Women and e-media in participatory local governance in Kenya

by Admin on 12 November 2009

This project component is grounded in Kenya and led by Professor Winnie V. Mitullah, University of Nairobi, Institute for Development Studies (Kenya).

The project, envisioned as significant contribution to research capacity building in the field of ICT4D and e-participation in Kenya, will focus on Women and e-Media in participatory governance. The project draws on Professor Mitullah’s previous work on ICT and participatory governance among local authorities in Kenya, which revealed that among the attributes of good governance investigated -participation, accountability, responsiveness, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in relation to ICT- citizen participation registered poor results. It is therefore necessary to investigate how media, in particular ICT, can enhance citizen participation.

Women are more affected by services provided by local authorities since they take care of children, households and the needy, including the sick. This makes them interact with services such as water and sanitation, education, and health more than their male counterparts do. Although this knowledge is available, the media and engagement platforms used are not conducive to women’s consumption and participation. Communication at the local level often takes place through word of mouth, which women cannot access unless they visit public places or meet friends and relatives. Their multiple roles and the nature of their engagement limit the public forums they can attend and the number of friends and relatives they are likely to meet. In any case, information is often time bound and should not be left to chance. Further, most media channels used for information and communication are often either inaccessible or inappropriate for women. A case in point is the print media, which is elitist, costly and written in languages that most women do not understand.

The project will move from the assumption that development strategies and initiatives must involve women through effective information and communication channels if the Millennium Development Goals, in particular Goal 3 on promoting gender equality and empowering women, are to be achieved. Women play a crucial role in local development, but remain poorly involved in planning, decision making and related development processes. Given the communication challenges that women are facing, the project will further work on the assumption that e-media through ICT may bear hope for them.

In recent years, the use of ICT has begun making a difference to women. A significant percentage of them own cell phones, while others use cell phones of friends and relatives to communicate and get information. Short Messages (SMS) provision in cell phones and the Internet has become a major asset to citizens, including women. Some use the youth to send and access information from the Internet, especially from their children and relatives across the globe.

A study conducted in Kenya has noted that if local authorities can relay information electronically, in particular through cell phones, residents, in particular women, who have multiple roles, would save time used in going to look for information (Mitullah and Waema, 2007). However, the effect of the revolutionary e-media on women is not well researched at the local level. The project will investigate the role of e-media in enhancing women’s access to information and local participation in economic development and related service delivery.

Specific objectives will be: socio-economic determinants of use of e-media; types of e-media accessed and support services available; nature of information and engagement through e-media and challenges of using e-media in participatory governance.


The project will largely rely on secondary and primary information and will have three phases. The first phase will be dedicated to literature review, including providing a policy context for the three studies in Kenya, contact setting and a scoping study focusing on identification of different civil society and government e-media programmes engaging women in service provision within respective local authorities. The information gathered during the scoping exercise will assist in locating the area and population to be studied, and constructing a sample frame for sampling women to be interviewed using both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. The second phase will focus on fieldwork and data analysis, while the third phase will focus on report writing and dissemination of research findings.

For expected outputs and time frame, see MEDIeA’s project description.