Efforts by various stakeholders to empower women through education, better healthcare especially maternal health and fighting repugnant cultural practices are bearing fruits as the life expectancy of women has increased. An increase in this, is patting backs to the efforts, some of which have led to global recognitions.
The jubilee government for instance since taking office implemented its manifesto pledge of making giving births from hospital free of charge. One year after the implementation of the directive, Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia noted that maternal mortality had dropped alongside child deaths. He further revealed that this was because more mothers accessed health facilities to deliver their babies.
Life expectancy of women is directly linked to maternal health because the bear children responsibility they have has some challenges, depending on the location, poverty level and infrastructure to determine whether they can afford to pay for a hospital or the location of the health center is far away to compel them to deliver at home, exposing them and their children to various risks.
According to the 2015 world population data sheet, the life expectancy for women is 65 years, an increase from 64 in 2014. However, that of men remained constant for the two years at 60 years. At an average age of 62 years, it is a 19 percent increase from 52 years in 1970.
The data, with a focus on women empowerment, further reveals a lowering of deaths by women occasioned by various diseases. As at 1990, maternal deaths per 100,000 births was 490 while in 2013 the number reduced to 400.
However, these numbers are still below the targets hence much has to be done to ensure much lesser mothers die during child birth. The National Health Policy targeted to have 170 deaths per 100, 000 by 2012, while the MDG targets was 147 deaths per 100, 000 by this year. Vision 2030!!
Prof. Alfred Agwanda from the Population Studies and Research Institute of the University of Nairobi argues that some women do not prefer to be attended to by men medical staff while others believe that the placenta has to be buried at home hence they prefer to give births at the home, making it harder to reduce the deaths.
Total fertility rate however reduced to 3.9 percent. The 2014 report had 4.3 percent, in comparison to 1970 when it was 8.1
According to the Population Reference Bureau fertility is affected by cultural, social, economic, and health factors. Most of these factors operate through four other factors: proportion of women in sexual unions, percentage of women using contraception, proportion of women who are not currently fecund (primarily because of breastfeeding) and level of induced abortion.
Therefore the knowledge about these four factors shed light into the potential changes in fertility and helps to understand past change. The proportion of women who are in union is affected by other demographic factors including the age at first marriage or union; the pervasiveness of marriage and other unions; rates of divorce, separation, and remarriage; and male mortality levels.
The 2015 data sheet report puts the percentage of women of between 15 and 49 years who use all methods of contraceptives at 58 percent while modern methods is at 53 percent.
The data further reveals that the female share of nonagricultural wage earners stands at 36 percent, indicating that at least a third of women in Kenya work in the white color sector. However, the female share of Parliamentarians is 21 percent but expected to rise due to the Constitutional imperative of not more than two thirds of elective positions should be held by one gender.
Health being a devolved government function, it is hoped that counties will invest more in building the infrastructure necessary to support safer child births to further promote child and maternal health. Infrastructure development like roads and good facilities in hospitals are the core of providing a reliable support system for women.
Perhaps efforts like Beyond Zero Campaign, which saw the First Lady of Kenya Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta named UN in Kenya Person of the Year 2014 for her work in maternal and child health, offer further support to increase the life expectancy of women.