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Kenyan Woman



MARCH 8, 2014

Road to equality remains bumpy for Kenyan women Despite the country’s progressive and gender sensitive constitution, gender equality remains elusive even as MDGs come to a close in 2015

of Constitutional commissions, six percent of parastatal heads, 13 per cent of county secretaries and 21 per cent of county assembly clerks.

Framework As we seek meaning today around what this day signifies, there is need to fully operationalise the Constitution and enact laws that seek to ensure gender equity in major decision making organs. Lichuma says that the realization of substantive equality is proving rather challenging and hence the need to develop a strong legal framework that binds everyone. Lichuma cites the recent appointments of parastatal chiefs by President Uhuru Kenyatta that saw only two women appointed as heads of parastatals out of the 38 positions.

By Faith Muiruri


She says that a technical team has been established by NGEC to come up with a framework on how the two thirds gender rule is to be realised.

s Kenyans mark the International Women’s Day, time is fast racing against the country’s bid to bridge glaring gender inequalities and empower women ahead of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline.

The level of women representation in the country is still very low and with the apparent push by African countries for integration of the aspect of gender equality in the post-2015 development agenda, Kenyans will need to build on the foundations laid by the Constitution. The Constitution has created a legal framework that clearly addresses gender inequality with women-specific interventions such as affirmative action and numerical quotas in public institutions thus recognising the insufficiency of bare formal equality. Article 10 (2) of the Constitution sets out national values and principles of governance which include participation of the people, human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and sustainable development. These national values and principles of governance are an assurance especially to women that empowerment and gender equity will be achieved. The national values and principles of governance bind all state organs, state officers, public officers and all persons. Article 27(1) provides that every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law. Moreover, Article 27 (2) is defined to include the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and fundamental freedoms. Further, Article 27 (3) is categorical that women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres. In addition, the scope within which women and men are protected from any form of violence from either public or private sources is provided for in

She explains that the framework emanates from Article 27 (8) which states that the State shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.

Martha Karua addresses a campaign rally prior to the 2013 General Elections during which she contested and lost the presidential polls. Scores of women like her are willing to take on political leadership but the society has not been as receptive. PICTURE: KENYAN WOMAN CORRESPONDENT

Article 29 (c).The State has also been limited in terms of discriminating any person on any ground such as race, sex under Article 27 (5). In Article 27 (6), the State is charged to take legislative measures such as affirmative action programmes and policies designed to redress any disadvantages suffered by individuals or groups because of past systematic discrimination. The Constitution of Kenya has also made a major step towards ensuring gender equity in major decision making organs. This is an important step because historically in Kenya, women have always been underrepresented in decision making on issues of governance. The Constitution does not, however, make provisions that give a 50-50 gender balance but a two thirds balance which has been aptly captured in Article 27 (8) for those seeking elective or appointive posts.

Representation However, this is largely on paper and has not translated to any meaningful representation. The affirmative action clause in the Constitution notwithstanding, political representation of Kenyan women currently stands at a mere 15 per cent compared to Rwanda — 56 per cent, South Africa — 42 per cent, Tanzania — 36 per cent and Uganda —35 per cent. Although this is the highest number of female representatives Kenya has ever had in the area of political leadership, it is still a rather poor showing in this day and age, where women’s political

Critics have argued that it is unfair for women to have dedicated electoral posts, but despite these affirmative action measures, the guaranteed 47 seats are still far below the 117 needed to satisfy the one third gender rule. The dearth of Kenyan women in the top echelons is noticeably mirrored at different levels of leadership.

A technical team has been established by NGEC to come up with a framework on how the two thirds gender rule is to be realised. Winnie Lichuma, National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) chairperson

participation has generally improved around the world.


At both the senate and gubernatorial positions, all the elected representatives are male. Women serve as deputy governors and their numbers translate to a paltry 19 per cent in the 47 counties while at the Senate, women account for 90 per cent of the nominees and cannot vote. According to the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) chairperson Winnie Lichuma, at the National Assembly, elected women account for a mere six per cent while their nominated counterparts stand at 33 per cent. The same picture is replicated at the County Assemblies where the number of elected women translates to 6 percent. Further women account for 33 per cent of cabinet secretaries, 27 per cent of principal secretaries, 50 per cent as chairpersons of independent offices; 42 per cent chairpersons

“The team has been tasked to review all proposals towards the realisation of the two thirds gender rule while at the same time collating views from experts and Kenyans,” Lichuma explains She notes that the technical committee will first define timelines within which the two thirds gender principle is to be attained as the Supreme Court ruling did not delve into timelines as suggested by Commission on Administrative Justice. “What the court said is that the framework has to be created by August 2015 and the technical team can either opt for legislation or an amendment of the Constitution. We are giving ourselves a time frame of 90 days which is already running to be able to have a framework,” explains Lichuma.

Ruling She says that the Supreme Court largely relied on the High Court ruling in a case filed by FIDA challenging the composition of the Supreme Court. According to the High court ruling, Article 81 (b) is aspirational and it presupposes open ended schemes of decision making and programming which can only be effected over a span of time. Another hurdle lies in the fact that the Supreme Court saw challenges in the attainment of Article 27, based on the perceptions of an existing contradiction between Article 27 (6) and (7) and Articles 97 and 98. She says that issues regarding to powers, privileges and facilitation of the affirmative action beneficiaries are likely to present additional challenges Page3>>

MARCH 8, 2014

Kenyan Woman


Another key intervention includes the 30 percent affirmative action for women and youth to access procurement tenders advertised by the government.

Road to equality remains bumpy for Kenyan women


<< from page 2 because ideally, they should be similar to those of elected members.

In class: Kenya makes significant gains in education as scores of girls enrol in school. PICTURE: FILE

Her sentiments are echoed by Prof Wanjiku Kabira who notes that affirmative action clause is a critical component towards the realisation of the two thirds gender rule. “Women have always lobbied heavily and helped to draft the new Constitution which has entrenched the affirmative action clause and guaranteed an additional 47 seats for women in the counties without which the numbers in the National assembly would be wanting,” notes Kabira. In addition, the Constitution has created a framework of law that responds in a very direct and unequivocal manner to the age-old discrimination against women in Kenya. Further, the Constitution contemplates the passage of various pieces of legislation to flesh out some of the rights it provides for. These include legislation on citizenship, culture, leadership and representation of marginalised groups. Most of these pieces of legislation have not received any significant attention. Further, for them to affect women there is need to ensure that they are in consonance with the Constitution.

Vigilance According to Daisy Amdany, chairperson Women’s Political Alliance, women, their representatives and civil society organisations must guard against the risk of dilution of the rights enshrined in the basic law by the expected legislations. In addition there are many statutes that are clearly contrary to the spirit and intendment of the new Constitutional framework. Lichuma cites the Succession Act as one such law which perpetuates inequalities between men and women. Other areas where Kenya’s performance is still dire include access to essential reproductive health services for women, which is very limited especially in rural areas. “The unmet need for family planning is high and unsafe abortion is a major problem predominantly for poor women and unmarried women leading to high maternal mortality, infections and infertility,” notes Lichuma. This is against a backdrop of a spirited campaign by African countries to push for a stand-alone goal to achieve gender equality, women rights and women’s empowerment that is grounded in human rights and tackles unequal power relations. The MDGs did not address the root causes of poverty, most especially women’s inequality, which made it impossible for the goals to be truly transformative.

Counting in the gender agenda

By Jane Godia


ven as we mark the International Women’s Day today, Kenya will be standing tall in a few days’ time as it presents its position paper at the 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women scheduled to start on March 10 to March 21.

In highlighting its success, Kenya will be represented by a high powered delegation that will include a government delegation led by the Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Devolution and Planning, Anne Waiguru which also houses the Gender Directorate. Other officials will come from various ministries including the Ministry of Education which will be represented by the Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang. They will be joined by members of civil society and UN agencies. Addressing the various stakeholders during a pre-CSW session at Treasury building, Engineer Peter Mangiti, Principal Secretary Ministry of Devolution and Planning noted that even though the focus of the meeting will be based on challenges and achievements of Millennium Development Goal Three, they will be looking at the nearing end of the MDGs as well as post-2015, which is the year that the goals come to an end. “Ministry of Devolution is coordinating Kenya’s participation to the CSW, in a process that has been participatory,” Mangiti said. He noted that Kenya will have three major events in New York which will include the presentation of the country position paper, a side event and a documentary on Kenya’s achievements and challenges in relation to gender equality. According to Mangiti, Kenya position will be well articulated.

Position He noted: “Africa has a well stated position that was well articulated in Addis Ababa early in the year. We want to ensure that the Kenyan position is well articulated and that it resonates with the African Union,” reiterated Mangiti.He stressed that

the paper Kenya will be presenting was prepared through participatory process and is owned by the steering committee that included government, civil society and UN agencies.

Mangiti noted that there is a lot of interest in the CSW but unfortunately there are not enough funds to take everybody to New York. “We have not been able to accommodate everyone due to financial constraints,” he explained. There will be a joint side event with the first will be kicked off by Anne Waiguru, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Devolution and Planning who will give an overview of the event. This will be followed by a panel discussion led by Government, civil society, National Gender and Equality Commission, Kenya Women Parliamentary Association and the Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Board. It will be an interactive session and a demonstration by Kenya on how joint collaboration between the Government and Civil Society has worked well in delivering the Millennium Development Goals with a particular focus on education for women and girls. The panel discussion will be complemented with a documentary.

Gains The side event, therefore, will be held in recognition of the significant gains made by Kenya in Education. The theme of the side even is Breaking Through: Enhancing the lives of Women and Girls Through Education. Panellists in this side event include Kipsang (Principal Secretary Education), Sabina Chege (chairperson Parliamentary departmental committee on Education Science), Jebii Kilimo (chairperson person Anti-FGM Board) and Winnie Lichuma (chairperson National Gender and Equality Commission). While recognizing achievements made in education, the Kenya position paper also recognizes the challenges that face girls especially lack of information on how to deal with the growing up process. Kipsang noted that Kenya has almost achieved gender parity in secondary

education. “This process has been made possible by the Government putting in place free secondary school day education,” he explained. “However, there are disparities as we go higher in tertiary colleges and university education.” The Kenya position paper also notes that women have made significant strides in developing their careers within the civil service. It notes that in 2007 the Government put in place a policy requiring all public institutions reserve 30 per cent of all new appointments and promotions for women. As a result the number of women has been increasing from (32.4 per cent) 2008 to (38 per cent) in 2012.

Gaps However, placement of women in senior decision making positions in the public service remains tilted in favour of men. Women’s employment remains either within the traditional female occupations or within the domestic and farming sectors all too often as casual/unskilled workers. Of significance is the new Government historical decision to appoint six women out of 18 cabinet secretaries to powerful dockets which include; Defence, Devolution and Planning, Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Environment Water and Natural Resources, Foreign Affairs, East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism. The Government has also supported programmes towards the full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 through the development of the National Action Plan with clear recognition of the importance of equal participation of women in peace and security processes, and the mainstreaming of gender in humanitarian action. Efforts by the government through economic measures in strengthening women’s financial independence have also been captured and of particular mention are the Women Enterprise Fund, Uwezo Fund and Youth Enterprise.

Sadly, however, although the Government recently said all maternity services in public hospitals will be free, the Kenya Position Paper for the 58th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women says the Kenya Demographic Health Survey report does not paint a good picture. It notes that while in 2003 there 414 deaths per 100,000, this increased to 488 in 2008. However, it is hoped that things will improve with the interventions the Government has made since 2013 on the maternal and neonatal road map, including the free maternity services in public hospitals. “The national maternal mortality ratio which was 590 per 100,000 live births in 1999 declined to 414 per 100,000 live births in 2003 then slightly went up to 488 in 2008/2009 indicating that the Millennium Development Goal target of 147 per 100,000 live births is yet to be met. The proportion of births attended to by skilled personnel was at 42.3 per cent in 2011 falling short of the 90 per cent target,” notes the report. The Position Paper notes that to ensure that the reproductive health strategies are focused towards achieving the MDGs, the Government of Kenya has revised and aligned various national policy documents including the National Reproductive Health Strategy 2009-2015, The Reproductive Health Communication Strategy 2010-2012 and the National Family Planning Guidelines.

Interventions The Kenya Position Paper also notes that a Health Sector Gender Policy is also in the process of being developed as a framework to address the critical roles that health determinants such as social and cultural factors as well as power relations between women and men play in promoting, accessing and utilising health services for generally improved health outcomes. Additionally, the Government has domesticated the global plan to “Eliminate new HIV infections among children and keeping their mothers alive by 2015” campaign which focuses on the 22 countries with the highest estimated numbers of pregnant women living with HIV. As a result of this campaign, new infections among children have been brought down significantly from an estimated 100 HIV infections per day to 36 infants infected with HIV every day. However, owing to the high cost of maternal health care and the fact that 85 per cent of the national HIV programme is donor funded, the global economic recession constitutes a threat to the country’s gains. In addition easily preventable illnesses such as malaria and tuberculosis still claim many lives each year. Only one in ten Kenyans have health insurance and the public health facilities are faced with inadequate management, insufficient medical supplies and rigid bureaucratic procurement procedures.


Special issue of the Kenyan Woman newspaper for International Women's Day 2014


Special issue of the Kenyan Woman newspaper for International Women's Day 2014