Gender and Sports: Historical and Contemporary Perspective of Women in Kenyan Sports
For decades, Kenyans have dominated world athletics, especially in middle and long-distance races. From the middle of the twentieth century, Kenyans were already gaining international recognition on the world stage. However, the dominance of men in sports was clearly apparent. The gender gap at that time was huge with only a handful of women participants. This paper on the exploration of women and sports participation in Kenya is twofold: it examines the genesis of gender disparities in the participation of women in sports in pre-colonial and colonial Kenya and what changes led to a reduction in those discrepancies in the post-colonial period. This paper argues that cultural limitations in different African societies and colonial policies which were highly patriarchal inhibited women’s participation in athletics during the pre-colonial and colonial periods. Nevertheless, from the 1990s, the number of women started to increase significantly in different sporting spheres including athletics. This is attributed to positive change in advocacy, formal education, and inclusivity through government policies that gave women a better platform to excel in sports and athletics in general. The increase in institutions that acted as nurturing areas for sports such as schools’ incorporation of women in the disciplined forces, among others was instrumental in giving them an opportunity and resources to engage in various sporting activities just like their male counterparts. The study was informed by the patriarchal and feminist ideology theories to explain the gender issue in sports. In methodology, the paper uses primary sources of data, mainly oral interviews, focus group discussions, and archival materials, as well as secondary sources to explain the representation of women in Kenyan sports.
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