Gendered perceptions of power and decision-making in rural Kenya

Noora Lisa Aberman*, Julia Behrman, Regina Birner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Development policies and programmes rest on assumptions about what constitutes power and how to change power dynamics. However, they rarely consider local understandings of power. In this article we ask how these common assumptions correspond with socially and culturally specific ideas about what power is, who can hold power, and how power can be transferred, in rural communities in Kenya's lake region. We find that men and women are constantly negotiating for power in the household, within the bounds of their gendered limitations. And the predominant zero-sum conception of power may undermine common development approaches to empowerment. However, the results also highlight some exceptions to this conceptualization, as well as the value of taking a whole-family approach to empowerment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-407
Number of pages19
JournalDevelopment Policy Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • Africa
  • Kenya
  • gender
  • household bargaining
  • power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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