Issue Number 20 • August 2011
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
EDITORIAL Women are critical to the realisation of food security
enyans have all the reasons to be angry today in solidarity with their hungry brothers and sisters in the country who feel helpless, discriminated against and hopeless. To them every new day is a nightmare. The miserable faces of the estimated 4 million Kenyans, mostly women and children, in arid and semi arid parts of the country have been staring at death in the eye year-in-year out for decades wondering whether they were born of a lesser God. On the other hand, the authorities have been giving such victims hope by publicizing the latest Cabinet papers and policy statements in addition to research findings by experts in and out of Government on how to address the perennial famine and drought situations in many parts of the country. Politicians on their part have always used the plight of the hopeless famine victims to get political mileage for their selfish ends. But the ordinary Kenyans have always been around to be “their brother and sisters’ keeper whenever they are called upon to sacrifice a meal or two to support worthy charity causes like the current Kenya for Kenyans, led by the leading blue chip companies in the country. A typical sight in the villages of a homestead with several grass thatched granaries, for storing cereals, is a thing of the past these days. Instead, most farmers dispose of their crops soon after harvesting it leaving themselves vulnerable to the market and the weather patterns. The genesis of the problem goes back to the discriminatory agricultural and land policies and laws inherited from the colonial authorities and promoted by the subsequent Government that favoured men at the expense of women. It was the order of the day in the past for women to plough, plant and harvest crops on their family land, but not be allowed to inherit any portion of it. Women also had no control of how the land would be used and in cash crop zones for tea, coffee and sugarcane, were even barred from collecting dues from the cash crop which their sweat produced! But that is now relegated to the dustbin of history, thanks to the new Constitution that will be one year old in late August. If implemented to the letter, women will not only benefit from having a Constitutional right to inherit land like their brothers have been used to, but they will also have more rights to control and manage its use. Indeed, land issue in Kenya is a very emotive and sensitive topic and has become a national past time and culture, with most Kenyans craving to own a piece of land in the country as a sign of success. Under Chapter Five, the new Constitution states explicitly that: “land in Kenya shall be held, used and managed in a manner that is equitable, productive and sustainable, and in accordance with the following principles – equitable access to land; security of land rights; sustainable and productive management of land Continued on page 2
Why it is time for Kenya to have a woman AG
Judges being sworn in after promulgation of the new Constitution. Inset: Attorney General prepares to have President Kibaki put a seal on the new laws. With the new Constitution, Wako will leave this position and a new AG will be appointed. Women are calling for one of their own to be appointed. This could be from female judges like the ones below who were even interviewed for the position of Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice. Pictures: Kenyan Woman Correspondent. …By Duncan Mboyah and Jane Godia
s Attorney General (AG) Amos Wako prepares to leave office, women are keenly following reforms within the Judiciary. After the appointment of Dr Willy Mutunga, Nancy Baraza and Keriako Tobiko as Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and Director of Public Prosecutor respectively, all eyes are now turned to the Attorney General position. Amos Wako has been at the helm of this position for 30 years and after three decades in the helm, and with the new Constitution calling for not more than two-thirds majority of the same gender in positions, women are of the view that it is now important that one of them heads the State Law Office.
Qualified The new Attorney General must be appointed by end of August and women must come out in large numbers to apply for the post to take their chances higher. According to Grace Maingi, Executive Director Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) there are a number of women who are qualified to take up the post of the Attorney General. “Several qualified women are working within the State Law Office and in private practice,” she says. Maingi notes that given the rate at which women are today applying for jobs as witnessed in the previous past, it is worth noting that women are not shying away from these positions.
Justice Hannah Okwengu FIDA and other like minded organisations are out to ensure that Kenya has its first woman Attorney General. Even as women demand that affirmative action as entrenched in the Constitution be ratified, there are those who believe that merit must be granted its rightful place. According to a Kisumu lawyer Janet Mangera, the position of Attorney General should go to a woman based on qualification and merit. She observes: “Most qualified women have in the past been relegated despite being qualified for high profile state jobs.” She also reiterated that affirmative action must be enacted to the letter and spirit of the new law. Mangera’s sentiments are echoed by Susan Owino, a representative of
Justice Kaplana Rawal
Justice Martha Koome
the Migori County Women’s Caucus. According to Owino, women will “not be going to ride on men’s back but must get the job on merit”. “Kenya needs a change by having a woman Attorney General now rather than later to help hasten the new constitutional dispensation,” says Owino.
women meet challenges towards constitutionalising of the new law. In January the High Court blocked President Kibaki’s nominations of judicial appointees to the post of Chief Justice, Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions and Comptroller of Budget. Through a suit filed by women’s organisations that included FIDA, Centre for Rights Awareness and Education (CREAW) among others, the High Court through Justice Daniel Musinga ruled that the President had breached the Constitution by failing to include gender equality in his nominations. The High Court order saw the positions later advertised and a good number of women were among those who applied and were shortlisted. There were two women shortlisted to the
Post However, she told women to take advantage of the new law and seek positions by applying for advertised jobs. “We can only secure the AG’s post and several others if we become more aggressive in taking up offices that have been created for us under the Constitution which demands a one-third gender balance,” Owino explains. The war to gender equality in public offices is far from over as
Continued on page 4
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
Table banking gives rural women financial independence
…By Ben Oroko
t cannot be over emphasised how the concept of table banking, commonly known as merrygo-round has become a popular engine driving rural women’s socioeconomic empowerment. The concept has changed women’s lives both at household and community levels, translating to improved standards of living for the women and their immediate families. Women have not only used the banking concept to address their basic financial needs but have also used it as a tool of addressing challenges they face while seeking credits and loans from established micro-finance and banking institutions.
Members Florence Maobe always looks forward to her turn in receiving ‘merrygo-round’ cash contribution from members of the Minto Self-Help Group at Riakemuma Village, Bassi Chache Location in Sameta District, of which she is a member. Meeting every Friday, each of the 21 members contributes KSh100 which is pooled and given to one of the members according to the order of receiving the contributions. Maobe says the order of receiving the merry-go-round contributions is determined through random picking of numbers written on the pieces of paper and folded before each member picks one. “The number on the piece of paper a member picks determines her position in the order of receiving the cash,” she explains. Maobe whose family income formerly depended on wages she received
as a casual labourer in local tea farms, attributes the changes in her life to the merry-go-round contributions. “Before joining the group, I experienced financial difficulties since my casual labour services could hardly meet basic family needs,” she explains. Maobe admits that things changed drastically when she started getting money from the pooled contributions. From the money she received, she was able to start a small kiosk at her home. Today she sells small unit basic consumer commodities like sugar, soap and kerosene among others. This has in turn translated into improving her household income. “I am all praises for the merry-goround since it changed my family life. I was able to raise the money which I used as start up capital for my kiosk out of which I am able to feed my family of four children and pay school fees for my elder son who is in Form Three,” she discloses. Group treasurer, Agnes Bosibori, says the merry-go-round cash contributions have rescued local women from chains of poverty and economic dependence on their husbands since most of them are now financially selfreliant after investing the money in income generating activities. With hundreds of rural women facing challenges of accessing microcredits and loans from micro-finance and banking institutions, Bosibori says now women have taken merrygo-round and village credit schemes as their banks from where they can access credits at affordable interest rates. Besides merry-go-round cash contributions, members of the group meet at the end of every month to pay their savings which are pooled and given out as loans.
Minto Self-Help Group treasurer, Agnes Bosibori receives her share of the merry-go-round contributions and group savings at Riakemuma Village, Bassi Chache Location, Sameta District. Picture: Ben Oroko. “The savings are compulsory and group members decide on the minimum amount each member pays. The members pay savings in shares and each member decides to have either single, double or triple shares depending on one’s financial ability,” explains Bosibori.
Shares The group operates within a 12month cycle then the books are closed at the end of the business cycle. During this time members are paid savings and dividends depending on their shares. It is only after this has been done that they are able to start another cycle. “Like other social factions, our
group responds to social needs of our members through giving them loans out of members’ savings and interest is calculated at the rate of two percent per week. The loan repayment period is spread across three months,” clarifies Bosibori. She admits that despite various challenges experienced in running the activities of the group, the initiative has transformed majority of the rural women’s lives, with many of them becoming financially independent as they use money from the merry-goround and group loans to initiate income generating activities which have not only transformed their lives but also that of their immediate families.
Women are critical to the realisation of food security From page 1
resources; transparent and effective administration of land; elimination of gender discrimination in law, customs and practices related to land and property in land; and encouragement of communities to settle land disputes through recognized local community initiatives and through legislation.” So with the backing of the constitution, women have a golden opportunity to realize their dreams of acquiring family land by right, controlling its use and even its disposal, where necessary. The fact that more than half of the country’s population 40 million are women, most of whom live and eke a living in the rural areas, the provision in the new Constitution could be ‘godsend’ to help them realize their dreams by boosting food production, and by extension food security. Another step in the right direction is the recently launched draft new land policy which states as follows: The overall objective is to prepare a policy that will provide for sustainable growth and investment and the reduction of poverty in line with the Government’ overall development objectives.” It is also seeking to develop a framework of policies and laws designed to ensure the maintenance of a system of land administration and managed that would provide all citizens, particularly the poor, with the opportunity to access and beneficially occupy and use land among others. So as the country faces one of the worst hunger in decades, there is a ray of hope in the air, thanks to the new Constitution and Kenyan’s decision to have local initiative to resolve the crisis instead of going to donors on their knees with begging bowls. Indeed, the future is no longer bleak as had been the case in the past.
Region launches empowerment movement …By Diana Wanyonyi
omen have finally launched an outfit they will use in airing their views on pertinent issues of governance and development in the county of Mombasa. The movement, under the banner ‘The Mombasa Regional Women Assembly’ will bring together all women with varying interests for both social and political leadership in the county. Launching the outfit officially at Bandari College in Mombasa, Kilifi Women Caucus leader Patience Mukhambe, who is also the vice-chair of National Council for Persons with Disabilities, challenged women in Mombasa to unite and focus on issues that will promote their development and of the society in general.
Opportunity “As women, we should work extremely hard and stand out from others since the new constitution has given us enough opportunities to hold positions in the counties,” said Mukhambe. She added: “We should work in unity so as to soar high.” Mukhambe urged women to come up with new ideas which will be those among them with interest in leadership. She challenged men to be aware that women can also hold high positions in the country.
“We need to embrace transparency in everything that we do especially during major or minor elections in the country. This will enable us to build on trust and accountability for both the leader and the common mwananchi.” — Mary Adhiambo, Women’s Regional Assembly Mombasa
“Women are not living in the past, we should shun traditional myths and fear. It is time for women to have courage and rule as we have powers to vie for any seat in this country,” stressed Mukhambe. She reminded women of the constitutional requirements on those planning to vie for various political seats at county and national levels. She asked them to ensure they have the required qualifications and that they must be people of integrity. Women leaders were also challenged to put more pressure on the Government to address issues of drug abuse, child prostitution, human trafficking and illegal groups in the society. Programme officer for Gender and Governance at the Caucus for women’s Leadership, Joy Masheti said issues of drug abuse can only be eliminated with total involvement of women.
Disabilities “There is need for us to recognise persons with the disabilities in the society. They are part and parcel of us. We need them as they play a big role in nation building,” Masheti advised. Mukhambe urged women to stop locking their physically challenged children in the house as that infringes on their rights. She said needs of disabled persons will be addressed if they are allowed to socialise and mingle with other people openly.
For Kenya to achieve Vision 2030, Mukhambe advised the society to work hand in hand with disabled people and applaud their potential and efforts in the country. Chairlady for the Persons with Disabilities in Coast Province, Hamisa Maalim praised the launch saying that the presence of new dispensation has given more privileges to the physically challenged who will be able to express themselves without fear. “I encourage disabled mothers to get money from the National Council for Persons with Disabilities so as to uplift their lives. We can make good leaders if we are determined as the new constitution privileges us,” observed Maalim. Speaking during the meeting, Mary Adhiambo Caucus Changamwe branch chairlady for HIV/Aids in Mombasa Constituency, applauded the move saying the meeting had enlightened them in terms of leadership. Adhiambo reiterated the need to have a corruption free zone especially during elections that will enable transparency and trust in the county. “We need to embrace transparency in everything that we do especially during major or minor elections in the country. This will enable us to build on trust and accountability for both the leader and the common mwananchi,” she said.
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
Martha Chemarinda Rop Voice of reason for women at all levels
education might be a challenge but she is keen on making meaningful contribution to her society. Through combined efforts with other women leaders, they have managed to launch campaigns against Female Genital Mutilation and seen a significant decrease. The emphasis has been on educating the community on the negative effects of FGM through forums in the community, schools, churches as well as women’s group meetings. Rop was part of the team that negotiated for peaceful mitigation within the region to maintain peace among the tribes living in North Rift. “I was part of the 15 women working within civic society that were able to conduct peace building initiatives in the constituencies by partnering with community leaders, schools as well as churches to preach peace in the area,” she adds. Through this initiative, the community has been able to construct a peace centre building that is used to conduct different activities that emphasise on peace and the need for living in harmony such as youth initiatives and sharing of cultural events. She adds that even though women are still a minority in leadership, their collective fight has seen a reasonable number of women politicians and councillors get into leadership positions though more still needs to be done. According to Rop, a grandmother of seven, there are still challenges that have to be addressed in her community even in the wake of a new dispensation. This includes especially low literacy levels among women and girls in her community. Even though she is busy creating awareness around the gains for women in the Constitution, there is a need for women to be empowered through education in order for them to understand the need to fight for their rights.
…By Ruth Omukhango
er passion and assertiveness in voicing women’s rights issues make her easily identifiable even in a crowd. She is one woman who will not shy away from commenting on issues that are of grave concern to women because she takes it as her duty to ensure that their issues are given priority. Despite coming from one of the marginalised communities, 54 year old Martha Chemarinda Rop, a women’s activist and leader from Wareng County, Uasin Gishu District is determined to be the voice of reason for women at all levels. Rop’s motivation and commitment to women’s issues emanates from the fact that first and foremost she is a mother of six daughters and has had to go through the challenges of raising her daughters where she has suffered due to her patriarchal nature of the society.
Justice “I have a passion for fighting for women’s justice in the community. I am fighting for my daughters and the daughters of the community so that they do not undergo what we went through,” explains Rop as she resonates with the challenges faced in her community Despite this, she has risen through the ranks through experience and hard work. Prior to this, Rop worked as a civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture where she served for 17 years. She retired in 1998 and since then has been advocating for the rights of women for over 20 years now. Currently Rop serves as the District Women’s Convenor for the Caucus for Women’s Leadership as well as the District Executive for Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation. She has also acted in different capacities as a representative such as the chair in Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation in her location, District coordinator and executive for the National Council for Women of Kenya. Rop was also very instrument during the National Constitutional Review Process in 2004 where she served as a delegate representing Rift Valley during the Bomas Conference. Knowing the critical role that she plays in her community, Rop has consistently endeavoured to sharpen her skills through attending various training workshops organised by civil society organisation such as Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation (MYWO), Education Centre for Women in Democracy (ECWD) and the Caucus for Women’s Leadership. Today she can confidently double up as a women leader, a business woman as well as a paralegal. “I am an all rounded person but I realise that every opportunity is a learning session for me because it will make me a better person,” says Rop adding that she is also a farmer.
Knowledge In 2004, she was elected by ICRAF for a leadership study tour in India through the Farmers Association campaign in their area named Ngombe na Mbegu (NGOMA) which aimed at marketing farmers’ products and networking with farmer in India. “This experience opened my eyes to appreciate the opportunities we have as a nation as compared to India where farmers who operate in very hard economic environment conditions but still achieve their objectives,” says Rop. A critical observation she made during her tour is the importance of acquiring knowledge through education and technology which are key to development. Having come from a pastoralist region where people depend on livestock for their livelihood, Rop also learnt skills in business on how to market livestock products for the benefit of the community. She has also ventured in politics. In 2002, she vied for a councillor position in Moi’s
Martha Rop a women’s leader from Uasin Gichu who is calling for women’s empowerment through application of the new Constitution. Picture by: Ruth Omukhango Bridge Ward. Being the only women among nine men, Rop managed to be in the second position. “This was the highlight of my activism, unlike men who had vehicles to take them around the constituency, I used a donkey to campaign around the region which gave me an upper hand over the men as I was able to penetrate the impassable roads,” says Rop. This gave many women confidence that they can make it and since then, Rop comments that about 12 women came out to vie for constituency seats where two women making it to parliament namely; Professor Margaret Kamar, a Member of Parliament for Eldoret East Constituency and and Peris Chepchumba, a Member of Parliament for Eldoret South Constituency During the elections, Rop recalls the challenges she faced. First, there were the cultural
barriers that contributed significantly to this since many women who wanted to vote for her were physically violated by their husbands. Second, corruption played a role in this, while the other politicians gave money to the public, she opted for tangible products such as sugar, salt and tea leaves.
Family According to Rop: “I chose to give these products because my interest was to feed the whole family and not satisfy one person by bribing the men alone. I knew that these goods would also be used by the woman in the family for a number of days.” She adds: “I would like to vie for county positions in the upcoming general elections in 2012 and would like to appeal for financial support.” She is also quick to admit that her level of
“Even though women are still a minority in leadership, their collective fight has seen a reasonable number of women politicians and councillors get into leadership positions though more still needs to be done. There are still challenges that have to be addressed in her community even in the wake of a new dispensation. This includes especially low literacy levels among women and girls in her community.” — Martha Rop, women’s leader in Uasin Gishu District, Wareng County
Rop notes that cultural barriers remain a great hindrance to development because they are entrenched in the community. “This is not limited to illiterate women alone but cuts across the board among all women even those that are educated,” she says. It poses a challenge to empowered women like her who have a purpose of championing women’s rights. “Our community looks upon women as children and a woman cannot own or sell any property in the home because these belong to the men. The woman has to get permission from her husband even if she is the one who purchased it.” Rop say her work in advocacy has brought her into confrontation even with close family members where she has had to move out of her marital home despite working hard over the years to build it. Although she has not declared her candidature for the next General Elections due to personal reasons, Rop applauds the Constitution for affirmative action but urges women not to concentrate on the 30 per cent given seats but also go for the competitive positions in order to increase women’s representation at all levels. “We need to elect women of quality and not just quantity into leadership positions in order to make meaningful contributions on decision making,” Rop says. She appeals to incumbents to partner with the local leaders to mentor them in order to amplify the voices of women in the region. This will enable them achieve the desired impact especially as the country draws closer to the 2012 General Elections. “I urge women to listen to their fellow women leaders and disregard any propaganda by concentrating on issues that would promote development for women and hence make meaningful impact in society,” says Rop.
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
Affirmative action remains critical to constitution implementation …By Faith Muiruri
he issue of affirmative action in the National Assembly, Senate and the Counties remains critical to avert a Constitutional crisis in the country. A Constitutional Lawyer Judy Thongori says that it is not enough that the implementation process has taken off. “What really matters is the nature of the implementation so that we do not end up having the same problems currently afflicting the nation,” she adds.
Provisions “Kenya suffered uncertainty in this area in 2007, we cannot afford to come out of elections with uncertainty as to the constitutionality of Parliament which will be the case if we ignore the two thirds principle,” she affirms She says that if we respect the two thirds affirmative action principle, then it means you will respect other provisions in the Constitution. She scoffed at assertions by some legislators that the two thirds affirmative action principle is progressive and
not immediate, terming it as a serious misinterpretation of the Constitution. “Article 27 (8) is very clear that the government shall take legislative measures to ensure that no more than two thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender,” she explains adding that anytime you exceed representation of one gender you are breaking the constitution Thongori at the same time points out that the two thirds affirmative action principle in the Constitution must be replicated in all areas including public offices, state departments and parastatals to avoid a constitutional crisis. “No efforts appear to have been made towards remedying this position and we suggest that as we track the new appointments, we must ensure that the Government implements the principle in existing offices,” she adds during a training workshop for journalists on writing about the Constitution Implementation process organized by the African Woman and Child Feature Service (AWC Features) She says that all sectors must awake to the new constitutional realities and align their employees to re-
flect national diversities. She says that the current scenario where people want to resist change did not auger well to the implementation process and sets a bad precedence towards the realization of equality which remains a key pillar in the Constitution.
Vigilance Thongori at the same time says that as the implementation process gets underway, Kenyans and in particular women must be vigilante to make sure that the spirit of the reform process is not lost along the way. Lawyer Judy Thongori addresses the media on how they can articulate Thongori further chalissues on constitution implementation and application. Picture: Oloo Janak lenged the media to hold persons and offices tasked with other vulnerable groups are psychoOgoya says that the assumpthe implementation of the constitution accountable to help logically prepared to advantage of the tion by opinion shapers that the two uphold the letter and the spirit of Affirmative Action provision in the thirds affirmative action principle is Constitution. unreasonable is subjective and they the constitution. “Women and other minority must abide by the Constitution. Lawyer Elisha Ogoya shares simi“There is a mistaken belief that lar sentiments. He says that all efforts groups have suffered decades of marmust now be directed towards the re- ginalization. We therefore need to when we talk about Affirmative Acalization of the two thirds affirmative invest highly in restoring their con- tion we are talking about women. fidence to enable them perceive and This clause captures all other groups action principle. He however feels that the biggest take up the leadership mantle as a that have been marginalized in the past,” he explains. question now is whether women and fundamental right,” he affirms.
Why it is time for Kenya to have a woman AG
From page 1
position of Chief Justice for interviews. Justice Mary Angawa and Kalpan Rawal made it to this list that saw women and men grilled in public before the final appointments were made. Out of the 10 shortlisted for the position of Deputy Chief Justice, eight women were nominated. Nancy Baraza was later appointed Deputy Chief Justice. In the final submissions after interviews were conducted for the position of Deputy Public Prosecutor, one woman Dorcas Oduor made it second to the winning candidate, Keriako Tobiko. These women who are highly qualified to have made it to shortlisting of these prestigious posts could in effect qualify to make it for the position of Attorney General.
Changes It is not only the Judiciary that has seen gender inequality in the aftermath. The President also recently made major changes in the Defence Force in appointments that did not have a single woman take a slot in the major uniformed forces. It has been argued among many circles that while affirmative action means having men and women, matters security are best left to men. However, those putting up this argument have not taken into consideration the fact that women have not made it to the top echelons of the Defence department because they were initially discriminated against. The same argument seems to be following appointments to the Judiciary that has seen two men already appointed to the positions of Chief Justice and Director of Public Prosecutions. Recently FIDA moved to Court over the nominees for the Supreme Court saying the Judicial Service Commission failed to meet the onethird gender balance threshold. They had two women out of a total seven. The organisation wants to have an extra woman nominated to the
Court so as to have three women and four men in the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice is the president of the Supreme Court and the Deputy Chief Justice is the Vice President. Kenyans hope that those charged with implementing the Constitution in making new appointments in respect to the new law will take into consideration the fact that it does not need a court to have affirmative action enacted. As Kenyans wait anxiously for President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to agree on the appointment of the Attorney General women are saying that it must not be lost to the two principals and Kenyans at large that there is a bevy of women who are qualified to be Kenya’s next Attorney General. Water and Irrigation Minister Charity Ngilu is among women leaders who have voiced their position calling for the appointment of a female Attorney General. According to Ngilu, women have for long been overlooked in certain appointments. She blames this factor on poor representation of women in certain government offices. “Most high offices in the country are occupied by men who have no data and knowledge of professional women hence leading to skewed appointments whenever an opportunity arises,” she says.
Lax The Global Women Summit Chief Executive Officer Paula Fellingham challenges women to stop being lax in competing for the positions arguing that positions of leadership will never be handed over to them. She observes that women often take a back seat when it comes to such challenging processes instead of competing for them. “Sometimes women complain that they are not happy with how things are but then they are not doing enough to make these changes happen. If things are not okay, what do
you want changed?” she asks. These and other suggestions form the basis of arguments being put forward as women demand more numbers in appointments to positions of leadership and decision making. However, according to Rosemary Okello, Executive Director African Woman and Child the Government should take stock of women and ensure that they apply for these positions. “The Government should analyse the main reasons why women shied away from these posts and strive to address them,” explains Okello. Women have in recent pasts been criticised for their reluctance to take up these positions. President Kibaki signs the new Constitution as Attorney General Amos The vetting of judges has, in Wako looks on. With the new law comes changes that include reforms particular, been delayed after at the judiciary and presence of more women in leadership positions. women failed to apply to sit on Pictures: Kenyan Woman Correspondent. the board that will carry out the exercise. She observes that the challenge actualising gains,” she recommends. The Interim Independent Elector- women face is in lifting the ‘cultural Mbote reiterates that women al Commission has also registered its exemption’ that has operated since must campaign to emphasise the general constitutional principle that concern surrounding the one-third the independence constitution. “The new Constitution through no one gender should occupy over gender representation balance saying it was not sure how to meet the entrenchment of affirmative action is two-thirds of the positions on any quota after next year’s elections. “I opening up areas that were previously public body. Speaking to the G-10 Senior think such concerns are neither here shielded from the application of connor there but we know that come stitutional principles of equality and Counsel Stephen Mwenesi said 2012 we will see a different change non-discrimination to constitutional women must go beyond the margins of law to ensure gender equality. in representation. Everyone is asking scrutiny,” explains Mbote. He reiterated: “To ensure an effecwhether we will be able to marshal Compete tive where we get leadership for men the numbers and we are saying yes She cautions: “Rights will not and women in equal opportunity, we will,” Okello argues. However, speaking to women’s come to women; women must seize G-10 must not only engage in court coalition of the G-10, Professor of them. Those that have previously but go out in the public arena.” Reinforcing the sentiments, Law Patricia Mbote says sharing enjoyed rights do not welcome new Mbote says women must interrogate power with women is not going to claimants of rights. Mbote advies women to stop what exists for them. “Beyond the come easily to men. “People who have enjoyed the rights do not give concentrating in areas where women Constitution, what other legal framethem up easily. There is a lot of pres- can compete. “What happens when work is there for affirmative action?” sure on women now to address the is- women cannot compete because she posed. The challenge, Mbote advices, is for sue of why women have not had a go of past injustices or structural constraints? There is need to strategise women to analyse their own strategies at taking up these appointments.” Mbote reiterates: “The first legal to ensure that gains are not lost be- as individuals as well as organisations. It is only through such fights that and constitutional basis for affirmative cause there are no women applicants. action measures are to redress past Craft a plan of action to marshal all women may live to see a woman occuresources and direct them towards pying the seat of the Attorney General. patterns of discrimination in Kenya.”
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
Gender equality remains a pipedream …By Wanjiku Mwaura
wo weeks ago, the Women Political Alliance suggested there should be 72 seats for women to ensure fair representation since the Constitution says no one gender should be more than a third, thus at least 116 women must be elected to Parliament and 23 to the Senate to meet the thresh hold. The dust had barely settled, after a group of women moved to court to block the nomination of Supreme Court judges over gender imbalance. The court should have seven judges including the Chief Justice, and the Deputy. Now, only two are women – Nancy Baraza who is the deputy CJ and Njoki Ndung’u who was nominated by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). The case is yet to be determined, but the suit and the proposal on elective seats is raising political temperatures and bringing into sharp focus policies on affirmative action.
Threshold The JSC nomination contravened the law. However, many analysts say the threshold cannot be achieved and women should be contented with what they got. In fact, women have been accused of sabotaging the implementation of the Constitution. Writing in one of the local dailies, freelance journalist Sarah Ederkin observed; this is not a zero sum game, where we must have everything today and yet we still cannot recognise the prevailing urgency of other matters.” She said that women should be contented with the appointments and ‘stop fusing over’ 4.76 per cent which is the gender deviation in the Supreme Court appointments. The journalist and many others say the constitutional requirement to have a third of each gender will not be practical.
Former House Speaker Francis Ole Kaparo was quoted saying that the constitutional provision was not well thought out. Political Scientist Karuti Kanyinga observed that a section of the Constitution may have to be amended since there can never be a third of women in elective posts. Though it is a guaranteed right, the backlashers are saying that affirmative action or fair representation has not even been achieved in countries like the US. They say that the US has 72 women in its house of representatives – and this is not a third. Does it mean then, women are wrong to demand for what the Constitution guarantees them? Speaking at a Nairobi hotel during a workshop on gender representation, Nominated MP and chairperson of labour and social welfare committee, Sophia Abdi said affirmative action is necessary to end the historical injustices and discrimination against women. “The harsh terrain of politics, coupled with male dominance in the public sector has not created conducive environment for women to have equal opportunity in the governance of Kenya,” she said adding that gender equity as a principle is meant to ensure men and women have equal opportunity in representation. The director of women rights foundation in Kenya Alice Njau said that most laws were passed after the timelines set in the Constitution making it difficult to improve the system and put mechanism in the right place. She decried lack of political will to address gender issues pointing out that 11 months since promulgation of the Constitution Parliament has passed only seven Bills impeding women’s empowerment. “Gender considerations have only been adhered to in the establishment of commissions and appointments of Chief Justice and his deputy,” the Director of Women’s Political Alliance Kanyi Wambui noted.
Legislators (from left) Joyce Laboso, Rachel Shebesh and Sophia Abdi during a consultative meeting with leaders of women’s organisations where they discussed the issue of numbers within the new constitutional dispensation organised by the Women’s Political caucus. Picture: Kenyan Woman Correspondent. She said that the implementation of not more than two third gender principle should not be construed as a quarrel between men and women. The Executive Director of the Women’s Rights Institute in Eldoret Mariam Suleiman, said that women must jealously guard their rights. She said it was not fair for the JSC to nominate only one woman to the Supreme Court. She added that though the opportunity for fair representation in the Supreme Court seems to be gone, women should negotiate for something better.
She proposes that a woman be appointed the next Attorney General be a woman. She said women should be proactive in ensuring the Bills being generated by the AG chambers, the Kenya Law Reform Commission and the Constitutional Implementation Commission meet the threshold on affirmative action. Above all, she said, women should be educated on opportunities
the Constitution offers. Former Kenya National Human Rights Commission chairman Maina Kiai said that the argument that ‘things have become better for women’ cannot be used to trash the constitutional requirement. How come, this is an issue now? Nobody ever had any opposition during the referendum. How come after all this time, now we think the affirmative action is too unrealistic? Lawyer Judy Thong’ori said the constitutional provisions must be respected at all costs, promising to go to court to stop Parliament or Senate from sitting if the number of either gender exceed two thirds. The Independent Interim Election Commission Chairman Isaack Hassan said that a formula must be drawn up to avoid a constitutional stalemate adding that political parties should be compelled to nominate women. The formula accepted by some women groups is to divide the 290 constituencies into groups of four. Then have one constituency vote
for a woman. Whatever way this is looked at, even with a guarantee in the Constitution, realisation of equal political representation for women is far from being achieved. It has been a long winding road to affirmative action. In 1996, Charity Ngilu unsuccessfully moved a Motion in Parliament that sought to compel the government to implement the Beijing Platform of action. This was followed in 1997 by another unsuccessful attempt by Phoebe Asiyo to move an Affirmative Action Bill. In 2000 Beth Mugo also unsuccessfully moved a Motion in Parliament in reference to the National Gender and Development Policy, 2000, but it was rejected. In 2007 the then Justice Minister Martha Karua tabled a Motion in Parliament proposing a 50/50 representation in the Affirmative Bill 2007. However, Parliament rejected the Motion on grounds that the requirements were impractical.
Leaders vow to ensure equality is applied in all sectors …By Valarie Aseto
t is almost one year down the line since the new constitution was promulgated. Majority of Kenyans voted overwhelmingly and were convinced that it offered critical elements in the realization of a just and a fair society. To Kenyans, the constitution was to stop so many years of oppression and economic disempowerment that existed since time immemorial. And now the monster of implementation of the constitution is here. This has prompted the experts to come up with modalities and platforms to offer civic education to the common ‘mwananchi’ (people).
Trigger At a recent workshop organized by the African and Woman Feature Service (AWC Features), it was noted that majority of Kenyans, including the politicians do not understand what affirmative action is all about. Today despite the new constitution being applied daily, it is unfortunate that the mention of the word affirmative action triggers the notion that it is based on women representation in decision making and public leadership. This is a fallacy. According to Article 260 of the constitution affirmative action includes any measure designed to overcome or ameliorate an inequity or
the systematic denial or infringement of a right or fundamental freedom. Ms. Judy Thongori, a constitutional lawyer, explained that affirmative action not only involves women in leadership positions but also the plight of marginalized people, regional balancing in terms of job opportunities and taking care of people with disabilities. Thongori said affirmative action is not a new phenomenon as majority of Kenyans think. A case in point is the Kenya’s school quota system in the education sector that was started to enable students from marginalized areas to access schools and institutions of higher learning despite not having the highest academic grades. It is also well applied in the public university admission system where it is used in allowing women to access universities with one percent point lower than their male counterparts. Further, today it is accepted in Kenya that public offices, state departments and corporations should have their employee numbers reflective of the national diversities. “All these are affirmative action in practice and indeed they have contributed to a conducive environment,” she observed. Thongori further cited the situation of people from Turkana as the best reflection where affirmative action has not been applied in a long time. “What is happening to our brothers and sis-
ters is as a result of poor government policies that ought to have been addressed in the past. Providing them with relief food is not a permanent solution to their problem, instead the government should address the real causes as per the constitution, which is fair representation and good governance,” she said. Although the country has witnessed a positive constitutional implementation take-off in the recent appointments of a woman to the office of Deputy Chief Justice, the appointment of 4 women out of 7 to the Independent Boundaries Commission Vetting Board, Thongori said some authorities are planning to make women’s position as deputies in the expanded political space.
Concern “Deputizing for male leaders is not very useful for women, as the real power lies with the Chairpersons who only relinquish the top seat to their deputies in accordance with their whims,” she added. A constitutional lawyer Mr. Elisha Ongoya said that women are not only concerned with the implementation of the constitution but also the nature of that implementation. “One of the greater concern will be the status quo that would address the existing offices, since there is no respect of the 2/3 affirmative action
principle,” he said. Ongoya warned that the tough journey has begun and the leaders have no choice but to respect the clauses as per the constitution. Though no keen interests appear to be made by the leaders regarding fair representations, Ongoya said as lawyers they will track the new appointments, and ensure that the Government implements the principle in existing offices. On her part, Ms. Winnie Guchu a commissioner from Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) said that majority of the leaders are still living in the dark with high hopes that they would be able to employ their influential power and resources to mobilize people to vote for them. Such leaders she added are yet to come to terms with the reality that ‘Wanjiku’ (the public) now holds all the sovereign power in accordance with the new constitution. Guchu said in situations where there would be no equal representation as per the constitution, the process of implementation would be dragged till the positions are filled equally. The commissioner further suggested that the new commission should come up with a process of engaging the media and the people on voter education to help explain the clauses well since majority are still lagging behind in understanding the new constitution.
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
Women lay out strategies ahead of polls
…By Omwa Ombara
lections are coming up in 2012 and under the new Constitution, women are gearing to have their numbers increased in the county assemblies as well as within the national Parliament. In order to make this achievable, women politicians are laying in place strategies that will see them convince Kenyans why there needs to be more of the female gender within the new political dispensation that has seen the number of Parliamentary seats go to 349. Out of this, there will be 290 single member constituencies, 47 women from each county and 12 nominated by parliamentary political parties according to their proportion of members in the national assembly.
Campaigns Not to be left behind in campaigns to woo supporters, some have opted to sell themselves to women’s groups through merry go rounds, church fellowships, religious rallies, door to door campaigns as well as using media dialogues and campaigns as platform to make themselves visible. The women are already organising themselves into a vibrant movement and are working hand in hand with civil societies. Some NGOs have already included visible women aspirants in their budget and will sponsor those who do not make it through the male dominated nominations as independent candidates. More aspiring candidates are demanding for greater space and coverage from the media as they realise that visibility is a great tool in bargaining for Parliamentary seats. According to Eric Oduor, who represented Mr Richard Chacha, chair of the Kenya Parliamentary Association, they are working closely with women aspirants in seeking to sustain the gender discourse within the new constitutional dispensation. “The women aspirants must work closely with the media and engage them in their activities in order to sustain gender discourse. They must come out publicly in order to be visible enough to get media coverage and to use the media platform to espouse why they should be elected,” reiterated Oduor. Oduor was speaking at a meeting organised by the Friedrich Ebert under the theme “Constitutional Challenges to Women’s Participation on Politics”.
Awareness The meeting was a joint effort by Kenya Parliamentary Journalists Association and Women Parliamentary aspirants to strategise on media publicity for women ahead of the 2012 elections. Participants included all media houses, Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) commissioners, Parliamentary reporters, councillors, women Parliamentarians and civil servants. Reiterating Oduor’s sentiments, Secretary Kenya Editors Guild Rosemary Okello said that the goodwill of the Government was very important in enacting the 116 women seat rule in Parliament. Said Okello: “Media reports suggest that women might not meet the 116 seats in Parliament but in developed countries where the one-third system has worked, it is not the NGOs to come up with a formula but the Government to give a road map on how to successfully enact the numbers.”
Women from all over the country at a rally articulating their issues. To ensure a high presence in political positions, women have laid out strategies that they are keeping close to their chests as the country heads for the General Elections in 2012. Picture: Kenyan Woman Correspondent.
“I know I can be the mayor of Nairobi because I am action oriented but which woman can afford to take 100 councillors to Dubai so they can vote for her?” she posed, adding: “It all boils down to economic power. I need to strategise by educating fellow councillors to vote in people with leadership qualities and not necessarily those with money.” — Rachel Kamweru, Councillor Nairobi City Council
Okello explained that KEWOPA, on realising the need came up with its own mechanism of one-third Parliamentarians, one-third senators and one-third nominees and will soon launch a campaign with a bill under Article 100 in Parliament as part of their strategy to include, women, youth and the disabled in the new dispensation. Access into elective positions has not been easy for women. According to nominated Councillor Rachel Kamweru from Nairobi economic empowerment is a hurdle a woman must overcome to be at par with her rivals. Kamweru said that even now as mayoral elections are going on throughout the country between June 23 and August 15, it is not easy for women candidates. She observes that the Nairobi City Council is the bedrock of politics where everything is local. “I know I can be the mayor of Nairobi because I’m action oriented but which woman can afford to take 100 councillors to Dubai so they can vote for her?” she posed, adding: “It all boils down to economic power. I need to strategise by educating fellow councillors to vote in people with leadership qualities and not necessarily those with money.” Kamweru is currently engaged in civic awareness campaign that she hopes will change attitudes in the city and allow space for more women participants. She challenged the women leadership on mentorship saying the older women are not giving the younger ones a chance. She cited the Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation which comprises mostly women of the older generation who are not highly educated yet education is key to leadership within the Constitution. Kamweru said she was psyched to participate in the mayoral elections as she was already armed with information from the new constitution and had the experience to manage Nairobi County, the ground being fair game. However, even as women seek to have more space within the political leadership, it emerged that they were all seeking to have the right informa-
tion about the new law so that ignorance does not block their path to leadership. Speaking at the same meeting, Agnes Mugure, Programme Officer at Association of Local Governments in Kenya (Algak), concurred with Kamweru that education was key to seeking political positions. “The level of education and awareness of women’s consciousness of political rights is critical for individuals and collective action,” reiterated Mugure. She said many women are not aware of the provisions of the Constitution and urged them to read the document like their Bible since education is power.
Mugure observed that Kenya has had a political party patriarchy that creates a hierarchy of gender relations where men are privileged. “At the moment we have only one political party with women in the hierarchy, this is Martha Karua’s Narc Kenya,” she explained. However, Karua’s presidential ambition is already facing a challenge from Makadara MP Gideon Mbuvi who has indicated that he wants to contest the nominations. Mugure called on women aspirants to further seek goodwill from political parties to avoid the lone ranger mentality of starting one’s own party at this stage. She emphasised that nominations are on party strength. “It is progressive that despite the challenges, women are now vigilant in ensuring the Constitution is fully implemented,” explained Mugure. Tia Galgalo a Commissioner from IIEC applauded women for using the courts as a strategy that will protect them against impunity and forces that do not favour women’s gains in the Constitution. She cited the recent Case 16 in which Fida blocked the appointment of Supreme Court judges on gender grounds. “The Case 16 in court is not only about the Judiciary but for the court to interpret the action and hold our leaders accountable,” explained Galgalo. It is only through fighting hard
and keeping the tempo that women’s gains were entrenched in the new law. According to Nominated MP Sophia Abdi women have worked hard and that is why today we have a new constitution. “Men will no longer get away with the contracts they used to have exclusively. We as women have to abandon tokens and respond to issues,” she said. Abdi observed: “It is refreshing to see that women who used to sing and dance for men at rallies are now campaigning to take over leadership in society.” The fight for space and visibility is therefore being taken by women from all rank and files. Be they from urban, rural or slum, the women are all seeking to have their fair share of the cake within the political dispensation as entrenched in the new Constitution. A women’s leader from the slum, Emmaculate Musya, said women candidates in Kibera have laid out strategies on how they will carry out their campaigns in 2012. However, she said the strategies were their secret weapon and exposing them at this stage would be tantamount to arming their political rivals.
Musya observed that security remained a serious challenge to women aspirants. She cited a recent case in Siaya in which a woman who had indicated interest for a civic seat was beaten up, stripped and injured by hired thugs. It is alleged that Mama Elizabeth Owino, was beaten up by thugs who were allegedly hired by her political rivals. Speaking from her experience, Musya urged women to be on the alert and said they are currently holding secret meetings to plan on how to counter the crisis. Musya who experienced political violence in 2007 and almost lost her life after thugs were allegedly hired to rape and kill her said: “We are not fools. We have learnt useful lessons from the past and experience is a great teacher. We are keeping our secrets close to our chest and nobody will wrest it away from us. Once bitten, twice shy.”
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
SADC pushed to attain 50-50 gender parity
…By a Correspondent
he governance cluster of the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance has called on Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) governments to redouble their efforts to attain the target of gender parity in all areas of decision-making by 2015. In a communiqué re-launching the 50-50 campaign following a meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, NGO representatives from nine SADC countries noted that with only four years to go, and an average representation of women in parliament of 25 percent, the region is only half way where it needs to be, with many countries having only one more election to go.
Gender Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU), the governance cluster leader and Gender Links, coordinator of the Alliance that campaigned for the adoption of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender Protocol, convened the meeting ahead of the SADC Heads of State Summit in Luanda on August 17. Delegates noted with concern that while the SADC regional average of 25 percent women in national parliaments exceeds the global average of 19 percent, this varies considerably between countries, under scoring a lack of political will. With 18 percent women in parliament and elections due to take place within the next year, Zimbabwe is one
such country. Other countries with elections on the horizon are Zambia (15 percent women in parliament) in September and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with 12 percent women in parliament by November. Local authority elections are taking place in Mauritius (seven percent women councillors) and Lesotho (58 percent women councillors) later this year. Malawi, which currently has no elected local government, has indefinitely postponed elections due to have been held this year. Commenting ahead of the launch of the Alliance’s flagship 2011 Barometer at the SADC Heads of State Summit, the governance cluster said that now is the time “name and shame” governments that are not pulling their weight. The Barometer introduces the SADC Gender and Development Index (SGDI) which, among others, has a combined score for governments
of women’s representation in parliament, cabinet and local government. This ranks countries in the region in the following order from highest to lowest with regard to gender and governance: South Africa (1), Lesotho (2), Angola (3), Mauritius (4), Tanzania (5), Namibia (6), Seychelles (7), Malawi (8), Swaziland (9), Zimbabwe (10), Botswana (11), Mauritius (12), Zambia (13), Madagascar (14) and DRC (15).
Parliament What is evident, noted cluster leader and director of WIPSU Fanny Chirisa is that “where there is a will there is away. Change has taken place very rapidly in some SADC countries. Some are very close to achieving the 50-50. This tells us that the parity target can be achieved”. For example, South Africa has 44 percent women in parliament and Lesotho has 58 percent women in lo-
cal government. Invariably best performing countries that include South Africa, Mozambique and Angola have a combination of a Proportional Representation system and a voluntary party quota (this is legislated in the case of local elections in Namibia). The Proportional Representation system is more conducive to women’s participation because parties vote for a party rather than for candidates, and provided parties distribute women evenly in the list they are bound to get in. The African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa is the first party in the region to have adopted a voluntary 50-50 quota followed through at national and local level. However, when the ANC lost ground in the May 2011 election, the proportion of women also declined from 40 percent to 38 percent. This has led to a call for legislated quotas in South Africa so that all parties, and not just the ANC, honour
Key urgent matters raised by delegates in relation to upcoming elections include: •
In Zimbabwe, recent inter-party efforts to bring the 50-50 demands to the fore are commendable, but there is an urgent need to seize this historic opportunity to incorporate special measures for ensuring equal representation in the new Constitution. The fact that the country has a deputy woman president and deputy woman prime minister are important milestones that need to be built on and expanded. In Zambia, the fact that the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) has put up only 19 women out of 140 candidates for the coming elections sets a poor example on the eve of the only election that Zambia has before 2015. It is fervently hoped that other parties, due to submit candidates within the next few days for the September elections, will do much better than the MMD. In DRC a progressive Constitutional provision for 50 percent women is being undermined by lack of implementing mechanisms and legal loopholes. The DRC is urged to seize this historic moment to honour its obligations. Mauritius is commended for a ground breaking gender neutral quota in a draft law for upcoming local elections that provides for a minimum of 30 percent women or men candidates in the elections. However, so far only 442 women candidates have come forward when more than 2,000 are needed to give effect to the provisions. Now is the time for the women’s movement to rally and galvanise women at the local level to grab this historic opportunity with both hands.
The break of a new dawn
…By Grace Igandu
ike a good film should, ‘The Break of Dawn’ both reflects history and influences it. It not only tells a story of the struggles of Kenyan women in getting their rights to be taken seriously but also reflects the values and ideals of the society that finally produced the new 2010 constitution. The film takes the audience through the process of constitution-making in the country and the role that veteran politicians, church leaders and most importantly, women have played in this. This is done by showing candid interviews in which women who have actively participated in the process talk about the challenges that they have encountered along the way as well as the milestones that have been achieved by Kenyan women.
Journey Veteran politicians like Jael Mbogo and Phoebe Asiyo take the audience through a historical journey of the role of women in Kenya: from participating in the struggle of independence by aiding the Mau Mau uprising to contributing to the creation of a new constitution. The documentary also reveals how society has benefitted and is set to benefit from the transition between the old and the new constitution. This piece of work can be seen to indicate a change in cultural trends, whereby the voices of women are increasingly being heard; even in the face of the patriarchal societies that are predominant in Kenyan communities.
Veteran women leaders Phoebe Asiyo and Jael Mbogoh are some of the prominent personalities featured in the documentary Break of a New Dawn that reflects the birth of the struggle women and human rights activists went through to ensure the laws of Kenya were rewritten. Pictures: Kenyan Woman correspondent.
Wandera, founder of the Orphans and Widows group, discusses how she was kicked out of her own land by her in-laws after she was widowed, despite having a right to own the piece of land. The movie successfully presents a chronological sequence of events revolving around the constitutionmaking process. For example, in one scene, Dr.David Gitari, the former Archbishop of the ACK church explains how the process begun in June 1997 when members of the
Quota This will be the system used in local elections in Lesotho later this year. Delegates hailed this as yet another example that innovative solutions are possible. “Countries with a constituency system can no longer claim that there are no options on quotas,” Chirisa said. “This all boils down to political will.” The Alliance, organised through 15 country networks and ten theme clusters, is stepping up the drive for the implementation of the Protocol through action plans at national level and regional campaigns that leverage efforts on the ground to ensure the 28 targets are attained. — www.sadcgenderprotocol.org
their country. In the historical journey however, one can easily comprehend that the process has not been an easy one. After the Bomas process, the Wako draft was rejected as Kenya did not seem to be politically ready for change. Furthermore, the stakeholders of the constitution, that is, the Kenyan people were neither appropriately included in the process nor consulted on important bills. The film also explores other themes, such as the plight of the disabled. The audience gets to learn that section 34(c) of the old constitution explicitly discriminated against the disabled population of Kenya, including leaders. Honorable Josephine Sinyo, a former nominated member of parliament shares her experience with being blocked from taking a parliamentary position because of her disability; blindness.
As a result, socio-economic and cultural rights have been included in the new constitution. Furthermore, the film presents a cultural phenomenon by examining the empowerment of women in the African context. The argument presented is that the making of the constitution was largely advanced by women, such as through drawing attention to the constitution, through the famous sex boycott organized and supported by FIDA Kenya.
Members of Civil Society groups like Neema Meme G25 Group, the Orphans and Widows Group, Maendeleo ya Wanawake and the Kenya League of Women Voters give details of the immense contributions women have made towards creating a pro-women type of cultural environment. ‘The Break of Dawn’ argues for the idea that the bill of rights , included in the current constitution has opened up the door for several freedoms such as the freedom to information; equality in marriage and families, women’s right to reproductive health, land rights and devolution principles aimed at allowing for resources to reach the people. However, the obstacles facing the implementation of the new constitution are also explicitly described in this documentary. The attitudes and thought patterns of several people are still entrenched in a patriarchal system, where women are seen as lesser beings and treated as much. For example, Wilbroda
the 50-50 obligation. Countries with the First-PastThe-Post (FPTP) system have argued that quotas are impossible in this system but Lesotho shattered this myth through a system of 30 percent seats reserved for women in its 2005 elections. An additional 28 percent women won seats in the openly contested seats, giving Lesotho 58 percent women at this level. This makes Lesotho the only case of political decision-making in SADC in which women exceed men. However, claims of unfairness by men led Lesotho to revise the system. Rather than abandon the quota, Lesotho has borrowed from Tanzania, which has a FPTP system in which an additional 30 percent of seats are distributed to parties for women only on a Proportional Representation basis.
opposition started demanding for a change in the constitution. An important part of the historical journey; the Bomas process is also discussed. The film reveals that women from different organizations and groups took part in civic education, were active participants in the negotiations, and were able to negotiate on issues of mutual interests with men as well as agree with their fellow women on common standpoints. It becomes clear that the Bomas process was very important for Kenyans because it gave them a chance to become enlightened and realize that they have the power to make significant decisions regarding
Another theme that is featured in the ‘Break of Dawn’ is that of the role of the media. It is explicitly revealed that although the Kenyan media has the power of agenda-setting; media houses and the press focused their attention on the politics surrounding the referendum. Hence, the role of women in the constitution-making process was neglected even though women, as an integral part of society influenced the final outcome. Overall, the film was informative and timely, having been produced at a time when the Kenyan law is undergoing several changes. However, the historical journey of women’s contributions could have been more comprehensive, such as, by detailing the role women played in the struggle for Kenya’s independence.
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
Desperation as millions face starvation M
It is significant to note that Northern Kenya is home to Daadab complex which is the largest refugee site in the world and even though its structures were designed to accommodate about 90,000 people, there are only three refugee camps which constitute the Daadab complex and each was meant to accommodate 30,000 asylum seekers. Nonetheless, it is now home to an estimated 423,000 thousands refugees. With Unicef estimating that an additional 50,000 refugees are living on the outskirts of the camp.
…By Joyce Chimbi
any parts within the East and Horn of Africa have been hit by drought. And as the rains fail and water disappears women continue to bear the heavy burden of ensuring that their children eat and thirst is quenched. Those who have been to the arid and semi arid lands of Kenya can attest to the fact that the issue of missing rains is drawing pitiful pictures. The stories they tell from what they have witnessed are heart wrenching. “In my visit to Turkana, one of the areas heavily hit by drought, I saw a mother putting powdered palm nuts in her mouth in order to moisten the grains before putting the mixture in her baby’s mouth because of lack of water. Of course it was not a nutritious meal but this is a crisis,” says Anthony Lake, Executive Director UNICEF who toured regions where millions are facing starvation. While speaking after a tour of the drought stricken region, Lake said this mother and child are unfortunately only two of the estimated 11 tegic reserves from eight million bags to below million people staring death in the face as vari2.2 million. ous aid agencies declare that the Horn of Africa Raila further noted that the Government is facing the most severe humanitarian crisis in needs KSh10.9 billion for its own people as well the world. as many others finding their way into Kenya As drought continues to ravage countries from drought stricken Somali. such as Somali, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia, the Various Aid agencies have stated that children UN has already declared famine in Somalia and who are severely malnourished are nine times majority of Somalis are trying to find their way more likely to die than healthy children. into Northern Kenya which is equally affected. “The situation across the Horn of Africa is “What we are seeing here is almost a perfect very serious as millions of people are affected. storm with the conflict in Somali as well as risOf these, two million children are severely afing fuel and food prices amid lack of rain,” obfected with half a million of them suffering from served Lake who toured regions where millions acute malnutrition and are at the brink of death,” are already facing imminent death. emphasised Lake. Reports by Unicef indicate that this is not Having endured a long drawn socio-politsimply a refugee crisis but a situation that is being ical crisis for about 20 years, the situation has replicated in other communities across the arid led to the escalation of poverty, food insecurity and semi-arid regions in the Horn of Africa. and instability which has impacted negatively Although drought has affected everyone in on the lives of many Somalis. Unicef confirms these regions, the impact has been extreme on that one in every three Somalis is living through women and children especially expectant and a humanitarian catastrophe. breastfeeding mothers. The situation in Somali has spilled over to In Turkana alone, in a population of about the neighbouring countries particularly Kenya 850,000 people, more than 385,000 children and and Ethiopia who are themselves dealing with 90,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women are A woman in Turkana prepares wild fruit millions of people who require urgent food and suffering from acute malnutrition. This has led that she will boil to prepare a meal for her water relief. to an increase in the number of new admissions family. Inset: Herders carry the carcass This has led to an influx of refugees into both of children suffering from malnutrition to a countries provoking animosity among the host staggering 78 percent. of a cow that died from starvation and communities who feel that the refugees are comAbbas Gullet, Secretary General of the Kedehydration. The drought situation is having peting with them for scarce food aid. nya Red Cross says in Kenya alone an estimated a devastating effect on human beings and “The host community is now expressing five million people in various part of the country livestock. Pictures: Kenyan Woman Correspondent. frustration for what they see as negligence of are facing starvation. This is amidst a crisis in the government and Aid agencies who rush to the Daadab complex as 1,400 refugees from the Cenrescue of the refugees,” observed Lake. tral and Southern Somali find their way into the It is significant to note that Northern camp every day. The Kenya government Kenya is home to Daadab complex which has been forced to open a second camp to is the largest refugee site in the world and enable it manage these rising populations. even though its structures were designed “The needs for these new arrivals are to accommodate about 90,000 people, growing so fast that Medecins San Fronlarmed by the escalating crisis in the Horn of Africa, members of the Gender and Disaster Network there are only three refugee camps which tieres (MSF) is rushing to bring in adcall upon the African Union, African governments, donor institutions, UN agencies and internaconstitute the Daadab complex and each ditional staff and resources. Last month, tional NGOs to be aware of the gendered impact of the famine to women and children in Somalia, was meant to accommodate 30,000 asystaff at the health posts gave 11,963 conKenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia. Bearing in mind that during famine, women and girl children suffer lum seekers. sultations. According to reports by MSF from unequal nutritional intake; women face the increased burden of earning money to augment household Nonetheless, it is now home to an they are seeing large numbers of paincome; women have to travel much further to fetch water and food for the family; pregnant women face an estimated 423,000 thousands refugees. tients with respiratory tract infections, increased risk of giving birth in unsafe environments; and women and girls are exposed to gender-based vioWith Unicef estimating that an addidiarrhoea, tuberculosis, malnutrition lence in the camps that should be providing them with security. tional 50,000 refugees are living on the and trauma, and an increasing number We call upon the African Union, and its member states, in particular, not only to provide immediate aid outskirts of the camp. of complicated cases. to the affected population and support humanitarian agencies working in the Horn of Africa but also develop However, reports by various aid MSF further notes that “a new health alongside grassroots women’s groups a blueprint for response and recovery in building a drought-resistant agencies reveal that the refugees might post was opened in March, in the middle environment. just be fleeing into the camp of death as of the area where the newcomers are setWe urge the Al-Shabab militia group to allow humanitarian aid to reach women, children and men afdisturbing images of people literally at tling, which is already doing an average fected by the famine. the brink of death begin to emerge. of 110 consultations a day. We have taken We recommend that the African Union, African governments, donor institutions, international NGOs This is due to the fact that there is on more than 50 extra staff since October, and UN agencies to: no longer space to accommodate any bringing its total number in Dagahaley • work with and support local women’s groups for participatory and well-coordinated action more refugees in Daadab, and neither camp to 458”. • facilitate women’s inclusion in camp/village management committees is there enough food and water to meet This comes less than two months • conduct gender-aware vulnerability and capacity assessments their needs. The camp was officially desince President Kibaki declared drought • protect women, children and vulnerable men from potential gender-based violence in refugee camps clared full in 2008. a national disaster as the lives of people • ensure women are in charge of managing and distributing relief Sanitation therefore becomes a in areas such as Moyale, Turkana, Wajir, • be aware of the distinct needs of people with disability, the elderly, menstruating women, pregnant problem with consequences which Marsabit and Mandera hang in the baland lactating mothers (e.g. mobility aid, nutritional supplement, undergarments and sanitary pads, might lead to an outbreak of diseases. ance due to lack of food and water. accessible shelter, water and sanitation) The British government has in light It is against this background that the • guarantee women and child-friendly spaces of the bleak circumstances provided Prime Minister Raila Odinga announced The famine happened at a time when affected countries are slowly making progress in building their caemergency assistance for more than one that the Government had directed that pacities to overcome the challenges caused by protracted conflicts and previous famines, and are rebuilding million people in Kenya, Ethiopia and half a million bags of maize be released their lives. We urge the international community to help so that significant developmental gains made by EthiSomali as the humanitarian disaster confrom the strategic reserves for famine opia Kenya, and in particular, Somalia would not be lost. We urge humanitarian workers not to succumb to tinues to escalate in the Horn of Africa. relief, a move that has reduced the strathe ‘tyranny of the urgent’ and ignore important social issues as they deal with the pressing logistical details.
Don’t bother us with GENDER now, this is an emergency!
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
Protocol to defend women’s rights launched
Elizabeth Muli, vice chair of the Constitution Implementation Commission receives a copy of the manual that will defend women’s rights in the corridors of justice. Picture: Henry Owino …By Henry Owino
ases of women losing out when they sue for domestic violence may soon be no more. Women now have a document that will be used to provide information in cases brought before domestic courts that explains how to bring up complaints of violation. An exhaustive protocol guidebook that will safeguard the legal rights of women in African has been finally launched. The Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR) and Equality Now have jointly developed the book known as ‘A Guide on Using the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa for Legal Action’ that will act as the important constitute tool as well as a legal source for women’s and girls’ rights defenders in Africa.
Charter Speaking at the official launch of the protocol guidebook at a hotel in Nairobi, Dr Elizabeth Muli, vice-chairperson of Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) said the African Union in realising the importance of safeguarding the rights of African women, adopted the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women on July 11, 2003. Muli said through the collective efforts of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition, which actively engaged the African Union and member states to ratify, the Protocol came into force on November 25, 2005, two years after its adoption making. “I am proud to mention that the Republic of Kenya ratified the said Protocol on October 6, 2010, a demonstration of the Government’s commitment toward protecting the rights of women in Kenya. On October 10-15, 2010, the Kenyan Government hosted the launch of the African Women’s Decade in Nairobi whose theme was ‘Grassroots Approach to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment’. The launch also reviewed and celebrated progress made towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. It developed concrete actions to accelerate momentum in implementation and attainment of goals articulated in various declarations, protocols and conventions on gender equality and women’s empowerment adopted by the African Union including the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. Another milestone was the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) that has three aims; one is to create awareness and mobilise continental support and political will in implementing the
agreed international, regional and sub-regional decisions and gender commitments. Second is to re-invigorate commitment to accelerate implementation on agreed global and regional commitments on the human rights perspective, focusing on priorities such as education, health, agriculture, women’s economic and political empowerment and gender based violence. Third is to energise the African women’s movement with a focus on youth and grassroots women leaders. Muli reminded delegates at the launch that the Government of Kenya in hosting the launch of the Decade committed itself to working towards promoting gender equality, commitments that are also guaranteed in the Constitution. She reiterated that Kenya also supported a Human Rights Council resolution in October 2010 which established a working group on eliminating discrimination against women in law and practice. The CIC vice-chairperson said within the resolution, the Human Rights Council called upon states to fulfil their obligations and commitments as well as to revoke any remaining laws that discriminate on the basis of sex and remove gender bias in the administration of justice. “I am glad to report that this is already in line with the New Constitution of Kenya one of whose key national values and principles of governance includes ‘… human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalised’,” Muli emphasised.
Discrimination She further pointed out Article 27 provides for Equality and non-discrimination on various grounds and further requires the State to take legislative and other measures, including Affirmative Action programmes and policies designed to redress any disadvantage suffered by individuals or groups because of past discrimination. Based on the commitments laid out by the Kenya Government through its ratification of
the Protocol on the Rights of Women and its commitment to the African Women’s Decade, Muli believed the launch of the manual came at an opportune time when the country is commencing implementation of the Constitution that guarantee rights and freedoms for all Kenyans including those of women. “The manual is an important tool for us as it provides step by step guidance on using the Protocol on the Rights of Women in national and regional courts. For us in Kenya, the Protocol is particularly important as the new Constitution provides that any treaty ratified by Kenya shall form part of the law of Kenya,” emphasised Muli. She said the CIC has released the final draft of the ratifications of Treaties Bill that shall lay down the procedures for the domestication of international law giving effect to Article 2(5). This, therefore, enables women to use the Protocol on the Rights of Women in our national courts together with the Constitution to safeguard their individual rights and freedoms.
Litigation The Manual guides human rights advocates and lawyers on how to use and or invoke provisions of the Protocol while litigating on behalf of women and provides an analysis of case law on women’s rights decided by other regional and international bodies which can be used to guide courts in the interpretation of the rights provided within the Protocol. The manual also provides advocates with more general strategies for the popularisation and domestication of the Protocol to protect the rights of African women and girls and ensure they have complete access to justice. “I cannot emphasise enough the importance of this manual at a time when Kenya is going through legal reforms that will provide a suitable framework for the implementation of the Constitutions and in particular the Bill of Rights,” Muli reiterated. She commended Equality Now and Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition for the
“The manual is an important tool for us as it provides step by step guidance on using the Protocol on the Rights of Women in national and regional courts. For us in Kenya, the Protocol is particularly important as the new Constitution provides that any treaty ratified by Kenya shall form part of the law of Kenya.” — Elizabeth Muli, vice chair of the Constitution Implementation Commission .
great initiative reiterating that it was going to be a great contribution in the protection of women’s rights in Kenya and Africa as a whole. Faiza Mohamed, Director of Equality Now said the Woman’s Rights Protocol is an important advancement made in the protection and promotion of rights of women in Africa. She said it will be used to provide information in cases brought before domestic courts as it also explains how to bring up complaints of violation. “This manual aims to facilitate the exercise of the rights set out in the Women’s Rights Protocol by providing step by step guidance for using the document at both national and regional levels,” observed Mohammed. The manual is the first international law instrument to call for an end to all forms of violence against women, whether in private or in public, including sexual harassment that prohibits all forms of female genital mutilation. It protects women’s right to seek abortion under certain conditions, forced marriages and specifies 18 years as the minimum age for marriage among others. The Protocol will, therefore, provide an analysis of certain violations of the Women’s Rights Protocol to assist practitioners in drafting complaints on such issues. Mohammed pointed out that the Protocol also sets forth a broad range of economic and social rights which includes rights to equal pay for equal work and to adequate and paid maternity leave in both public and private sectors. It also endorses affirmative action to promote equal participation of women at all levels of decision making and calls for equal participation of women in law enforcement and the Judiciary.
Marginalised Mohammed reiterated that the Women’s Rights Protocol further provides important protection for adolescent girls, as well as particularly vulnerable groups of women such as widows, the elderly, disabled and the poor as well as those from marginalised population groups. It also protects pregnant or nursing women who are in detention. The manual summarises key cases on issues relevant to women’s rights decided by the African Commission and other relevant regional or international human rights mechanisms to give practitioners a sense of international and regional jurisprudence on women’s rights. It highlights more general strategies that can be employed for the domestication and popularisation of the Women’s Rights Protocol. The manual has also been translated into Arabic, French and Portuguese to reach the relevant speakers in African continent.
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
Hope in the face of adversity
…By Ekuwam Adow
Naukot gives life a second chance through positive living
he was thrown out of their matrimonial home, chased away by relatives of her late husband, withstood vilification and abuses hurled at her, but she has defied odds and sprang back to life and now living positively. Mary Naukot is the epitome of resilience having literarily ‘died and resurrected’ following her tribulations when she first tested positive to HIV and succumbed into life of misery, despair and hopelessness. Back then in 1992, bed-ridden weak and down with inflamed limbs, Naukot had lost hope and will to live, shunned even by close relatives, she lay waiting to die.
Culture “Bed-ridden forlornly lying on the bed, my world was over only the heart was pumping but the rest of the body was dead, buried, mind filled with hallucinations and nightmares,” Naukot confesses. Her condition deteriorated further when she was ejected from her home by her husband’s relatives despite her sickness. She took refuge in her mother’s modest house, where she was dumped and left for dead. Retrogressive cultural practices worked against her and supported claims by her husband relatives who thought they had finished with her. That is now history. The woman in front of me is full of life, exuding and brimming with confidence; speaking about her turn around after accepting her condition by looking ahead. Naukot has not only defied odds and now living positively, but has fought court battles and regained control of her late husband’s estate. The story of Naukot inspires other people living with Aids, that all is not lost, but a beginning of a new chapter in life. She waged vicious protracted court battle where she won over her late husband relatives in control of property left behind including commercial residential plot in outskirt of the town. The court also decreed that she pursue terminal compensation and benefits from the Ministry of Health where her late husband worked as public health officer.
Pillar The sky is the limit for the mother of four who has now re-invented herself, her first born son is a third year student at Jomo Kenyatta University and Technology(JKUAT), second born is in Form Two, while the third born is in Standard Eight. The last born in lower primary. All her children are aware of her status and relates well with her. She describes them as her pillar of her strength and fountain of optimism and hope. “I draw my inspiration and strength on the need to see my children have the best in life by investing in their education. That is all that I can bequeath them,” she avers. Naukot triumphed over her inlaws who wanted to disinherit her on parochial cultural practices. Her win was a milestone against retrogressive cultural practices. According to Turkana cultural
beliefs and practices, the estate of a departed man reverses back to his extended family upon his demise. His widow is inherited by close relatives, who in most cases are the husband’s brother or male cousin. The widow is counted as part of the property left behind by the man. Naukot’s case was more complicated as she had not undergone an important traditional marriage ceremony — akiaraa Emoong. This tradition involves the killing of a bull and accompanying feasting and rituals to bond and seal a marriage covenant. She was also facing hostility from her in-laws who accused her of infecting their son with the HIV. However, through her determination to seek legal redress and backed by friendly, recently crafted inheritance and children rights law, Naukot ensured she got justice for herself and her children. “Since I accepted my condition, I have never looked back particularly after I was put in antiretroviral therapy,’ she says. The ARVS put back her health on steady pedestal reversing spiral decline. “I started taking ARVS when I was completely down and weak in 2002 with my CD 4 count of 12, but the drugs immediately worked wonders and I was back on my feet greatly regaining my healthy status,” observes Naukot.
Mary Naukot (left), a Turkana woman living with Aids has come out open on her status and is now empowering the community on how to live positively with the disease. Pictures: Hussein Dido
HIV Though she cannot recall when and how she contracted HIV, Naukot remembers that her health condition started taking a nosedive in 2000 and this saw her constantly in and out of hospital. The failing health grew worse in 2002 when she developed complications as her legs starting swelling and consequently rendering her immobile and confined on the bed. It was then when she mustered the courage to go for Voluntary Counselling Testing (VCT), where she discovered what she had dreaded — being HIV positive — is what had been troubling her. The initial reaction was denial and self-condemnation followed by blame game as well as accusation and counter-accusation between them. “I sunk into depression and indulged in binge drinking spree as I tried to come to terms with my HIV status at a time when stigma was very high,” she recalls. She led a very desperate life after being shunned by the community which showed dislike for those living with HIV/Aids during that time. Naukot’s turning point came when she was recruited as volunteer through the ‘Zingatia Maisha’ programme coordinated by African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF) and other NGOs working on HIV issues. Having publicly accepted her status and enrolled in medical care by taking ARV drugs, she started teaching others on drug adherence, a vital component on ART. She has been instrumental in giving hope and encouraging people living with HIV to positively live life to the fullest. Part of her role is ensuring drug adherence to those already under comprehensive care clinic taking
“Since I accepted my condition, I have never looked back particularly after I was put in antiretroviral therapy,’ she says. The ARVS put back her health on steady pedestal reversing spiral decline. I started taking ARVS when I was completely down and weak in 2002 with my CD 4 count of 12, but the drugs immediately worked wonders and I was back on my feet greatly regaining my healthy status.” — Mary Naukot.
ARVs and tracking defaulters and putting them back to the treatment line. “We monitor and track people taking ARVs with the aim of ensuring adherence and put back the defaulters back on track for maximum efficacy of ARVs,” reveals Naukot. To coordinate HIV related issues she started the Eboli Community-Based Initiative, a social welfare group of people of living with HIV at Kambi Juu, in the outskirts of Isiolo town. The group has been instrumental in raising awareness on issues related to HIV and have helped eliminate discrimination and stigma of people infected with HIV virus. “The 40 member group has been in the forefront of recruiting members to enrol in taking ARVs in the area,” explains Naukot. The power of ARV’s in changing lives of people living with HIV has profoundly manifested in Naukot among many others.
Treatment According to Stephen Kirigia, Isiolo District Aids Coordinator (DASCO), there is a growing demand for medical care and ARVS for many people living with HIV in the region. To date 1,786 people living with HIV are undergoing treatment at Isiolo County Hospital. Women form the bulk of patients with their number standing at 1,177; almost double the number of men which stands at 619. In total, there are 857 people on ARVs. There are 572 female and 285 men with the rest of the patients taking septrin since their CD4 are still high and has not dropped to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 250 CD4 count threshold. “The patients are put on ARVs only when the CD4 count is 250 and below, but it is good to start medical care early enough to constantly
monitor their health,” points Kirigia. He says that healthy individual have an average of over 500 CD4 count which are important for the body’s immune system. Kirigia explains that once the person is tested, found to be HIV and his/her level of immunity determined, they are counselled to help them live positively without worries. “This is carried out by determining the number of CD4 count which is mostly affected by viral load which is the replication of virus in the body,” he explains. Kirigia says that strict adherence by people taking ARVS poses a serious challenge, saying non-adherence could lead to drug resistant. “All must resort to eating nutritious foods since the drugs are strong and cannot be taken on empty stomach” he observes. Naukot says testing positive to HIV is not the end of life, but renewal of a better managed and planned phase of life. “HIV can be managed like any other ailments, just like cancer it calls for better coordinated management therapy,” she says. According to medical experts, human body is normally defended against infections by white blood cells whose number is determined by CD4 count test. HIV virus attacks these cells lowering immune system, thus creating the lower CD4 count and rendering the body vulnerable to opportunistic infections. ARVs help in boosting immune system by reducing the amount of HIV viruses in the body, and in the process increasing CD4 count which are responsible for defending the body against infections. The drugs improve the quality of life of HIV positive person by reducing HIV related illness commonly referred as opportunistic infections by restoring immune system.
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
Initiative to bridge the gap between Mathematics populations
…By Duncan Mboyah
athematics as a field of Science was largely closed to women before the 20th Century. However, from ancient times through the 19th Century and into the early 20th Century, a few women have notably achieved in mathematics. In Kenya the story is the same. Few women are seriously into Mathematics, a subject that has been treated as a male preserve. Poor performance is realised because of the existing belief that Mathematics is a tough subject. There is also lack of role models in this area of science. Cultural, economic and religious backgrounds that impede children in general and the girl child in particular from accessing quality education also influences the motivation of the girlchild towards Mathematics.
Grades According to Prof Wandera Ogana, Programme Director for the African Mathematics Millennium Science Initiative (AMMSI) female mathematics teachers in both public and private universities in Kenya number less than ten percent. He says that the number of girls who take Mathematics is lower at high school compared to boys, equal at university level and lowest at post graduate level. “Surprisingly 20 to 40 per cent of women who passed with high grades in Mathematics at high school level are taking undergraduate degrees in different fields,” Ogana explains. He blames the existing gap on female Mathematicians to the missing
link that exist between professionals and the upcoming students in their meetings. Exclusion, coupled with the existing tradition and cultural explanations are baseless and sadly, further erode female students’ performance in economics and other science subjects. However, Ogana says the number of women taking Mathematics is improving at a high rate compared to the previous ten years. “Women mathematicians would serve as role models for girls through giving talks in schools and universities and taking time to interact with them in their localities on mathematics,” observes Ogana. He explains: “Society and schools should strive to help the girl establish self esteem and both girls and boys should be motivated equally adding that focusing on one at the expense of the other is to blame for the tilted graph in academic cycles.” Concern by teachers through their attitude influences the learning and appreciation of mathematics by girls. There are many factors leading to low numbers of women in Mathematics. These include the belief it is a difficult subject that is not meant for girls. There is also the poor perception of Mathematics by society as well as ignorance and lack of career guidance. “These make it hard for girls to venture into job opportunities associated with Mathematics,” says Ogana. He adds: “Lack of adequate support for girls whose families experience economic hardships are factors that play for poor performance by girls in Mathematics.” Ogana observes that the initiative is in the process of putting more em-
“Lack of adequate support for girls whose families experience economic hardships are factors that play for poor performance by girls in Mathematics.” — Prof Wandera Ogana, Programme Director for AMMSI phasis on research that could address current problems in Africa by making Mathematics a relevant and likeable subject by the society. “We are soon launching continental activities that will include giving talks and running competitions in secondary schools with the aim of making them appreciate Mathematics,” reiterates Ogana. He notes that the initiative has awarded partial post-graduate schol-
Women choosing mathematics text books in a bookshop. Picture: Kenyan Woman Correspondent. arships at Masters and PhD levels to 150 students in the continent. The initiative is in the process of developing a database on mathematicians and mathematical resources in Africa with the aim of encouraging the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in academic and teaching of the subject. A mentoring programme has been started in Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana and Buea University in Cameroon. There are also plans to extend the programme to Makerere University in Uganda, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya and Rwanda National University. The programme aims at promot-
ing science through the establishment of new academies of sciences in countries where none exist while giving capacity to existing academies has also been launched in the continent. The programme is also spearheading the involvement of the academies in the respective government’s formulation of sound and evidence-based policies on science and technology. Women in East Africa are still under represented in the public universities. Kenya has 30 percent gender enrolment at public universities. Recent studies shows that women in East Africa fear mathematics related courses, lacked role models and faces hostile attitudes when they showed interest in non-traditional subjects such as agriculture, engineering and computing.
Community worker recognised for service to the vulnerable …By Lucy Langat
hen Esther Wambui started a campaign to collect sanitary towels for girls living in Nakuru slums, little did she know that the gesture would win her international recognition. A business woman, Wambui was recently awarded by the Jordan Foundation for her efforts in supporting girl-child education. She recalls when she received a message on her phone from someone informing her that she had been nominated to attend a luncheon at the Intercontinental Hotel.
Foundation The luncheon, the message read in part, would be sponsored by the Jordan Foundation. Wambui says she knew nothing about the organisation and decided to find out more. The Foundation is associated with top basketball player Michael Jordan. “I felt bothered, the caller had interfered with my plan for the International Women’s Day when we were to donate sanitary towels to women in Nakuru Prison,” says Wambui. She observes: “Though I had heard the word ‘nominated’ before, I failed to understand what it meant.” Wambui had to assign someone to distribute the pads at the prison as she traveled to Nairobi for the luncheon unaware of the surprise that awaited her. What shocked her at first when she got to the venue was the high profile people who had also been invited and with whom, for the first time she was able to rub shoulders. “I had always admired the Prime Minister’s
wife whenever I saw plight of girls during her on television but their menstrual days. it never occurred in “I found out that my dreams that a day most of them missed would come when school for at least a week I would share lunch every month when they with this honourable had their periods,” relady,” says Wambui. members Wambui. Among other Some, she found personalities with out, had been turned whom she shared the into schools’ laughing day were former Vice stock as their self made President Moody pads leaked, and stained Awori, mother to their uniforms when Michael Jordan , Ms they were at that time of Deloris Jordan and the month. Prof Freida Brown, In partnership with Vice Chancellor of Administration Police the United States ‘Peace Corp’ division, I n t e r n a t i o n a l Esther Wambui (right) hold her award from Wambui started a projUniversity. ect dubbed ‘Life is Good the Jordan Foundation that recognised The thought of Kenya’. her work in enabling girls go to school by distributing sanitary providing them with sanitary pads. With her She pitched tent towels rang on her within Nakuru’s Central is Deloris Jordan, who was in Kenya to give mind after she saw a Business District and Wambui her recognition. Picture: Lucy Langat television advert shot for a week asked pedesin South Africa which trians to buy pads to be promoted Always, a popular brand of pads. donated in slums. It was when she asked one man, a BBC jour“I found the advert’s music interesting and entertaining but the day I thought about the nalist, unaware that he would raise her to higher message in it left me crying,” Wambui recalls. standards that Wambui earned popularity. The journalist later accompanied Wambui and She adds: “I wondered if girls in developed South Africa are not ‘good to go’ without sani- her group to Kibowet Primary School at Kwa Rhotary towels, what of those living in slums in ab- da slums where she donated the pads. It was after the BBC highlighted her story ject poverty?” The advert got her thinking. She talked to that Wambui gained popularity leading to her several teachers in public schools at Kwa Rho- nomination for an award presented to her for da and Kaptembwa slums just to establish the supporting the girl child education.
As she was demonstrating to teenage girls at Kibowet on how to use a sanitary towel, Wambui remembers asking one sensitive question. “How many of you girls are wearing panties right now?” To her shock, only slightly more than ten girls raised their hands, the rest did not have the very vital garment. “I could not believe it, it was the worst moment of my life because I had only carried one panty which I gave out very fast,” she recalls. Since then, Wambui’s campaign doubled and she started asking for both panties and sanitary towels. Later she went to the same school and delivered panties to poor girls while she spared some for women in prison.
Slums While she dedicates her award to girls in the slums, Wambui says she is still far from achieving her target. “I intend to reach out to girls in all slums within Nakuru, and those living at Gyoto dumpsite along Nakuru-Baringo road.” She is also reaching out to the boy child and she recently donated underwear to boys at Talitha Kum Orphanage in Nyahururu. “I do not have a child of my own, but like Abraham, I know God is set to make me a mother of nations,” she says. Wambui noticed a neglect of the boy child and wants to balance in serving all children. She anticipates that school performance among girls in Nakuru slums will improve when she provides enough sanitary towels for all throughout the year. Her aim is to provide smiles and comfort to girls from poor backgrounds all through.
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
Sirleaf raises Liberia from ashes of war
able to realise credit worthiness.” Sirleaf says there is need to consolidate all the gains the country has experienced. Liberia having set certain targets leaves Sirleaf with the task of making the Liberian dream come true. That is why she can now boast of a Liberia that is debt free. A country that had been razed to the ground by war, Liberia can now boast of being an income without debt. This can be attributed to the leadership guided by Sirleaf, 73, and the support the country has received from international community. When Sirleaf took over the leadership of Liberia in 2006, the country had nothing. She had to work at consolidating resources and raising the country from the ashes of impunity. “Over the past three years, we have been able to mobilise resources,” observes Sirleaf. When speaking about Liberia, Sirleaf does not speak as an individual. She speaks of the country as a plural, an indication that she appreciates the support her country has received from Liberians and the country’s friends. This is a complete deviation for male African leaders who speak of ‘my country and my government’ and not forgetting the ‘I have done and I have said’.
…By Jane Godia
s Kenyans refuse to give space to women to help in managing the political affairs of this country, others who have given women the space outshine the rest of the world as they show that the female gender can indeed deliver a country to sobriety. When Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won the elections in Liberia in 2006, many were sceptical as to whether the then war torn country would ever rise from the ashes of war that had left it in a dilapidated position. However, four years later, Sirleaf has proved her sceptics wrong and today Liberia stands head above the rest of the continent and may be the world at large. Liberia remains the only African country with a woman president. Liberia is ahead, in terms of electing a woman, of super powers such as the United States of America because it has a woman president. Sirleaf became first woman in Africa to be Head of State in 2006. During a public lecture in Washington DC where she was to speak on how far Liberia has come since the war ended almost five years ago, a question was posed to her on why there are few women heads of state?
Domination Sirleaf, laughed and said the question should be posed to the United States as to why there has never been a woman president in the super power. However, the President had her own views as to why there are very few women in political leadership at executive level. “There is too much male domination in the world,” Sirleaf explained. “Women are playing a bigger role in managing families and in Africa, boys still get the preference.” It is this preference for the male that has left a male dominated field in governance and leadership. However, despite there being more male leaders, governance remains a challenge. According to Sirleaf, unemployment remains one of the biggest challenges facing leadership. For African leaders to tackle unemployment among youth, they need to be more efficient in resource allocation and ensure that the youth have skills that will enable them be absorbed in the job market. “The leadership also needs to be accountable and transparent in managing resources,” observed Sirleaf. When she took over Liberia, the country had just come out of war. There were many youth who were idle. There were also many youth who had been combatants and were now not engaged. “This posed a risk of insurgencies occurring,” she says. However, having peace has enabled the
…By Jane Godia
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia. Picture: Internet country to put in place fundamentals. Today, Liberia can boast of being the fastest growing economy in the world. According to the World Bank it is among the top ten reformers. It has also repaid all the money it was loaned after the ceasefire to bring it back to its feet. “Liberia was debt stressed when we took
over in 2006. We have worked at ensuring that we have a sound fiscal policy. We had to tackle debts in arrears of two decades. We were restrained to make sure that there was sound public financial management,” explains the President. She adds: “Today we are proud to say that the debt arrears are gone and Liberia has been
“There is too much male domination in the world. Women are playing a bigger role in managing families and in Africa, boys still get the preference.” — Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia.
She says: “We have come a long way. Although we have received a lot of support, there have been challenges on the way.” “What do we prioritise?” she poses the question. Sirleaf answers: “Liberia is one of the countries with the highest rates of poverty. We realised that you cannot tackle poverty without growth. We therefore targeted areas where Liberia had resources such as mines and agriculture.” When Sirleaf took over Liberia, the economy was down, they started with very low salaries, but today things are changing. “Today many things are functioning in Liberia,” she observes. Illiteracy and poor education systems have been reformed. Enrolment in primary schools has increased by over 40 percent. While Liberia boasts of being a good friend of the US, it was acknowledged that other partners like China have also come in helping rebuild Liberia. “China is aggressive in Africa. Their main interest lies in raw materials but they also participate in infrastructure development,” observes Sirleaf. However, while she acknowledges that China is not big in Liberia, she says China likes to leave behind big footprints. “The Chinese work hard,” she says. However, as Liberia moves to realising her dream, Sirleaf says tackling poverty and corruption remain the key challenges that her government must confront.
An encounter with the iron lady with a soft touch
used to be a fan of former footballer George Weah. Tall, handsome and moneyed, are qualities that only added to my being his great supporter. When he indicated that he was vying for presidency, I said to myself, there goes my vote. Then I had not heard of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the woman who went ahead and defeated Weah in the first post war elections of Liberia. However, the other day, I was forced to shift goals posts and my loyalty to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I recently met Sirleaf during her tour of the United States. At that same time, I was also a visiting fellow at the Communications Consortium Media Centre (CCMC) in the same city. Our colleague at CCMC Andrea Sybinsky had organised for me and my colleague Florence Sipalla from African Woman and Child Features Service attending a function organised by the Centre for Global Development where Sirleaf was going to give a public lecture. I was a bit sceptical of this meeting. My experience in Kenya was that functions where a visiting President was attending would be full of
secret service and the presidential security detail. These are the people who will easily hound you out of a room or place without giving a second thought in the name of the president’s security. We left the office at CCMC early to ensure that we arrived at the DuPont Circle Hotel on time so we would not be locked out. In Kenya, they do not allow you into a room with the President if you come after him. This happens even if he was speaking in open grounds. One is most likely to be turned away.
Perspective On arrival, we just walked into the room where Sirleaf was going to speak on the topic: Emerging Africa and the Private Sector: A Liberian Perspective. We just walked into the room and picked our vantage position, just next to the aisle and behind the reserved seats. The President was running late, so said a representative of Centre for Global Development. However, soon she arrived and walked into the room. Not very tall, as I had imagined. May be she stood at less than 5: 5. Soon she was talking about how far her country has come since Charles Taylor, the man
who wrecked Liberia and fled. Speaking to the number gathered here, Sirleaf said she had a speech prepared for her but she was not going to read it because she just wanted to have a dialogue with the audience. Sirleaf was categorical of how far Liberia had come and she could not ignore the fact that they would not have made it without international support. I was keenly listening to how she had raised Liberia from the ashes of impunity to where it stands today. For me, Sirleaf stood out as the iron lady. That is until I shook her hands. Do you belief it? Shaking the president’s hand? And Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for that matter? I could not believe it myself. She was looking at me straight in the eye as I tried to tell her how much I admired her. I was at loss of words. I tried to mumble something like I really like your speech but I was so mesmerised by the presence of this woman that I just held on to her hand as she stared into my eyes. There were no security men around her to keep people off. At least they were not outrightly visible. She was just like any other mother — soft at times but very hard at the same time. Did I tell you about how soft her hands were?
She gave me the impression of the iron lady with a soft touch. She made jokes about our tape recorders at the podium. She equally made jokes about her time at the house on the hill. She had just come from meeting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Capitol Hill.
Picture She gave her time to everybody even as one of her minders kept saying that the President’s time was up and she had to go to another meeting. She posed for pictures with everybody who wanted to. My colleague Florence missed the photo session as she shook the President’s hand and held her camera at the same time. That must have been the biggest blunder of her life. By the time Sirleaf was getting into her car, I realised that there was actually a battalion of secret service surrounded the hotel. As she left in her bulletproof limousine, I looked at my hands once gain and wondered whether I would ever wash them. I wanted to hold onto that touch from the iron lady and hope it would stay with me forever.
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
Awareness creation to help reduce maternal deaths
Women with their children at a health centre. Many women do not have the right information that could help in lower maternal and child mortalities. Picture: Kenyan woman Correspondent.
…By Caroline Wangechi
ack of proper information could be blamed on the high maternal and child mortality cases. According to the Central Provincial Health Officer, maternal health remains a major challenge in the region with Kirinyaga County being the most affected. The Provincial Health Officer, Samuel Muthinji, said this is because there are not enough nurses to attend to mothers and their children in the province. Muthinji said he had introduced a programme that would help reduce infant deaths in hospitals. “The programme will be a guideline to nurses working in maternity wards,” he said. According to the records in health facilities within the region, 20 percent of deliveries result in surgical interventions. Muthinji reiterated the need to improve facilities and services in rural health centres for the lives of mothers and children to be saved. He said with the introduction of the Economic Stimulus Programme to upgrade health centres in Kirinyaga County, steps will be taken to ensure that delivery wards receive improved facilities. “Nutrition nurses and community development officers will be educating mothers on malnutrition and lack of safe water and sanitation that contributes to most child deaths,” explained Muthinji. He said that both research and experience show that most children who die each year could have been saved by low-technology, evidencebased and cost-effective measures such as vaccines, micronutrient supplementation, insecticide-treated bed nets, improved family care and breast feeding practices. In addition to providing vaccines and antibiotics to children, Muthinji said education could also be provided to mothers so that they can learn how to make simple changes in their lifestyles, such as improving hygiene, in order to guarantee the health of their children. “Mothers who are educated show increased confidence in their abilities
“Education could be provided to mothers so that they can learn how to make simple changes in their lifestyles, such as improving hygiene, in order to guarantee the health of their children. Mothers who are educated show increased confidence in their abilities to take care of their children, resulting in a healthier relationship and environment for both of them.” — Samuel Muthinji, Central Provincial Health Officer
Health sector gets a lifeline …By Kenyan Woman Correspondent
he health sector got a boost after the Government of Denmark announced a KSh7.3 million grant as part of the third phase of the Health Sector Programme Support. Denmark’s Ambassador to Kenya, Geert Aagaard Andersen, announced this when he met the Minister for Public Health and Sanitation Beth Mugo. “The Danish assistance building on many years of close cooperation between the two governments will contribute towards alleviation of poverty through the specific support to mothers and children,” said the Ambassador, adding that these are the main targets the ministry’s Vision 2030 projects and the Medium-Term National Plan 2008-2012. HSPS III will run from January 2012 to December 2016 and it is expected to enhance the national policy dialogue and strengthen systems in a bid to improve health service delivery. The programme focuses on transfer of funds directly to dispensaries and health centres through the recently launched Health Sector Services Fund (HSSF), supply of essential medicines, maternal health, reproductive health and gender based violence. “The inclusion of the local community as members of facility committees under HSSF will enhance transparency and increase social responsibility and accountability,” said Mugo. The envoy said his Government will invest a total of KSh5.6 billion worth of support for the country’s health sector. One third of this fund will go towards funding for essential drugs. He further said that the setting up and operation of nomadic clinics in North Eastern has been a great success. “By enabling medical personnel to stay in tents and carry out immunisation, treatment of Malaria and respiratory challenges where the people live with their animals is a great boost for the operation,” said Andersen. Andersen said Denmark is keen to see Kenya attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) especially in regards to child mortality rate, female mortality and particularly maternal health. Women bear the greatest portion of the health burden and this donation will help in alleviating their suffering if they have access to essential services and facilities that mainly target them as the female gender.
to take care of their children, resulting in a healthier relationship and environment for both of them,” he said. However, he observed that child mortality rate in the province had moved from 77 deaths per 1000 deliveries to 52. Muthinji said over 50 percent of women in the province deliver without the assistance of a skilled attendant, which can often lead to complications and death. He said lack of personnel together with a shortage of equipment has been a big challenge in the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals in the County. According to the World Health Organization, the main causes of death are pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, measles and HIV. Malnutrition is estimated to contribute to more than one third of all child deaths, with one child dying every five seconds as a result of hunger. In total, that means 700 deaths every hour, 16,000 each day, six million each year, and accumulates to 60 percent of all child deaths (2002-2008 estimates). According to Muthinji, malaria remains a huge challenge in Kirinyaga County, where deaths in children under one year is very high. Still, the rate is declining from seven percent to three percent. He said the reduction was as a result of a malaria control programme that was started in 2005-2010 and the eradication programme of malaria which is started this year and expected to last till 2017. Muthinji observed that Central Province has recurrent malaria cases in many health facilities but that there are generally low transmission rates since families are gaining access to mosquito nets. “Deaths of children under five years of age have been reduced because expectant women and mothers with newborn babies are getting treated nets free of charge in all health facilities,” he said. He explained that even in facilities where mosquito nets are being sold, the Government has made it possible for them to be bought tax-free.
Medics warn of dangers behind home deliveries …By Wangari Mwangi
edical officers from Murang’a have expressed concern over the increasing cases of women delivering at homes. According to Charles Kigo, Medical Superintendent Officer in Murang’a District Hospital most of the expectant mothers do not visit prenatal clinics for check-ups which help in identifying possibilities of any problem that would likely threaten the life of the mother or the unborn baby. Speaking during a visit to the women’s ward at the hospital, Kigo said lack of awareness has highly contributed to increased home deliveries in rural areas. “Over 40 percent of women in our district give birth at home and some don’t even go to the hospital until a week or two before delivery,” he observed. The officer further said that this trend has also led to the increase in mortality rate among women and small babies since some of the complications developed during pregnancy are not detected early enough. He added that some come to the hospital when it is too late at a point that there is very little that can be done to reverse a life threatening situation. “We are losing a good number of mothers and babies in the rural areas because when time comes, there is no expert to help them in case a problem occurs,” observed Kigo. According to a survey conducted in Murang’a South District between 200 to 250 babies born in the region are delivered at home with three to six mortality cases occurring monthly
Poverty Area public health officer Fredrick Shighuli said that soaring poverty levels force many mothers to keep off hospitals since they cannot raise enough money to pay maternity fees. ”Some health facilities are far from homes and poor infrastructure hinders easy accessibility,” explained Shighuli. He said many expectant mothers seem to have a lot of confidence in traditional birth attendants and often opt to turn to them. However, he said this was dangerous on the basis that most home deliveries backfire causing mothers to bleed to death and even lead to the death of the baby. Some of the victims are rushed to the hospital when it is too late. “We would like to discourage mothers from over trusting these mid wives because they are not always in a position to handle complicated situations,” he said. Shighuli revealed that they are rolling out a programme to train all the midwives on how to handle the expectant mothers but will caution them to hand over the women to the doctors during delivery in case of complications. He said though it is not their wish to entrust the expectant mothers in the hands of mid-wives, their role is still vital in the society as labour sometimes happens unexpectedly. Shighuli urged expectant mothers to be visiting ante-natal clinics where they will receive counselling on maternal and child health care as well as be alerted on the danger signs during pregnancy. He noted that services in most hospitals have improved where mothers are given warm bath and hot drinks to refresh and relax them.
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
Unmet need for contraceptives impacting heavily on MDGs …By Joyce Chimbi
he National Census revealed that the population was growing out of proportion at one million per year. This fact poses a dilemma as it remains to be seen what measures the Government and various stakeholders are putting in place to deal with the skyrocketing growth. The issue is so worrying that members of Parliament, in a meeting organised under the National Population Council met in Mombasa with other stakeholders to discuss population matters. However, what remains to be seen is the tangible strategies they have mapped out to deal with the situation. Getting to understand the reason for the skyrocketing population growth has been a challenge and various explanations have been raised for it. However, certain arguments are being raised to explain that the high population growth could be because access to contraceptive remains a challenge.
Over the years, politicisation of population has intensified with some leaders claiming that their regions have a high population growth because they also pose the highest mortality rate which makes having more children a necessary measure. It is still disturbing to note that even after various documents have drawn a very clear relationship between low contraceptive prevalence rate, unmet need for contraceptives and population growth, remedy for the former remains elusive. According to a recently released document dubbed The Millennium Development Goals Report, “the unmet need for contraceptives remains high in many regions, with inadequate support for family planning”. Although the census results indicated that the population is growing at an uncontrollable rate, the most recent Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) 2008-2009, revealed that the country is making significant positive trends in the area of contraceptive prevalence rate which has had a positive ripple effect in the reduction of child mortality. However, there has not been any significant gain in the area of maternal mortality. The survey, which is the most comprehensive household assessment on the status of the Kenyan population particularly in regard to
…By Geoffrey York
population growth and health, reflects the percentage of women who are willing to use one form of contraceptive or other. According to Dr Patrick Kagurusi of the Regional Centre for Quality Health Care: “The unmet need of family planning refers to the proportion of women who are in a conjugal relationship or marriage, who would like to stop or postpone child birth but lack the means to do so.” Kagurusi explains that the unmet need could be as a result lack of “knowledge on family planning as well as family planning methods and providers in the community where the couple live.” It is imperative to note that there are women who have to use a specific method of family planning mainly due to various side effects provoked by other methods. These women form the percentage of women who constitute the unmet need for contraceptive rate. Increasing the number of professional health attendants resonate with the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines that require governments to improve the number of skilled health care attendants especially in areas relating to reproductive health and sexuality. According to Kagurusi, the unmet need for contraceptive also reflects “limited access to health care services due to the distance one has to cover to reach a medical facility, cost social barriers such spouse disagreement as well as religious and or traditional beliefs, rumours and misconceptions or even lack of the method of choice even when the other methods are there”.
Service While cultural beliefs as well as myths have played a big role in women not using family planning methods, lack of access is also a major factor. “Myths and misconceptions continue to interfere with the goals to provide women with quality services as it relates to their reproductive health,” says Rahab Njeri, a mother of three. Njeri says that for most of her reproductive age, she relied on information from families and friends and the consequences have been dire. “I stopped using contraceptives because I was told they interfere with libido. I became pregnant soon after delivering my second child, it was a difficult pregnancy which I miscarried,” she explains. With the correct information, Njeri’s story as is the case for many women would have turned out differently.
A variety of contraceptives that are available in the country. Many women are having children they have not planned for because there is an unmet need for contraceptives. Picture: Kenyan Woman correspondent.
“As it is, every pregnancy is potentially dangerous especially in circumstances where it is too early, too late or too closely spaced as it may end in miscarriage or excessive bleeding among other complications,” Kagurusi expounds. He further explains that the situation is made dire when it happens in an environment that lacks appropriate care for child birth. He says: “The best way to avoid all these is not to have a pregnancy at all and usually women and couples who would like to delay or postpone pregnancy but cannot do so since they can access contraceptives end up having the pregnancies that could lead to fatal complications.” Kagurusi emphasises on WHO estimates which state that if all unmet need of family planning were met, upto 70 percent of maternal deaths would be avoided. This would significantly reduce maternal deaths and place Kenya as well as other subSaharan country in a much better position to achieve Millennium Development Goal number Five that targets to reduce maternal deaths by at least 75 percent. It is significant to note that in spite of the growth in the population, KDHS 2008-2009 revealed that the fertility rate at 4.6 children per woman is the lowest that the country has recorded so far. This has been attributed to improvement in the uptake of family planning. There are now more married women, or those in unions who are using contraceptives at a prevalence rate of 46 percent. Unfortunately, it is in rural areas where fer-
tility rate is high at 5.2 children per woman compared to urban areas where it stands at 2.9 children per woman. North Eastern province recorded the highest rate of 5.9 children per woman. The KDHS also noted that women with education had a lower fertility rate compared to those with no education. This could then explain the high fertility rate in rural areas which has more uneducated women. In fact, women with no education have a fertility rate of 6.7 children per woman compared to 3.1 among women with some secondary education. It is unfortunately in rural areas and among those women with no education that unmet need for contraceptives is most felt.
MDGs As 2015 draws near, pressure remains to meet the MDGs. It should, however, be noted that these goals are not merely an end in themselves, but a means to an end. They are roadmap towards improving the health and livelihood of a population by also ensuring that there is sustained human development. According to Martin Otieno, a university student the uncontrolled population growth could have a major impact on the country’s chances of meeting the Millennium Development Goals. “The country will, therefore, face serious challenges in a bid to achieve MDG One which targets to reduce extreme poverty and hunger as well as maternal mortality which consequently impacts on child mortality,” observes Otieno.
Africa’s deadly backroom abortions
bortion is strictly outlawed in Tanzania in virtually all circumstances. The word itself is taboo, rarely spoken in polite society. Yet it takes only a few minutes to find a man in the backroom of a slum neighbourhood pharmacy who is quite willing to perform an illegal abortion. His shabby dispensary is on a dusty street in Manzese, the biggest squatter community in Tanzania’s biggest city. It has become known as a place for desperate women to go.
Abortion The Globe and Mail asked a Tanzanian man to pose as the boyfriend of a young woman wanting an abortion. He was referred to a man in a white coat, in a backroom, who appeared to be a doctor. After a brief warning that the procedure was illegal, the white-coated man began haggling over the price, agreeing eventually to do it for the equivalent of about $18. “It should be done before one o’clock because inspectors pass by in the afternoon,” he told his customer. “The government does not allow it, so don’t tell anyone. It has to be a secret.” Unsafe abortions, especially those done covertly or illegally, are one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in Africa, killing at least 25,000
women annually and injuring a staggering 1.7 million every year. Many are maimed or killed by horrific “home remedies” that include catheters, roots or herbs placed in their vaginas to induce bleeding. One-seventh of African deaths in pregnancy and childbirth, and nearly one-fifth in Tanzania, are caused by complications from unsafe abortions. Yet governments in Africa — and Canada — are reluctant to discuss the problem, even as Ottawa put maternal health on top of the agenda for the G8 summit this year. For decades, Africa’s crisis of maternal deaths has remained stubbornly intractable, even as the death rate has declined sharply in most Asian countries. More than half of the world’s maternal deaths are now occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, compared with fewer than a quarter in 1980, according to a new study in this month’s Lancet, the British-based medical journal. Of the 20 most dangerous countries for women to give birth in, all but one (Afghanistan) are in Africa. The failure to reduce Africa’s maternal death rate is partly due to the political and cultural sensitivity of some of the leading causes: abortion, Aids, early marriage, genital mutilation and the unequal status of women. Many African countries are so culturally conservative that their politicians are unwilling to consider any
liberalisation of abortion laws — despite strong evidence that illegal abortions are killing and maiming thousands of women. ‘I’ve seen gruesome backrooms doing backstreet abortions in Sierra Leone. You wouldn’t wish it on anyone’ — Catherine Slater of Marie Stopes South Africa. In Kenya, for example, the country’s new constitution would prohibit abortions in any circumstance except when a woman’s life is in danger. This is essentially the same as Kenya’s current laws. But anti-abortion church groups have lobbied against the Constitution, perceiving it as a loosening of the abortion laws, and Kenya’s politicians have been forced to promise that abortions will not become any easier under the new constitution.
Infections In Tanzania, there’s little discussion of changing the abortion ban. Yet hospitals often see the ghastly results of botched abortions by untrained practitioners. “Very sharp objects are inserted into the vagina to disturb the pregnancy,” said John Bosco Baso, a spokesman for Marie Stopes Tanzania, which runs a network of health clinics here. “The women get infections, they get fever, and some die. Many of them hide it. We only see them at the critical stage, when there is an infection.”
More than 90 per cent of Africans live in countries where abortion is restricted. Abortion is completely prohibited in 14 African countries, and in most others it is permitted only to preserve the life or physical health of the woman. As a result, virtually all of the estimated 5.6 million abortions performed annually in Africa are unsafe. Only about 100,000 are done by properly trained professionals in a safe environment, according to a report last year by the Guttmacher Institute, an advocacy organisation for sexual and reproductive health. “In urban areas, people know where to find illegal abortions, and in rural areas they go to quacks,” said Slater. “I’ve seen gruesome backrooms doing backstreet abortions in Sierra Leone. You would not wish it on anyone.” Legalising abortion would be a simple way to reduce the maternal death rate. In South Africa, the number of abortion-related deaths fell by 91 per cent after the procedure was legalised in 1997, according to a Lancet study. “Making abortion legal, safe and accessible does not appreciably increase demand,” the Lancet study concluded. “Instead, the principal effect is shifting previously clandestine, unsafe procedures to legal and safe ones.” — Courtesy of Globe and Mail
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
…By Jane Godia
Cameroonian seeks to empower grassroots for political participation
National Endowment for Democracy when she addressed Americans and African living in the US. While Cameroon currently has a woman Edith Kabbang Walla, Kah Wallah as she is popularly known, who has indicated interest in running for presidency, Wallah still has a long way to in convincing women to register as voters and also join the race and vie for political seats. In her paper title From the Grassroots to the Nation: Promoting Women’s Rights and Political Participation, Fomunbod reiterated on demystifying women’s attitude that they cannot compete with men. This is a big challenge in Cameroon where many women develop cold feet if they are in a race with women. However, according to Michelle Bekering, Executive Director at Women Democracy Network, globally there are many things prohibiting women from advancing politically. The difference can only be seen through women’s empowerment.
omen all over Africa remain marginalised when it comes to political and decision making leadership. Except for a few countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Sudan that have laws enabling women to have positions in politics and governance, the rest of the continent has women in subservient positions. One such country is Cameroon, and it continues to exploit women as patriarchy takes dominance. Cameroonian women’s political empowerment has been hampered by a society that is deeply patriarchal.
Gender Kenya also had a similar position like Cameroon until August 27, 2010 when a new Constitution was promulgated. The new law now allows Kenya’s political leadership to start at the grassroots through the county government. In this make up, the law bars one gender from holding more than two thirds of public and electoral offices. The new law also gives women 47 seats in Parliament. Out of the 330 seats, women will have at least about 139. Like Kenya’s Martha Karua, so far one woman has expressed her interest in going for the presidency in Cameroon. Edith Kabbang Walla or Kah Wallah as she is popularly known is seeking to be the chief executive officer of a country where women hardly have space within the political decisionmaking. And she will succeed if efforts by the likes of Anne Stella Fomunbod in empowering women succeed. Cameroon is now starting to empower its women from the grassroots to enable them understand that with political governance being taken to the grassroots women can equally get positions within the process. Cameroon, like Kenya has experienced women’s human rights abuses. While governance has always taken place top to the bottom, Interfaith Vision’s Foundation, through its head, Anne Stella Fomunbod, is looking at
Cameroonian women in the grassroots dance at a rally. Cameroonian women have not been able to have noticeable numbers in political leadership because women have not been empowered that they too can be leaders. Picture: Internet empowering women bottoms up. Starting with women at the grassroots, and particularly marginalised groups like the widows, is one way of empowering them. Fomunbod says: “Violation of women’s human rights have been going on but no one has paid attention. The root causes of these violations include marriage practices, physical abuse, socio-economic barriers and lack of legal protections.” She says in elected position, there is only 13.8 female representation. Out of 180 parliamentarians only 25 are women. “And out of the Cabinet positions women only occupy 16 percent.” Fomunbod blames the situation on a problem tree that has in its roots that are deeply entrenched patriarchy, female exclusion and women’s human rights abuses. This problem tree can be found replicated in most African countries. The Cameroonian
situation is not different from that of other African nations. “International and local organisations have been trying to cut the problem tree to no avail. What is at the root of this tree are cultural practices that make it difficult for women to take up leadership positions.
Seats There are councils where positions are hereditary representations and this prevents women family members from accessing the seats,” explains Fomunbod. She adds: “Those holding special seats in the council are from special families. Women cannot be part of the council, and that means women cannot inherit their fathers.” It is this social barriers, that are apparently similar all over the continent that have left women suffering
under general poverty because they are subservient to men and lack access to positions and facilities that can uplift their levels of livelihood. “In Cameroon lack of access to financial resources bars many women from registering even as voters. To have a voting card, a woman needs to have a passport photograph taken. If she had the money when would she have to weigh her priorities and decide which one takes precedence. Between buying food for the children and taking a photograph for a voter’s card where would the woman’s priority lie? For sure the guess is as good as it gets. No woman would leave her children to sleep hungry because she is getting a photo for the ID card. “This lack of means makes it difficult for the woman to register for elections,” she says. Fomunbod was speaking in Washington DC at the offices of the
Corruption Explains Bekering: “Women’s empowerment has closed the gender gap in many spheres.” According to Bekering, the more women there are in positions of governance the less the corruption a country experiences. This means then that social and economic amenities will be available to all at a more accessible level. Quoting a World Bank report that the more a parliament has women, the less the levels of corruption, Bekering reiterated that in the absence of good governance, culture and tribal customs remain overarching. “Greater political participation of women encourages discussion for issues that are normally considered women’s issues.” As Fomunbod says: “It will be important to provide a converging ground for Cameroonians of varied political, and academic backgrounds to help change the mentalities of the population to agree that women should and can have positions of political leadership and decision making.”
Engaging traditional leaders to benefit women …By Florence Sipalla
he limited involvement of women in politics has often been linked to the patriarchal nature of most African societies. Women are part of these patriarchal societies and sometimes act as agents in perpetrating patriarchy. This is true particularly where tradition and culture have a central place in the lives of community members. Therefore, to effect any change, there is need to engage players at the grassroots and make them change agents.
Empowerment This is the approach Cameroonian organisation Interfaith Vision’s Foundation (IVF) is taking under the leadership of Anne Stella Fomunbod. The organisation is working to empower women at the grassroots in a wholesome manner to enable them participate effectively in the political arena. This includes empowering them financially through microcredit initiatives as well as training on food processing and preservation in the
fight against poverty. Women have been blocked out of political involvement due to lack of resources. According to Fomunbod grassroots, women in Cameroon have been unable to participate in politics because they lack finances that would even in the first instance enable them to register as members of political parties. Fomunbod believes that women’s empowerment has failed because previously all activities aimed at changing the political landscape to include them were implemented from the top to the bottom. “Government intervention is only limited to urban areas “Affirmative action must and elite populations,” she argues. be part of the government It is, however, at the bottom of the pyramid that women face challenges policy to bridge the gap in accessing positions of leadership between women and men because of cultural barriers are entrenched in the societal psyche. in politics. Women must be Harmful practices like female genital mutilation, polygamy as well given quotas as a remedial as wife battering and inheritance form measure but this must be for cultural barriers for women. To address these problems that a specific period.” affect women at the grassroots, IVF works mainly with widows who have — Anne Stella Fomunbod, Interfaith suffered human rights abuses as an enVision’s Foundation
try point to engage community leaders in bringing change to women. The organisation brings men and women together to discuss human rights abuses and women’s right to political participation through focus group discussions that address root causes of the problems. The unwritten customary laws coupled with hereditary structures of local governance in Cameroon pose a major challenge as these have been used to exclude women in politics.
Constitution The IVF has worked with traditional leaders in 53 villages to have the laws codified. To ensure that they do not support formalising laws that are harmful to women, Fomunbod says they use the national constitution and international laws as reference points to guard against this. She adds: “We also use the baseline survey findings and prescriptions given by the community members during their group discussions or debates.” They use a training manual that simplifies CEDAW in their engage-
ment with the traditional leaders, but it has its challenges. She says: “It takes patience to interpret them with the semi or illiterate community members.” But Women are now able to cite traditional laws and produce documents indicating that their rights have been violated contrary to what the written customary laws say. Fomunbod was speaking in Washington DC where she is on a ReaganFascell Democracy Fellowship at the National Endowment for Democracy to American and African in the city. “From a mere two percent of women representation in traditional councils, today, this number has grown to 13 per cent and it includes young dynamic women and not elderly women as was the case before,” says Fomunbod, who feels that this is not enough. She reiterates: “Women must be given quotas as a remedial measure by the government in filling the gap between men and women in politics but this must be for a specific period,” observes Fomunbod. She calls for more funding for grassroots initiatives.
Issue Number 20 • August 2011
Doctor finds her calling among those living with Aids …By Lorna Suyin*
s far back as I can remember, back to my school days, I always wanted to be a Biology teacher. But years later I ended up becoming a medical practitioner, looking after patients suffering from HIV and Aids in my country. There are signs in one’s life that are only understood when one looks back in the rear-view mirror. Why was I not successful in achieving the goals I set myself? There were recurrent obstacles on my road towards a career. I could hardly understand the reasons and in moments of discouragement, my elder sister would simply tell me:“There is always a better reason why something you want doesn’t happen!” Little did I know then that an invisible hand was steering me through those obstacles on my way to what I was destined for. The first sign occurred when, after secondary school, I told my elder sister that I would go abroad to study Biology and be a teacher. She answered: “Why spend six years to be a Biology teacher, when with an extra year of study you could become a doctor?” “That’s how I dropped my dream of becoming a teacher and flew abroad to study medicine for seven years. After my studies I returned home and was very keen to practice on my own. After four years, however, I realised that I was not happy because my practice was restricted to only those patients that came to my private consultation room. So I applied for work and got admitted in a public hospital, where, over the years, I gathered greater experience and excitement treating all sorts of ailments. I also got married and had three children. As the children grew and became less dependent, and I was getting over 40, I realised that all those years, my thirst to learn had never died. Yet as an all-rounder in my profession, I feared I might get caught in the routine of my work and stagnate. I strongly felt this urge to resume studies and move forward professionally. I was particularly at ease in gynaecology and I seriously thought of going back abroad and specialising in the health of the female reproductive system. I thought I had found my way. Unfortunately a series of personal problems cropped up. Things went from bad to worse. I had no choice but to drop the idea of going abroad. Yet again, I now realise the invisible hand of destiny swerved me off that road on purpose. However, at that time I felt despondent. It was then that I came across a godsend. It was an inhouse advert asking for willing doctors to follow a training crash-course in HIV and Aids treatment in a neighbouring country; one well in advance of my country as far as the treatment of this disease was concerned. During an entire week, we followed a very intensive course. After this, for a full month, the trainees got practical training and were immersed in the cruel reality of HIV and Aids-infected patients, under the close supervision of our lecturers. This was a turning point in my life. By showing us how they touched those patients and cared for them with so much love and compassion, they taught us not to be afraid of something everybody else feared.
I learned then that as medical practitioners, we must not judge or criticise. Everyone has got a right to his or her private life. As doctors we are here to give care, support and treatment, with love and compassion. It was then that I heard the call. It was there that I realised that all that had happened to me so far had only one cause: preparing me, getting me ready to be near those HIV and Aids-infected patients. This dawned on me like a great beam of light from heaven and everything became crystal clear. After the training, I rushed home with only one thing in mind: getting where I felt I professionally belonged; that is, at the bedside of those patients. Strangely though, I did not this time encounter any difficulty getting myself admitted in my country’s specialised medical unit treating HIV and Aids patients. Since then, I have been at peace with myself. I feel a special relationship with my patients. I simply feel from the bottom of my heart that I need to do my best for them. I win their respect every day. Every day my conviction that I am where I belong gets stronger and stronger. When it happens that one of my patients passes away — and this happens often — I am at peace with myself, for I know that I have done my very best as a doctor for them. *Real names have not been used. This “I” Story is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service special series on care work.
This was a turning point in my life. By showing us how they touched those patients and cared for them with so much love and compassion, they taught us not to be afraid of something everybody else feared.
Government allocates funds for free sanitary pads to keep girls in school
or the first time ever, the finance minister has allocated Ksh 300 million (almost four million dollars) from the current national budget to provide free sanitary pads to schoolgirls. This follows a campaign by women legislators that left their male counterparts speechless, for such matters are rarely spoken about in public, let alone in parliament, in Kenya’s conservative society, has at last paid off. In their persistent lobbying, the female legislators brought to the fore a problem that could have continued to hinder the education of young girls. Thirteen-yearold Dorothy Akinyi, a standard seven pupil from Kibera, which is arguably the largest slum in Africa, stays at home every time she menstruates. “Without sanitary pads life at school is difficult. We are subjected to very embarrassing and humiliating incidences, especially from the boys. Tying a pullover around your waist to hide the soiled patch behind your uniform in case the tissue leaks is a dead giveaway. We choose to stay at home,” explains Akinyi. But the situation is bound to change for Akinyi and other girls like her. But only if the money allocated for the sanitary wear is spent efficiently. “This is gender responsive budgeting at work. Being sensitive to the distinctive needs of men and women, while allocating and spending public funds,” explains Jacinta Nyachae, executive director of Ke-
nya Aids Law Project and an advocate of human rights. But girls are not the only ones to have benefitted from a gender sensitive strategy. In a move that has seen women break socio-political economic barriers, the planning and budgeting for the establishment of the ministry of gender and children affairs remains government’s strongest show of its commitment to address gender inequality. “But gender planning and budgeting is not enough, the rampant corruption across various government ministries is a clear indication that there’s need for tracking and monitoring how these funds are used,” explains a source from the G-10 alliance, which is a coalition of women organisations fighting for women’s rights. The source adds: “The Women Enterprise Fund suffered allegations (that) needy women (could not) accessing the fund. The same can be said of education bursaries and money channelled through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), various audits into the CDF kitty have revealed massive corruption.” Although the issue of transparency and accountability is yet to be mainstreamed alongside the gender mainstreaming process, various attempts to lift the plight of women have been partially successful. While the Women Enterprise Fund has been accused of not reaching all the women who need the money, it has made a difference to the lives of many. – Courtesy of IPS
Executive Director: Rosemary Okello-Orlale Editorial Director:
Duncan Mboya, Joyce Chimbi
Daina Wanyonyi, Ruth Omukhango, Wanjiru Mwaura, Valerie Aseto, Omwa Ombara, Grace Ingandu, Henry Owino, Ekuwam Adow, Lucy Langat, Wangari Mwangi, Caroline Wangechi, Ben Oroko, Geoffrey York, Faith Muiruri, Florence Sipalla, Lorna Suyin and IPS.
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