Economic Empowerment: Opportunities & Blockers for AGYW in Kenya

How the Gender Norms Data Engine Informs Content Design and Media Campaigns

Greater women’s economic empowerment (WEE) is linked to several development outcomes. It begins with poverty reduction and extends to improved maternal, child, and newborn health, as well as increased educational attainment within households and beyond. However, gender norms often pose significant barriers to WEE by limiting women’s participation in the labor force, controlling their income and savings, and restricting their financial decision-making agency. Addressing these norms using the right channels may create opportunities for advancing WEE outcomes globally. 

Currently, our understanding of how gender norms affect WEE is limited. This is due to the sparsity, infrequency, and lack of comparability of surveys measuring these indicators together. Fraym’s Gender Norms Data Engine addresses this gap using a threefold approach – a) producing indicators that examine how enabling and restrictive gender norms influence behaviors, b) spatially enabling the data to produce hyperlocal estimates tracked on a monthly cadence and c) pairing media consumption insights to identify optimal channels for  campaigns that ultimately impact adolescent girls and young women’s (AGYW’s) WEE outcomes. 

The latest Fraym data on WEE norms, behaviors and outcomes from Kenya reveals spatial variation across the country and shows that supportive gender norms typically overlap with higher savings account ownership among AGYW. Figure 1 maps the AGYW’s perceived degree of support for women having their own savings accounts and Figure 2 maps the prevalence of financial account ownership amongst AGYW. In urban centers like Nairobi, Kiambu, and Kajiado counties, over 30% of AGYW report owning at least one savings account in the presence of supportive norms. On the contrary, in predominantly rural counties in the North and North East, stricter norms correspond with less than 10% of AGYW owning a savings account. 

A closer examination of these insights coupled with media indicators uncovers a robust positive correlation between social media consumption and gender norms. This indicates that media and content are excellent vehicles to shift community thinking and encourage transformative actions like earning income and owning savings accounts (Figure 3). Zooming into specific counties, socio-demographic and other pathway indicators presents a contextually informed route to shifting behaviors using norms-focused interventions.  

Fraym’s Gender Norms Data Engine thus allows for pairing of rich normative insights with actionable data to showcase which norms are shifting, where and which are the most effective media channels for targeted and impactful campaigns. With this in mind, how would the data engine inform designing of interventions in priority communities to improve AGYW’s financial inclusion? 

The data engine’s hyperlocal insights on pathway indicators and media consumption underscore specific opportunities to expand women’s financial inclusion by addressing targeted barriers. For example, in Wajir county − where only 5% AGYW own a bank account given the strict norms environment − 80% unmarried AGYW aspire to be financially independent before marriage but feel constrained by their ability to delay marriage or participate in household decisions. Here, norm-focused interventions tapping into AGYW’s aspirations would need the right levers and messages to expand access to financial independence.   

Leveraging the data engine to identify key influencers and champions of WEE, we now have a campaign that focuses on Teacher and Parent-type figures delivering destigmatizing messages about women’s financial independence and agency in decision making. Broadcasting this campaign utilizing AGYW’s primary media sources—TV soap operas, dramas, and social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook—can improve financial inclusion for nearly 150,000 AGYW in Wajir county and millions across Kenya. 

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