Since gaining independence from Britain in 1963, the Kenyan government has encouraged self-help activity, known as "harambee" which is aimed at supplementing government efforts in the provision of social services. The term harambee conjures positive images of community spirit and people pooling together for a common cause. Indeed, the term is synonymous to community development. The United Nations Report on Community Development and Economic Development defines community development as the process by which the efforts of the people themselves are combined with those of government authorities to improve the economic, social and cultural conditions of communities, to integrate these communities into the life of the nation, and to enable them to contribute fully to national progress. Many development projects including water and power supply, schools, health centers and others in Kenya and other developing countries ahve typically been based, at least partly, on the concept of self-help.

In the last two decades, however, 'self-help for development' has been replaced by 'self-help for suvival.' Poor governance coupled with the implementation of World Bank and International Monetary Fund sponsored Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) has resulted in the cut of government funding for many basic social services programs which has necessitated communities to devise means of providing themselves with these services. The harambee concept, originally meant as a strategy for supplementing government altogether in social services provision and economic development. This essay explores the impact that SAPs have on women in Kenya as they 'pool together' and attempt to fill the gaps left by the government.


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