BWIRE: Review Statistics Act to facilitate data driven policy making at county level

By Victor Bwire

That Kenya still relies on national legal framework on data collection and management while operating a devolved governance structure has denied it the opportunity to use data driven policy and decision making on resource allocation and reporting accurately on her international obligations on sector specific progress on the protection of women and girls.

The Statistics Act 2016, which only recognizes the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNSB) as the custodian of data production in Kenya is not compliant with the country’s devolved governance structure, for it does compel allow county governments to generate official data or non state actors to produce alternative data for planning, monitoring progress and reporting of interventions and their impact using desegregated data.

The Act  largely supports only the use of official data produced by the Government through census (done after 10 years), Kenya Demographic Health Survey (done after five years) and periodic household surveys. It does not recognize data from alternative sources including administrative units in Government, universities, research institutes, non- state actors and citizen generated data, which many times is current and accurate.

This situation does not seem to support the expectations of the Constitution, the County Government Act 2012, the Intergovernmental Relations 2012 and the Public Finance Management Act 2012, which acknowledges the two government structures, and the need to allow devolved data collection and production for planning and resource allocation purposes.

Even with new innovations and developments in the sector, the current data law fails to acknowledge and appreciate the existence and role of alternative data sources including citizen generated data, media and others to support data driven policy especially at the county level.

While existing national databases including- national censuses, Kenya Demographic House Surveys, household surveys are good, counties and other players need to be allowed to conduct thematic or sector based data collection exercises that would enable quick interventions to alleviate problems facing vulnerable groups especially women and girls. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic affected women and girls differently across the counties, and interventions required to mitigate the adverse effects require different data to support the it- however, we have to wait for nationally sanctioned data collection exercise, which might come too late.

“For a long time, the absence of an enabling legal framework in desegregated data collection and management continues to hamper interventions that that cushion women and girls against violation of their to rights”, Sammy Muraya of the Voice for Girls and Women’s Rights.

“We need to update our legal framework to improve or data collection on actual situation facing women and girls in the country by recognizing data generated by other players that would enhance localized quick data driven interventions to stop prolonged suffering to these vulnerable groups” Muraya notes.

While the passing of the data protection law by the country is a great stride towards enhancing Kenya’s commitments towards the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls (GEEWG) as a human right, we need to finalise the data master plan that will ensure it meets the current data demands including for reporting the country’s progress towards achieving the 2/3 gender requirement, SDGS, or Agenda 2030 on sustainable development.

We are in the fifth year of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development since its adoption in 2015, and while Kenya has reported well on the progress made on SGDs, not enough resources ae available to support production of high quality data that accurate indicates what progress has been made in gender equality.

Data is available showing positive linkages between gender equality, women’s empowerment and wellbeing, because to achieve this there is need for accurate and comprehensive gender statistics to enable relevant interventions.

Counties need urgent specific data on early pregnancies, female genital mutilation, early marriages, gender-based violence amongst others to enable quick interventions. We need counties to be encouraged to enact data collection and management legal frameworks while at the same time opening up and allowing the recognition of data generated by other institutions including research, academic and related credible non-state actors as reliable data to helping in national and county planning.

Victor Bwire works at the Media Council of Kenya