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Kenyan Woman

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No relenting in the fight to empower women in Busia

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

MARCH 8, 2014

By Gilbert Ochieng

W

omen who were nominated to the Busia County Assembly have unanimously agreed in one accord to utilise every opportunity to push for introduction and enactment of a law that will effectively deal with violence against women.

According to Rachael Omolo, they have managed to come together and put in place what they referred to as “Women Caucus” whose main objective is to enlighten and encourage women at all levels to come out and vie for various leadership positions. “The major purpose behind the formation of the women caucus is to carry out a marathon sensitization forums at the grassroots level through churches and chiefs’ barazas so that our fellow women can be able to shed off the ageold traditional belief that a woman’s place is in the kitchen,” explains Omolo. She says they have also served the Speaker of Busia County Assembly with a memo asking to be provided with an office within the assembly as well as a customer care desks in respective ward offices where matters pertaining to women can be effectively addressed.

A mind shift among spouses should also be encouraged so as to give full support besides embracing the changing role of women in homes. Rachael Omolo, a nominated member of the Busia County Assembly

Groups The female county assembly members want women to benefit from the KSh10 million allocated by the Busia County Government to each ward to cater for development activities. “I have managed to organise a fundraiser for various women’s groups assisted by my counterparts to enable them engage in various income generating interventions that would help improve on their standards of living,” says

Rachael Omolo, a nominated member of the Busia County Assembly. She has been very vocal in the formation of the Women Caucus in the county which seeks to enlighten and encourage women at all levels to come out and vie for various leadership positions. PICTURE: FILE

Omolo. The women leaders have also encouraged those in their areas to register with the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) so that they can comfortably cater for their medical bills. Omolo, who is also the chairperson of Poverty Eradication for Development Organisation (PEDO) says there is urgent need to fight the high level poverty being experienced in Busia which currently standards at 68 per cent.

T

he performance of women legislators in the first session of the 11th Parliament as far as moving motions is concerned is nothing to shout home about.

According to the Hansard and the official motion tracker of the National Assembly, only 19 women MPs moved a motion or seconded one by their male colleagues last year from a list of 145. The 19 were led by Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso, who doubles as the Sotik MP, Nairobi

Women County representative Rachel Shebesh and Priscilla Nyokabi Kinyua (Nyeri), Florence Kajuju (Meru) and Grace Nyasuna Wanga (Homa Bay) as well as Nominated MP Amina Abdallah.

the proceedings of the august House while the motions’ tracker provides an overview of the current status of all motions before Parliament.

Others were Kitui South MP Rachel Nyamai; County Women’s Representatives Sabina Chege (Muranga), Joyce Emanikor (Turkana), Mishi Juma (Mombasa) Halima Ware Duri (Tana River) and Susan Musyoka (Machakos). There is also Sarah Paulata Korero who is a nominated MP.

Members

The Hansard is the official verbatim report of

Parliament has 349 MPs, 290 were elected in constituencies and 47 women were elected in the counties while 12 were nominated by political parties. In the Senate, there are 67 members, 47 of them were elected, 16 women were nominated and

MARCH 8, 2014

Kenyan Woman

11

Road to gender equality riddled with hurdles

She says stakeholders from all sectors of the County’s economy should allocate resources that will be utilised to empower women economically considering the pivotal role they play in society. “The women of Busia County need capacity building and training in functional areas such as finance, literacy, marketing, production and managerial skills among others,” says Omolo. She adds: “A mind shift among spouses should also be encouraged so as to give full support besides embracing the changing role of women in homes.”

Women parliamentarians in deep consultations after a meeting. Women in the National Assembly are not in decision making bodies.

The women county assembly members have managed to remain focused on what needs to be addressed in Busia. They are already planning on peace building activities for women in and out of the County assembly. “As legislators we will come up with a motion aimed at bettering the living standards of women in Busia County and once we register our association we shall work with partners and donors to facilitate most of our activities,” she says.

Out of 35 wards in Busia County, only Bukhayo West ward elected a woman who was given chair in one of the committees.

two seats were reserved for the youth and also for people with disabilities. There are 18 women who were nominated to the Senate. Half of the committees in the Senate are chaired by women namely Zipporah Kittony (Health, Labour and Social Welfare); Dulo Fatuma Aden (National Security and Foreign Affairs; Judith Sijeny (Delegated Legislation); Daisy Kanainza (Implementation); Martha Wangari (Devolved Government) and Adille Halima Mohamud (Education, Information and Technology).

The report also notes that women do not have access to business information and opportunities to fully benefit from international trade since most businesses are small and informal. Registration of small companies is still costly, rigid, and based only in major urban areas such as Nairobi and therefore discouraging to women. However, men and women’s equal participation and engagement is paramount for this to be achieved.

Challenges

Achievements

However, they are faced with several challenges among them going into the Assembly late following the prolonged court cases in various political parties. By the time they were sworn in, all key positions had already been filled up.

Access

The report notes that the low participation of women in productive employment activities in major sectors in Kenya can be attributed to factors that curtail women’s mobility in the labour market due the constraining nature of occupations where domestic responsibilities cannot be easily combined with economic activity.

“The public sector and formal financial organisations should be sensitised on the value of gender balanced participation in the informal sector enterprises,” explains Omolo. She adds: “A major goal should be to promote the social and economic empowerment of women as they constitute a vulnerable social category that is critical in sustainable development endeavours,” she says.

The women members of Busia County Assembly have already identified viable income generating projects that would help improve on the living standards of women.

to property ownership, land rights and gender inequalities. Women make up nearly 50 per cent of all owners of micro and small enterprises (SMEs) and 40 percent of smallholder farm managers, but access less than 10 per cent of available credit and less than one percent of agricultural credit.

There is no boundary for gender equality. It is equality in every respect, economically, socially and politically. For Kenya to achieve gender equality it should spread across the board and not be limited to politics.

Omolo notes that access to credit by women entrepreneurs at the level of micro and small-scale enterprises should be facilitated through innovative programmes and financing arrangements that go beyond the conventional approach which require collateral and capital among other conditions.

Latest scorecard of women’s performance

By Odhiambo Orlale

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

PICTURE: KENYAN WOMAN CORRESPONDENT By Jane Godia

J

ust a year short of the deadline set for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, reports indicate that all is not well.

One of the goals to be attained through the Millennium Development Goals was to promote gender equality and empower women. Gender equality refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys. Equality does not mean that women and men will become the same but that women’s and men’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female. Gender equality implies that the interests, needs and priorities of both women and men are taken into consideration, recognising the diversity of different groups of women and men.

Development Gender equality is not a women’s issue but should concern and fully engage men as well as women. Equality between women and men is seen both as a human rights issue and as a precondition for, and indicator of, sustainable people-centred development. Empowering women, on the other hand, means increased appreciation for and understanding of

women’s pivotal role in the development process and have these reflected in national goals and priorities. Empowering women is also an indispensable tool for advancing development and reducing poverty. Empowered women contribute to the health and productivity of whole families and communities and to improved prospects for the next generation. The target towards achieving gender equality and empowering women is in ensuring that gender discrimination in education is eliminated and that there is an increased number of women in nonagricultural employment. According to Patricia Nyaundi, Commission Secretary Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, “gender equality refers to equal treatment and recognition of all gender in all spheres of life. It is an acknowledgement of the inherent value of all individuals and Kenya has progressed well in terms of legal recognition of this. Nyaundi states: “We have a robust constitution that has as one of its pillars the promotion of gender equality and a commitment to improve the status of women. There are sector specific gains like the increased enrolment of girls in schools.”

Representation She adds: “However, to ensure that we fully attain these deliberate steps as has been made at

political level, representation must be made at all decision making levels.” The 2014 Kenya report on Millennium Development Goals indicates that there has been an increased number of girls being enrolled at the first stages of education. The numbers indicate that in 2011, there were 1,194,518 girls compared to boys at 1,175,000 boys at early childhood centres. However, at the primary school level things changed and there were more boys (4,979,700) than girls (4,880,200). There are 86 girls for every 100 boys enrolled while tertiary and college education stand at 94 girls for every 100 boys. This trend declines as they progress to institutions of higher learning such as university level with fewer girls compared to boys. The report notes that a key challenge is girls’ low enrolment in science, technology and mathematics, which then constrain their uptake of non-agricultural employment in science and technical areas. These are the subjects that can enable women take up wage employment in areas that are nonagricultural. According to the Kenya Economic Survey 2013, between 2011-2012, the key sectors driving the economy are agriculture and forestry; wholesale and retail trade; transport and communication; manufacturing and construction. These are areas where women are largely unrepresented due to myriad challenges including those related

Another constraining factor could be limited access to required skills especially during the undertaking of education and training programmes. Cultural stereotypes about women’s aptitudes, skills and dispositions, and reproductive responsibilities could also work to hinder women’s participation in some production sectors. According to Millicent Wamaitha, acting Programme Coordinator Foundation for Women’s Rights fighting for political survival is a reality in the political field noting that Kenyan politicians have perfected the art of political survival, and this also affects the fight for gender equality. “Once a leader is elected or appointed to a leadership position they begin strategizing on how they can protect their positions ‘like it is their heritage’,” she states. Wamaitha notes un-principled leaders often gang up to vote out legislation seeking to entrench gender equity at policy levels. “The leaders engage in such acts to gain acceptance with fellow leaders and members of the public who are opposed gender equality,” she reiterates. “Other leaders particularly men continue to corrupt their way to leadership positions through voter bribery. This results to elimination of many qualified women contestants due to corrupt leaders who are only seeking political survival,” Wamaitha observes.

Resources She adds: “Realistically most women embrace honesty and do not even have finances to fund their campaigns let alone bribe voters. There is hence need for the relevant authorities to put stringent measures to curb this malpractice which could surely kill the fight for gender equality in Kenya particularly in securing leadership positions which is viewed by many as men’s domain.” However, Wamaitha argues for so long participation and representation of women in leadership and decision making platforms in Kenya has been feeble, the entrenchment of affirmative action on gender equity spelled out in Article 27(8) increased the chances for women to participate more in decision making position in the country . The article states that: “The state shall take legislative and

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INSPIRING CHANGE  

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

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