The launch of the First Lady’s Second Strategic Plan 2018-22 invites a reflection on the progress made in efforts to achieve women empowerment.
The wave of success where Kenyan women are working collaboratively in careers, business, chamas and table banking to improve their quality of life and that of their families and communities offers great hope. However, we need to reflect on how far we have come in this journey towards gender parity and chart the course for the future.
According to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, the attainment of gender parity and women’s empowerment is over 200 years away.
Therefore, this opportunity for reflection comes at the right moment in our history. The government has reiterated its commitment to sustaining the journey alongside other Kenyans’ efforts to improve the circumstances of women in ensuring economic, cultural, social and political progress.
Notwithstanding the obvious achievement gaps, the country has advanced the social, economic and political interests of women. Women are arising and shaping their own future and participate fully in society. Acts of courage, persistence and determination by ordinary women playing extraordinary roles are truly a cause for celebration.
We honour and stand on the shoulders of many Kenyan women trailblazers — freedom fighters, MPs, career women, businesswomen, ministers and governors.
In the economic arena, the Women’s Enterprise Fund has to date disbursed Sh10.4 billion, enhancing financial inclusion of more than 1.3 million women. The Uwezo Fund has disbursed Sh5.4 billion to 62,000 groups, reaching 920,000 individual women entrepreneurs.
The Access to Government Procurement Opportunities initiative has provided 45,812 tenders worth Sh50 billion out of which 53 per cent have been awarded to women, compared to 44 per cent to men and three per cent to youth and another three per cent to persons with disability.
Progress has been made on the social aspects of women’s empowerment. The Constitution and progressive enabling legislation have expanded the scope of women’s rights to property, equality, political representation and protection from retrogressive harmful cultural practices.
Joint interventions between the state and non-state agencies have increased civic awareness among women on their rights and existing opportunities for uptake to help improve their economic and social circumstances.
Women’s representation in the National Assembly is at 19.9 per cent, up from 9.9 per cent in 2013. Among governors and senators, it is at 6.4 per cent, up from nil in 2013. Female representation in the county assemblies has improved to 6.6 per cent, from 5.7 per cent in 2013.
The First Lady’s Beyond Zero campaign has registered a significant increase in the number of women accessing the services of a skilled health provider by 61 per cent, resulting in significant decline in maternal mortality. To enhance participation of women in the growth of our economy and make progress on gender and women’s empowerment, renewed efforts are necessary in six areas:
First, we must invest in education, training and capacity development, especially for women in the informal sector to enhance productivity, business innovation and make the growth and expansion of their businesses sustainable. Focus should be on innovative interventions and information sharing, for leadership and decision-making for women and girls. Providing opportunities that keep girls in schools and universities is a major part of the solution.
Second, the commitment to inclusivity and diversity provisions in legislation and government policy is instrumental in advancing equity and equality.
Third, there is need to improve the financing and coverage of programmes that seek to enhance financial inclusion and economic empowerment.
Fourth, my ministry will work collaboratively to implement incentives to enable more women to invest and compete in large enterprises like manufacturing, infrastructure, transport and mining — which are areas of high growth potential but remain unexploited.
Further, the Big Four agenda on manufacturing, housing, health and food security bring new opportunities for women’s economic empowerment.