Year after year, reports tell of a wide gap between the wages earned by men and those earned by women. In fact, it could take 118 years for men and women to earn equal pay for the same amount of work in Kenya, according to one study. 

While Kenya’s Constitution states that every worker has the right to fair pay, the Global Gender Report produced by U.S. Aid for International Development shows the country lags behind, ranking 63 out of 144 states. 

One group has decided to go to the mat to raise their miserly rates of pay. That group is the 25,000-member Kenya National Union of Nurses. They’ve been on strike for almost two months and their work at government hospitals has ground to a halt. 

The group’s acting secretary-general, Maurice Opetu, says that the striking medical workers will only resume work after the collective bargaining agreement—negotiated and agreed to in March—is signed and deposited in court. 

The agreement provided for monthly allowances totaling Sh25,400 ($244) each. The sum includes Sh15,400 ($148) health risk allowance, Sh5,000 ($48) extraneous allowance and Sh5,000 ($48) responsibility allowance. A Sh50,000 ($481) uniform allowance would be paid once annually. 

But the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, which must approve the salary demands, has now rejected the agreement, and local governors say they will not approve any pay increase because of the large sum of money involved. 

Council of Governors Health Committee Chair Jack Ranguma says the county bosses are already feeling the pinch of the raises approved to end a 100-day-long doctors’ strike in March 2017. 

“Wages sought by the nurses are far too much,” said the governor of Kisumu. “We have other bills to take care of, not nurses and doctors alone.” 

Since the introduction of free maternity services in public hospitals in June 2013, nurses in the maternity ward who attended 350 mothers a month now serve 470. 

According to the Kenya Healthcare Workforce Report, the current ratio of practicing nurses to the population is 8.3 per 10,000, compared with the World Health Organization recommendation of 25 nurses per 10,000.