What is a “census”?
Kenya has its census every 10 years. As such, 2019 will have Kenya’s first census under the 2010 Constitution, this month, from the 24th to the 31st. A census is the process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analyzing, and publishing demographic, social and/or economic data, pertaining, at a specified time, to all persons in the country. The Housing and Population Census aims to determine the current population of Kenya as accurately as possible along with the nation’s ethnic composition, living conditions and access to basic services or needs, and merge the data to inform future resource allocations and policy decisions.
This year’s census will be interesting considering the constantly rising millionth-worth mark of people in the nation with 21.4 million noted in 1989 to 28.7 million in 1999 and the even break in 2009 at 38.6 million. Will the jump be as distinct this year?
How It Works and What to Expect
In the past, personal data from each household were written down. However, with costs of about 18.5 billion Kenyan Shillings, the 2019 census will be using technology for the first time to ensure survey conduction is at global standards. Data will be captured through a tablet computer hence making the process not only paperless but faster. It will also be easier to secure and analyze the data.
To those concerned about the security of their personal details- as many no doubt were with the Huduma Numba project- it is said that “all information collected is strictly for use by census officials” and that the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) guaranteed the protection of personal details. All census officials would swear “an Oath of Secrecy” as embodied in the Statistics Act of 2006 where the oath forbids officials from divulging collected information to unauthorized persons.
With the Bureau targeting international thresholds in census conduction, they are acting according to international guidelines advocating the values of professionalism, bureaucratic transparency, accountability, and integrity as needed of statistical systems. General Director Mr. Zachary Mwangi informed in a media briefing last month that the Bureau had been working to ensure preparations for the census were complete and ready by agreed timelines while being capable of meeting global standards. At least 170,000 enumerators, 2,700 ICT supervisors, and 27,000 content monitoring supervisors have been recruited, and trained, to work during this census.
Thus: Please Note!
People will be counted with reference to where they spent the night of 24th and this will be known as “the Reference Night”. Those not enumerated by 31st should report to the local administrative office. However, confirm that you have not been counted by family members while you were absent. Take note that Kenyans in the diaspora will not be counted. Household members will instead be asked about members of their household who migrated to other countries in the last 15 years.
After enumeration, the officials will write a number on the door, or any visible place, on the structure to indicate that counting has been conducted in the household. Please do not erase the number, and in the case your household isn’t contacted by the 31st, a toll-free number will be provided to contact KNBS so an enumerator is sent your household. Anyone who will be present in your household on the night of 24th-25th will be counted together with your household.
Kenya’s Third Gender: “Intersex”
Another change besides the use of technology in the upcoming census is KNBS adding a third gender for Kenyans to choose if they identify themselves as Intersex. The Intersex Society of North America defines intersex as “a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types—for example, a girl may be born with a noticeably large clitoris, or lacking a vaginal opening, or a boy may be born with a notably small penis, or with a scrotum that is divided so that it has formed more like labia. Or a person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of her cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY.”
In the past, intersex people were referred to as hermaphrodites, but the term is not looked upon positively and is thus rarely used. Further elaboration is mentioned explaining that many never realize they are intersex throughout their lives. Some realize when experiencing puberty, and hormonal triggers show unexpected changes in an individual, while others they discover due to infertility as an adult, or after death by means of autopsy.
When it comes to labeling a person as “an intersex”, the means vary between doctors. Some may base it on atypical brain development while others stress that a certain criteria of atypical genitalia is pivotal to being labeled as an intersex. Whatever the definition- in general- an intersex person is someone who- whether it is hormonal or genitalia based- do not conform to the sexual identification as exclusively male or female both genetically and sexually.
This opportunity and public acknowledgement is therefore an event to be excited about for many. It is thought that more than 700,000 Kenyans out of the general 49 million are intersex and it aligns with UN’s estimate that about 0.05-1.7% of the world population has intersex traits. However, they have no health, legal, or social recognition as a distinct, respectable, sexual identity.
Kenya Breaking Ground in Africa
As of this moment, Kenya is the first African country to collect data on the intersex through the census and it stands as a major victory for rights activists. The founder of the Intersex Persons Society of Kenya, Ryan Muiruri, said that, “Getting information about intersex people in the census will help people understand the challenges we go through”. The task force had been set-up by the government in 2017 to collect data on the number of intersex individuals in Kenya as to protect their interests and identify the necessary reforms needed to respect and protect their rights. This is a very important development as many intersex face violence and discrimination for not conforming to the mainstream, black-and-white, mentality about sexual identity.
Calling for Action
It is expected that preliminary results of the census will be released three months after the end of the exercise with basic reports released within six months. The detailed analytical reports will therefore come out within a year. With the advocacy of protecting the rights of the intersex, it will affect everything from the Constitution’s stipulations of sexual identity, medical and health coverage, training, and care provision, the educational curriculum, and processing of identification documents as the new third gender’s “I” now graces the list of options.
As we prepare for the census, let us all read more about Kenya’s intersex minority groups and support their on-going lobby for changes and increased sensitivity to their challenging health and social situations.
By: Ann Yebei