Skip to main content
January 21, 2019

Katja Iversen: Investing in women pays

Katja Iversen, the Women Deliver CEO,  during the launch of Deliver for Good Kenya Campaign in Nairobi..
Katja Iversen, the Women Deliver CEO, during the launch of Deliver for Good Kenya Campaign in Nairobi..

November 28, 2018, was meant to be a big day for Kenya. For the second time, MPs would try and pass a major gender law to improve the representation of women in Parliament.

A similar attempt to raise the numbers to the constitutional 30 per cent minimum in 2015 fell flat.

But there was overwhelming goodwill on this day. The HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Ulla Tornaes and Women Deliver President Katja Iversen were in town.

By mere coincidence, the Danish delegation was actually here for the launch of Deliver for Good Kenya Campaign, a new initiative to advocate for girls, women, and gender equality.

The vote in parliament fell through. MPs could not must the required numbers to pass the bill, known as two-thirds gender bill.

Women still account for only 19 per cent of MPs in Parliament.

“It is such a shame this did not pass. But hopefully it will have a chance in future,” minister Ulla told the Star.

Observers felt the failure to pass such a progressive Bill points to a lack of appreciation of the contribution of women to the economy.

“I support women to be in leadership, but we must get women of substance and people who will add value in our society,” said Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, who had mobilised colleagues to reject the bill.

On the bright side, about 20 local civil society groups launched the Deliver for Good Kenya Campaign in a colourful ceremony that Wednesday morning in Nairobi.

The campaign applies a gender lens to the sustainable development goals and promotes critical investments – political, financial, and programmatic – in girls and women.

“If we don’t know how many women are there and there contributions to the economy we can't do good policies. We don’t do policies from crystal balls but we do policies from evidence,” Katja told the Star in an exclusive interview.

The campaign recognises women do not play on a level ground with men.

Their contribution to the family and society is not valued as most of their work is considered as household work which they are "obliged” to perform.

Statistical agencies and government bodies have also significantly undervalued women's contribution to the economy, according to researchers.

“If we look at the data, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics also says it’s becoming important to put gender lens in data,” Katja said.

The Deliver for Good Campaign, initially launched at the global level during the Women Deliver Conference in 2016, has now brought on board more than 400 organisations globally to build a movement to catalyse action for girls and women.

Last month, Kenya became the first focus country for dedicated advocacy and communication efforts.

Teresa Omondi-Adeitan, Executive Director of FIDA Kenya, the lead-coordinating partner for the campaign in Kenya, said they have identified four priorities for collective action.

These are women's land rights, access to financing and economic empowerment, sexual and reproductive health, and women's political participation, which includes the enforcement of the two-thirds Gender law.

“While women comprise half of Kenya’s population, they own less than two per cent of the land and account for 19 per cent of the MPs and 27 per cent of the Senators. Despite the number of women involved in business, most women-owned businesses have difficulty accessing loans,” Teresa said.

HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Ulla Tornaes in northern Kenya.

Across the world, the level of remuneration determines the value of any work. As such, work done without compensation is largely considered non-valuable.

Most of this uncompensated work involves domestic chores and subsistence farm work, which is largely done by women in Kenya.

Therefore, the work done by women is largely considered non-work having no or little value.

And the under-valuation of women's work is a global phenomenon. Based on several research and surveys, women produce 60 to 80 per cent of basic foodstuffs in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 76 per cent of women in Kenya are employed in agriculture and they don’t get paid for the work they do there.

Katja says today it’s difficult for women to get capital for business just because they are women and that’s not fair.

“No single country that has gender equality. Some places are getting better, but when we see Rwanda, 64 per cent of parliamentarians are women, education and health are improving, that’s a deliberate choice to prioritises women and equality,” she said.

Katja was born in Denmark 49 years ago and has, for most of her life, been fighting for women and girls to be given the same opportunities as men.

Early this month, readers of Berlingske, the oldest Danish newspaper and among the oldest in the world, named her the Dane of the Year 2018.

She says there is enough evidence that giving women equal opportunities in the economy boosts the global economy.

This evidence comes from the consulting firm, McKinsey Global Institute, whose analyses show that if women get access to the same opportunities as men, it would increase the global GDP by 25 per cent.

“If we really see, it’s a choice. We now have evidence from McKinsey showing economic benefit of having gender equal world, the ability to have the same opportunities to get to school, education, health services, no gender-based violence, better representation,” she says.

Katja says the situation is improving, but data is lagging behind. “If we get the data desegregated we will make proper policies,” she told the Star.

Katja says Deliver for Good will galvanise action globally.

“How can we treat girls and women better and how we can invest in them better, can I show my girl that women can also be leaders? Let’s give people same opportunities whether they are girls or boys,” she adds.

Katja Iversen, Women Deliver CEO, and Teresa Omondi, the executive director of FIDA, during the launch of Deliver for Good Kenya Campaign in Nairobi.

Kenya has many progressive policies for women. Currently, the government promises at least 30 per cent of its budget for women, youth, and people living with disabilities. The constitution says each gender must have a minimum 30 per cent of seats in Parliament and the Senate.

But many of these progress policies were never enforced.

“This initiative (Deliver for Good Kenya Campaign) is home-owned and home-grown but the next steps would be to expand circle of partners, and work together to elevate the issue and achieve good,” Katja says.

“There are four key areas, and they will seek to expand opportunities available for women. For instance, women own only 1.6 per cent only of land. If you as a woman want to raise capital for business and you have no land for capital, it’s difficult.”

 

Poll of the day