WHAT EMPOWERMENT?

Uhuru not walking the talk on gender parity

There was and is zero political will to implement various women's empowerment flash points

In Summary

• Don't use the 2013 appointments of a paltry six women CSs as a measure of how Kenya is trailblazing in supporting women political participation. This is a drop in the ocean.

• The President should not dribble out a very few appointments and dress them up as success stories of women's empowerment.

A public hearing on the two-thirds gender rule.
STORY OF FAILURE: A public hearing on the two-thirds gender rule.
Image: FILE

On June 4, President Uhuru Kenyatta represented Africa at the Women Deliver Conference in Vancouver, Canada, with a call to redefine power at all levels of leadership.

The President read out the achievements of his government in women's empowerment, top of the list being his appointment of merely six women to his 22-member Cabinet.

We shouldn’t use the 2013 appointments of a paltry six women CSs as a measure of how Kenya is trailblazing in supporting women political participation. This is a drop in the ocean.

 

In a Cabinet of 22 (including Raphael Tuju who is without portfolio), there are only six women. Six! The President dribbles out appointments like crumbs and dresses them up as success stories of women's empowerment.

Apart from that, advertent omissions have left Kenya’s reputation tainted as the male-dominated Parliament refuses to enact laws that would have seen women occupy prime positions of power, at lest one-third.

This is about a lot more than sanitary pads.

The Constitution stipulates that no more than two-thirds of any gender should be appointed or elected into public office. This is a milestone for Kenyan women because it provides a landmark push in the Constitution to allow for their rights, and also includes language prohibiting all forms of discrimination. It makes additional provisions for land rights and property rights, including after divorce.

But Parliament has to pass enabling legislation, which has failed four times because men deliberately stay away to sabotage it, ensuring there is no quorum to vote.

In retrospect, there is zero political will — nor has there ever been — in the implementation of various women's empowerment flashpoints. Leaders must cease giving lip service to empowerment. I urge them to walk the talk. How do you lock out the people who form more than 50 per cent of the population and expect to progress?

First, discourse on women's empowerment is not complete without the Deliver for Good Kenya Campaign. The multi-year advocacy campaign brings together partners to drive progress toward gender equality, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Big Four agenda.

 

The Kenyan government and her partners are required to work towards ensuring the five key messages of the campaign — the National Land Policy’s principles of equitable access to land and secure land tenure in urban and rural settings — in accordance with the Constitution and the realisation of SDGs 1, 2 and 5. 2.

Second, we must push for economic empowerment focussed on increasing government contributions to the Biashara Fund — a new government programme for financial inclusion designed to offer women, youth, and people living with disabilities access to low-interest business loans, with a specific focus on girls and women.

Third, more focus should be placed on universal health coverage concentrated on driving the implementation of the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy at the county level. It relates to establishing comprehensive health services, using the policy’s implementation framework.

The fourth point concerns political participation in driving the effective implementation of the two-thirds gender principle at the county level to ensure women political participation at all levels of government.

The fifth is data: Across all four of these policy priorities, campaign partners have committed to help strengthen official Kenyan data-collection processes and systems related to gender equality — with a specific focus on the Sustainable Development Goals and the four campaign policy priorities — to ensure systematic sex- and age-disaggregated data collection and use.

The President should lead a united push in a shared commitment to prioritise girls and women across all development efforts in Kenya.

One may ask why should the Jubilee government focus on gender equality? Well, we don’t need new studies to know that girls and women represent slightly more than half of the total population in Kenya. Moreover, evidence proves that they are critical drivers of change.

If we want to achieve our national goals and drive sustainable growth for all, we must then invest in solutions that advance gender equality.

It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do.

Mr President, the ball is in your court.