A decade ago, every Kenyan man had a woman to himself, but kwa ground, things are different in 2019
By Camy Akinyi-Gecaga
We are not yet 50 million people as we thought, after all. This year’s preliminary Census results reveals that Kenya has about 47 million mouths to feed, having grown at a rate of nine million people in a decade.
The population figures are kidogo, somehow. It shows Kenyan women gave birth to less than one million brats annually. Little wonder some quarters are crying foul, mostly politicians, due to that not so small matter of revenue allocation depending on how many stomachs are in their political strongholds.
But that slow population growth rate-which is bound to continue growing slower in coming decades- can be credited to among others; rapid uptake of contraceptives, high cost of living… and one man- retired President Mwai Kibaki.
See, among the more effective ways of reducing the population few can hold a candle to education. President Kibaki introduced free primary education in 2003 as part of the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations. That meant more girls went to school instead of being waylaid by randy boys in the villagers, slums and city estates.
The boys, and their raging hormones, were kept busy in school as well.
Rising literacy levels increases awareness, changes attitudes and better practices in relation to their bodies including the importance of abstinence even when the craving strikes. Education creates aspiration for a better future and with it, delayed gratification. Better educated women are economically empowered and tend to delay motherhood while pursuing better careers through ‘chasing papers.’
Slow population growth rate could be felt now, but it all started 16 years ago as even the minimally educated understand family planning and its implications, especially if the education targets the girl-child.
Poverty, in turn, increases the likelihood of having many children
Listen to experts from the Earth Policy Institute in 2011: “Fertility rates tend to be highest in the world’s least developed countries. When mortality rates decline quickly but fertility rates fail to follow, countries can find it harder to reduce poverty…which in turn, increases the likelihood of having many children, trapping families and countries in a vicious cycle. Conversely, countries that quickly slow population growth can receive a ‘demographic bonus;” the economic and social rewards that come from a smaller number of young dependents relative to the number of working adults.”
The Earth Policy Institute also notes that educated women are healthier and raise healthier children, who then also stay in school longer. They earn more money with which to support their families, and contribute more to their communities’ economic growth.
Education thus goes a long way in reducing early pregnancies since “Countries in which more children are enrolled in school—even at the primary level—tend to have strikingly lower fertility rates” and which partly explains the subdued population census figures recently released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
The slow growth rate will continue considering that Kenyan pupils will be transitioning from primary to secondary schools irrespective of their grades. Previously, there were many dropouts-as many as over 500, 000 after primary school results. But with seamless entry and a free secondary education which started in 2008, will increase access, retention besides reducing disparities through education and with it, a further reduction in Kenya’s population growth rate come the next census in 2029.
Something else that was of interest in this year’s Census is the ratio of men to women.
In the 2009 Census, the ratio was almost 1:1 meaning every Kenyan man had a woman to himself, but kwa ground things are different in 2019. The Census revealed that there were more women than men with figures standing at 254 million men against 23.6 million women.
In other words, there are 600, 000 extra women. This means an increase in the number of women brawling over the few men with parental hair on their chests. It also means Kenyan men have a wider pool to source for a mpango wa kando, which in turn, will nose north single parent households besides married women having to snoop more for evidence their husbands adhere to the tenets of monogamy.
Families have more girls due to that not so small matter of chromosomes
In that respect, men in Kenya are thus a scarce natural, breathing commodity!
To remedy the state of affairs, it will mean more Kenyan women will take to online dating, searching for men in West Africa, multiracial dating from around the globe besides sharing the few loaded, married men.
It will not be uncommon for a long-suffering wife to receive a a call from a brave mpango informing her that she just delivered her husband’s second son “and could you please come visit me at the maternity with Ribena since we have to discuss those plots our common husband owns in Kamulu!”
Just what has happened in 10 years?
Well, surveyed closely, more families have more girls due to that not so small matter of chromosomes. That is if you can remember those double afternoon biology lessons which followed a heavy lunch of ugali madondo in most public high schools.
The XY chromosomes are gene carriers for boys while XX are for girls. They all rush to fertilize a female egg. The Y chromosomes are slower off the blocks towards the tape that is the egg. The X chromosomes are faster and in the majority. That means there will always be more women in any society, not just in Kenya.
Biology aside, the other speculative reasons are that, on average, men are more likely to commit suicide than women in Kenya. The World Health Organisation (WHO) notes that between 2008 and 2017 the number of suicides reported cases in Kenya rose by 58 per cent and out of the 421 suicide cases in 2017, 330 involved men compared to 91 women.
Worse still, more men die early and young compared to women: If you come across a hit and run scenario along a major highway, the heap lying on the tarmac is likely to be a man, minus the left shoe. A man is more likely to be a victim of a shooting by cops than a woman.
Then there are more men wasted by alcoholism and drugs than women in most parts of Kenya due to women having more social support systems including extended family, tougher laws, chamas and the church.
Women in Nairobi give birth to the least number of children
The 2019 Census also revealed that women from Northern parts of Kenya are the most fertile. Areas around Mandera have household sizes averaging seven persons per family. That is five children per woman followed by Wajir with six, Garissa, marsabit and Turkana with five persons per household.
Women in Nairobi give birth to the least number of children at one maximum on average per household. Women from Central are next and we’re here talking about Nyeri, Kirinyaga and Kiambu with three persons per household while Murang’a nd Embu stand at two kids, the lowest in the country. The national average of persons per household is four, meaning discounting both parents, most families have an average of two children.
The 2019 Census concur with research, ‘Explaining the High Fertility Rates of Women in Northern Region of Kenya,’ at the University of Nairobi carried out by Susan Wanjiku Mungai in 2013.
Wanjiku factored in social economic and cultural factors including wealth index, literacy levels and type of residence besides demographics and religion.
Proximate factors included marital status, use of contraceptives, infant mortality and desired fertility.
Her findings were that women in Northern Kenyan gave birth to more children because “majority of the women live in the rural areas, had no formal education, were poor and only three percent have ever used a form of modern contraception.”
She continued: “Fertility is significantly associated with education, marital status, child mortality and desire for more children. From the findings, education seems to be the most significant factor that is causing high fertility in North Eastern Kenya.”
Notes Wanjiku: “Women with low level of education were found to be more likely to have more children than women who had secondary and higher education.”
This explains why, whereas women in other parts of Kenya reduced their trips to the screaming room that is the maternity ward, those from the north are still at it!