups; formative and terminal indicators.
Formative indicators comprise of processes like education which tend to open up opportunities. By looking at educational indicators, we can easily compare the boy-child positioning in relation to girls.
I perused The Kenya Economic Survey (KES) 2015 report to get an indicative view of the different gendered data in a few key areas for the year 2014.
Starting with Early Childhood Development Education (ECD) enrolment, KES shows that there were marginally more girls at 51 per cent in ECD compared to boys’ 49 per cent.
For primary school enrolment, class one to eight, slightly more boys were enrolled than girls, 52 per cent male compared to 48 per cent female.
In the same year, 50.3 per cent of KCPE candidates were boys while 49.7 per cent were girls, a good level of parity. But in KCSE, 53 per cent of the candidates were male and 47 per cent female. When it comes to achievement, of those that scored a KCSE mean grade B- (minus) and above, 61 per cent were male and 39 per cent were female. The top group scoring a mean grade of A (plain) comprised 69 per cent male and 21 per cent female.
Still in 2014, approximately 60 per cent of all students enrolled in technical institutions were male while 40 per cent were female. During 2014/15 academic year, male and female overall enrolment in universities was 59 per cent and 41 per cent.
The figures in the three preceding years are similar although marginal gains among female are noted. But none of the figures above suggest better female achievement compared to their male counterparts.
In all critical measures, the girl child remains behind the boy. There is not enough space to address the causes here.
But we can confidently say that the consequences of poor formative indicators are felt in the long run.
For example, women are largely underrepresented in key decision making positions in Kenya’s private and public sectors. There is a reason why all 47 governors are male! Secondly, there are fewer women at professional level compared to their male counterparts.