Page 1


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Constitutional Crisis

A sad day as Kenyan women fight back …By Omwa Ombara


ess than 24 hours after the Cabinet released a statement ruling that the one-third gender rule on elective seats is technically impossible to achieve, women organisations pooled together for a press conference at Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC), Nairobi. Refusing to take the alleged crisis lying down, the women fought back and called on the Cabinet to sober up and portray the voice of reason and sound leadership. The Executive Director of International Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya (Fida), Grace Maingi-Kimani, said the new Constitution provided opportunities and laws that ensured a stable social structure. She said it was important for women to be represented in leadership according to Article 27 and there should be no move towards ending women’s participation in this process.

President Kibaki convening a Cabinet meeting. Inset: Women being taken through the Constitution in order for them to understand the implementation process. Pictures:

Representation “We call on Kenyans to defend the Constitution. We will walk hand in hand with anybody who is working towards the two-thirds majority. We are working towards a developed country,” she said. The Fida CEO observed that the Constitution did not allow for marginalisation of women and other groups. She recalled that despite Apartheid in South Africa, blacks in South Africa now take part in Government. “We must address historical injustices, democratic and public processes. We must ensure that we defend and uphold the Constitution. Let us not take away the gains,” she urged. Maingi said it was not a question of how easy it is. It was not easy to fight apartheid but they succeeded. “How do we address historical injustices and become a democratic nation? We reiterate that we are ready to work with any state body working towards the Constitution not just in paper

KenyanWoman Correspondent.

but in spirit,” Maingi emphasised. Reacting to the Cabinet move to “avert a constitutional crisis” by declaring the provision, “impractical”, the angry women dismissed the Cabinet position and declared Thursday the saddest day for women in the country. In a no nonsense attack at the Cabinet and not mincing their words, Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation expressed their disappointment and disgust at the Cabinet move. “Today is the darkest hour for the women in Kenya. We are being re-colonised 48 years after independence. The women are ashamed by what the Cabinet is doing,” a distressed Maendeleo ya Wanawake Chair, Rukia Subow said. She was accompanied by the Assistant National Secretary, Elizabeth Mayieka.

Subow noted with concern that Kenyan women were being treated like second-class citizens yet the Constitution demanded that they be treated as equal citizens.

Disappointments “Is this what we really fought for so many years? Do we need to block off other chapters of the Constitution to suit our selfish needs? This is very unfair to the women of this nation. As far as this Cabinet is concerned this is a great disappointment,” she said. Subow noted that Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda had all succeeded in giving women their rightful share of leadership. “We are not asking for free seats. We are asking for elective seats. The Cabinet is not only

shooting us on the foot. It is shooting us in our brains,” said an enraged Subow. Wangeci Wachuri of Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness (CREAW) said it was very sad that the people we have trusted with our offices are not supportive and had turned their back on Kenyans. “It is very sad that people we have trusted with our offices are not supportive. We even had to go to court to challenge the gender issue on the Supreme Court. It is very sad that in a population of over 50 per cent, women are not going to be in leadership positions.” She said the gender issue in the promulgated Constitution was not just about women but Continued on page 4



Poor Kenyan women bearing the burden of paying tax

or ordinary Kenyans, there are two things that are certain in life, death and payment of taxes. However, the adage does not seem to apply to Kenya’s breed of Homo politicus, who arrogantly feel that they are a breed apart and have a right use their hard earned money to the last cent without sharing it with the tax man towards building our nation.

Burden The MPs show no ounce of concern regarding the extra burden they are imposing on the ordinary taxcompliant mama mboga (vegetable hawkers) and those involved in mitumba (use clothes) business to eke a living and ensure that at the end of the day they deliver food on the

table for their spouses and children. While the Kenya Revenue Authority is literally ‘begging’ MPs to pay tax arrears backdated to 12 months ago when the new Constitution was promulgated by President Kibaki, local authorities are using a big stick to squeeze every cent from the mama mboga and mitumba dealers in their fiefdom. A casual walk down Toi open-air market in Kibera, Gikomba market in Starehe, Wakulima market in Kamukunji and Parklands Hawkers’ market, in Nairobi, will attest to how serious the Nairobi City Council askaris and revenue collectors are taking the by-laws and their jobs. Each and every trader, hawker, shoe-shiner et al is expected to pay a minimum of KSh25 per day in order

to operate his or her business. This they pay whether they have sold for the day or not. And it is a requirement that no pleading will soften the tax collector to exempt even if it is only for a few hours. But on the other side of the city court, the MPs move around their business unperturbed, enjoying their un-taxed perks and other benefits at the tax-payers’ expense.

Electorate It would be in order that the MPs lead by example to their electorate by sharing their goodies with the taxman. Section 210 (1) of the Constitution states very clearly that: “No tax or licensing fee may be imposed, waived or varied except as provided

by legislation. (2) If legislation permits the waiver of any tax or licensing fee – (a) a public record of each waiver shall be maintained together with the reason for the waiver; and (b)each waiver, and the reason for it, shall be reported to the Auditor general. (3) No law may exclude or authorize the exclusion of the State officer from payment of tax by reason of – (a) the office held by the public officer’ or (b) the nature of the work of the State officer. The controversy over the taxing of MPs has come at a time when the country is facing one of the worst famine and humanitarian crisis compounded by high inflation rates that has skyrocketted the cost of basic food and energy items like maize, beans, bread and kerosene.

Women are bearing the biggest brunt of this. The timing could not have been worse for the MPs to continue to promote the culture of impunity while their electorate are starving, wallowing in abject poverty and are over burdened with taxes. Our MPs, who have less than one year to be in office before they face the electorate at the polls, have no option but to swallow their egos and selfish interests and join fellow Kenyans to pay taxes as a sign of good leadership, patriotism and accountability. By so doing, the mama mboga and mitumba dealers will be motivated to also work hard and also religiously pay their taxes to the relevant authorities


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Opposition over cabinet plans to amend gender

…By Henry Owino


he Federation of Kenyan Women Lawyers (FIDAKenya) has vowed to protect and defend the new constitution provision for two-thirds gender representation in any elective public office to the letter. The organization brought together 47 women leaders each from every county for a national women’s constitutional conference held at Kenyatta International Conference Centre {KICC}, Nairobi. The women lawyers accused the male members of parliament {MPs} for wanting to short change them by defaulting the clause on two-thirds gender representation as the constitution provides. They accused the Minister for gender, Dr. Naomi Shaaban for sidelining them and not even interested to fight for the women rights yet she is a woman MP and minister that should be in the forefront pushing for their rights.

Accusations They also accused Minister for Justice, Constitutional Affairs and National Cohesion, Mr. Mutula Kilonzo for side show when it comes to matter that concerns women hence favoring men. According to Fida-Kenya executive director Grace Kimani said Dr. Naomi and Mr. Kilonzo were invited for conference but failed to attend and did not communicate back to give reasons for failure. Ms. Patricia Nyaundi who is the deputy chairperson of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission {TJRC}urged the women to make use of the space available and rise above political parties partisan for various elective posts not just the special 47 posts set aside for the women but others as well. She challenged the women also to aim higher not just deputize men that if every one of them is eying for certain seats. She advised women that if every one of them is only interested in the reserved posts then the two-thirds requirement in all elective public offices might not be achieved hence cri-

…By Barasa K. Nyukuri

“With my poor mathematics, I think the nearest whole number of not more than twothirds of seven is four and therefore one gender must be added to the female and one male dropped to make it at least three by four respectively adding up to seven and that has been my stand to date.” — Charles Nyachae, the chairman of Constitution Implementation Commission (CIC) sis for next regime to take over power despite the second best constitution in world after United States of American one that Kenya have. Ms. Nyaundi told the women that in the TJRC, all issues are being addressed no matter whom, how and when the differences happened. She assured the conference that so far all was well and extension period makes it even much better. “I am happy that the TJRC term of office has been extended by the president for another six months which is very good and that will enable us to reach every corner of this country

I Women at a forum organised by FIDA to discuss the way forward to finding a solution to the controversy around the gender principle in the constitution.Pictures: Henry Owino and talk to many more people exhaustively to realize our objectives,” Ms. Patricia said. Charles Nyachae, the chairman of Constitution Implementation Commission {CIC}, assured the women lawyers that there will be no more than two-thirds representation of either gender as per the constitution but a third women parliament representation a must. Nyachae said the Supreme Court has not been sworn in to date because of the two-thirds gender balance as constitution requirement. He said there are seven judges in total, five men and two women which are not sufficient and fair for women.

Gender parity The CIC chairman said even with simple mathematics he did in school, two-thirds of seven is four point six and so four would work and not the two as were assumed that forced Fida-Kenya to come in and stop. “With my poor mathematics, I think the nearest whole number of not more than two-thirds of seven is four and therefore one gender must be added to the female and one male dropped to make it at least three by four respectively adding up to seven and that has been my stand to date,” Nyachae declared.

Nyachae added that in any elective public body there should not be more than two-thirds of either gender contrary to that, it means the body will never be constitutionally recognised in Kenya today if everybody is committed to the current constitution. The women were informed that Article 97 which addresses the National Assembly requires 290 MPs/ constituencies, 47 women representatives from all counties and 12 nominated members of parliament depending on the political party strengths. With all that still there must be two-thirds gender balance which might be a big constitutional crisis if either gender will not be represented as required. Currently there are 16 women in parliament because the old constitution never addressed the issues of gender balance hence they were sworn in and no any problem experienced but today it cannot happen thus why women must take up the challenge and avoid just being nominated and going for the special seats set for them if at all they want gender equality in the public service jobs. It is very sad that the Cabinet wants to remove the clause in the new Constitution that would provide more seats for women lawmakers.

Call for public scrutiny in top appointments …By Hussein Dido


ARC-Kenya party leader Martha Karua wants the incoming Inspector General of the police force and other senior positions in the Government to be subjected to public scrutiny before appointment in accordance with the new constitution. Karua said that any public officer appointed to serve the interest of the citizenry should be subjected to public scrutiny unlike in the past where such important positions were left to the discretion of a panel.

Promulgation “With promulgation of the new constitution, Kenya has to usher in the new changes to ensure transparency, accountability and fairness,” said Karua. The legislator further said that time has come when any appointment in public must be thoroughly checked and approved by the public so that they can be accountable in their positions. “With implementation of the new Constitution any public appointment should be subjected to thorough public scrutiny before they assume their

Women factor within the Legislature in the new constitutional dispensation

obligations,” stressed Karua. She added: “Public appointments should not be a preserve of the head of state.” She also reiterated that as the country is bracing for General Election, recruitment of electoral officials be screened to ensure fairness in the process.

Enactment The Constitution further commits Parliament to enact legislation to promote representation in Parliament of; women, persons with disabilities, youth as well as ethnic and other minorities plus marginalised communities. The Constitution is laudable for providing a framework that will promote women’s participation in the devolved government. The following statements of the devolution chapter that seek to ensure gender parity states: “County governments established under this Constitution shall reflect among others the following principles; no more than two-thirds of the members of representative bodies in each county government shall be of the same gender.” A county assembly consists of the number of special seat members necessary to ensure that no more than two-thirds of the membership of the assembly are of the same gender; not more than two-thirds of the members of any county assembly or county executive committee shall be of the same gender.


Leadership Karua, who is the MP for Gichugu noted that in the judicial forces had aggrandised the rights of the common man to an extent that he/ she was left to fight for their rights in the face of impunity. She noted that in spite of the liberation that the country experienced, Kenyans still experienced gross violation of their rights especially when it came to exercising their rights. Karua who is the Narc-Kenya chair had hit the ground in parts of Upper Eastern and Rift Valley to woo pastoralists to vote for her as next president come 2012 General Elections. She called on pastoralists to vote for her as a bloc and noted that she was the only presidential candidate who was corruption free and ready to commit herself in addressing problems facing the region. “I do not need power but what I need is to give services to people and

n recognising the Legislature as a crucial arm of government, the Constitution proposes to reverse the current status of low representation of women Parliament. According to the Constitution, the National Assembly will consist of 47 women each elected by the registered voters of the counties, each county constituting a single member constituency. The Senate will consist of 16 women members who shall be nominated by political parties according to their proportion of members elected under clause (a) in accordance with Article 90; two members, being one man and one woman, representing the youth; two members, being one man and one woman, representing persons with disabilities.

Narc Kenya Chair Martha Karua being feted by her supporters in her campaign to popularize her presidental agenda. Picture: KenyanWoman Correspondent

clean the dirty house we are having, I have also traversed the entire region and found out that this house needs someone to clean it,” said Karua. She pledged to address the poor state of the roads, lack of water, low education and bad communication network in the region. During the occasion, she opened Narc-Kenya regional branch offices in Isiolo and Samburu counties after making a meet-the-people tour across Merile, Achers, Wamba and Isiolo.

“I am ready to offer myself to Kenyans and will campaign courageously without fear or intimidation across the country,” reiterated Karua. She assured Kenyans that NarcKenya will go it alone and that the party which goes into coalition was bound to die. “How many time have I said this, I will not accept to go into coalition with any party because such party is bound to fail, she charged.

The value and principles of the public service in the Constitution are progressive in that they promote gender justice stated as follows. The values and principles of public service include; affording adequate and equal opportunities for appointment, training and advancement at all levels of the public service of men and women. The new Constitution in its spirit and letter provides for equal representation participation of women and men in commissions and independent offices. It states that the chairperson and vice-chairperson of a Commission shall not be of the same gender. It is for these reasons that the following should be upheld in all commissions; fairness and equal distribution of resources and opportunities, equity and equality regardless of gender and ethnic background, the rule of law, transparency, participation, consultation and accountability. – These are excerpts from a paper delivered at the workshop titled Beyond Rhetoric and Tokenism: Ensuring the Election of Women at the Sportsview Hotel, Kasarani on August 3rd-5th, 2011


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Ex-councillor Margaret Olang’

Politics is not for the faint hearted …By Omwa Ombara


he has been there. Tried and tested the murky political waters and can give advice to women who are just gearing to join in the open political space. According to retired Mombasa Councillor Margaret Olang’, politics is not for the fainthearted and any woman aspiring to join the field must develop a skin as thick as that of a monitor lizard. Olang’ intends to vie for a Parliamentary seat in Likoni Constituency in a second attempt after she was defeated at nominations level in the 2007 elections. “I stood in Likoni as Member of Parliament but I did not make it past nominations. My rival, had more votes and I felt that vying for a ticket under a different party would be a futile exercise as the same voters would still support the candidate who defeated me,” explains Olang’.

Stereotype Although she hails from Ndhiwa Constituency, Olang 63 has been a councillor in Mombasa for over 25 years. She says women politicians are rampant to abuse especially by male rivals who repeat stereotype myths against them. She hopes that with the new Constitution, verbal abuses and defamation of character will no longer be a campaign tool to intimidate women and deny them their right. “The key word for an aggressive, progressive and ambitious woman in the political field in Coast Province is the term ‘malaya’ or whore. I have developed an equivalent word to counter the men who call women politicians whores. I call them ‘sweetheart’. I usually inform them that in Parliament there are no beds but only bills and laws to be passed.” She says abuse for female candidates is a major issue because it gives women low selfesteem and makes the ground unfavourable for fair elections. “When they call me ‘malaya’, I tell them, ‘yes sweetheart. Even if I was with you last night, why must you tell everybody? Why spoil my name? Why defame me like this after all the love I gave you? Don’t worry, let us meet at the same place, same time tomorrow night for another great evening,” is how she has been able to counter defamation. This tact worked for Olang’ over the years as many male candidates fear this kind of confrontation and more so when done in public with the support of women hecklers. Mama Olang’ as she is popularly known by Likoni residents complains that despite the promulgation of the new Constitution a year ago, little has been done to inform women on what exactly favours them in this glorified document.

Education She says majority of women aspirants at the Coast are not well educated and do not understand the new law well. She would be happy if the new Constitution could be distributed to the chiefs who would in turn call Barazas to educate and inform women on how they stand to gain from the new law. “They did it with referendum. The chiefs and other local leaders educated the masses on why they should vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. They told us what was in the draft constitution. They read it to us in rallies and interpreted the document in simple language that people understood. Why are they not doing the same for the Constitution now?” she asks. Olang challenges: “Where are the leaders, where are the rallies? Why is it that when it comes to matters that favour women, nobody is taking the lead in civic education? I find this strange indeed, very strange.” Olang’ says women in Coast Province are still waiting to be told what to do as the new Constitution remains a foreign document to

them with no proper head or tail. The 30 per cent representation of women in Parliament, according to Olang’, will remain a mirage unless the leaders stop lip-service and share with women their rightful portion of leadership. She calls on leaders to lead by example and not rhetoric, empty words and false promises. “If our leaders were serious the moment Kibaki was appointed President, he should have appointed a female vice president, but he went for a man. In the same vein, when Prime Minister Raila Odinga was appointed to office, instead of appointing a woman deputy, he went for another male. It is all empty talk,” explains an agitated Olang’. She notes that even in the recent mayoral elections across the Coast, there was no single woman candidate for the position of mayor or deputy. She further notes that most parastatals at the Coast are headed by men and that women form less than five per cent leadership in these institutions. It is the man dominated field full of male ideas and Retired Mombasa Councillor Margaret Olang’ who served in political office for over 25 years is urging oriented decisions that worwomen to stand by each other. Picture: Omwa Ombara ry her. Poor economic base remains a main challenge to fecountability and stability. headquarters and, therefore, lack respect both male aspirants at the Coast. Women have no Olang’ was born in a political family. Her fafrom colleagues and the local community. money to pay lawyers who sometimes ask for ther was a chief and her brother Owigo Olang’, Yet the greatest challenge of them all is the as much as KSh300,000 as fee for women who a former Ndhiwa MP is her brother and close practice of hiding councillors and pre-paying want to contest rigged elections. friend. From him, she learnt the ropes and them before elections to solicit votes. Olang’ would accompany him to most political rallies says this is not a strange to Mombasa County Challenges and campaigns. Council alone but a common traditional prac“In most cases women who want bank loans “I got accustomed to receiving and entertice across the county. do not even have title deeds. They have never taining hundreds of visitors daily. His driver Olang’ admitted that while in the Council, heard it, seen it, even known what a title deed would be at the front but I would sit with him she would be forced to attend the hideouts. looks like or where to find it. The man has kept at the back seat sharing fermented brown “If you do not attend them, you are conit a secret from her for many years. We have porridge and other meals. I helped him idensidered a traitor and nobody will propose remained slaves to ignorance,” says the polititify his genuine friends from the fake ones. I your name for anything. It is at these luxurical veteran who brags of a 35 year experience learnt that the voter is your employer because ous hideouts that all deals are stuck. It is imin politics. he has made you get the seat and he or she portant to participate or else be rendered irThe other challenge for not just female cancan walk into your home any time of the day relevant by fellow councillors,” she notes. didates is that authentic Coastal people are not or night and demand services. The voter can receptive to those from upcountry or “watu wa Report also call you anything as the voter is the boss Bara” to stand against them. and is always right.” Media reports reveal that among the high“They will, therefore, go out of their way to Olang’ is also a successful farmer and has est paid councillors for hire in the country are fund their ‘own people’ so that the ‘visitor’ is just harvested 150 bags of maize which she sold the Mombasa group who get down payments locked out of fair competition. That is an added to the National Cereals and Produce Board in of KSh200,000 each before elections and an disadvantage to women as they cannot finance Mombasa. Out of her two daughters, one is a equivalent after elections. Other tokens intheir own campaigns and have to rely on men lecturer at Pwani University while the other is clude accommodation in Five Star hotels, samost of the time’ she explains. a businesswoman. fari rides in national parks, smart phones and Olang’ hates nominations and would prefer She calls on women to be good to each even houses. an elective post. She says at the Council, nomiother and treat each other right if the new disOlang’ would like to see an end to this nated councillors are often ridiculed as ‘posted pensation is to take women places. practice and instead recommends election of envelops’ who have no power. They are regardThe retired Councilor’s urge for women mayors be done by the public to break off the ed as favoured names forwarded from party to work together and to stand up for each spell by the tycoons and for purposes of acother come at a time when the gender equality debate in relation to leadership seems to “The key word for an aggressive, progressive and be facing opposition from the strongly patriarchal society. Indeed it is going to be an ambitious woman in the political field in Coast Province is uphill task for women in competitive politics come 2012 but she urges her political the term ‘malaya’ or whore. I have developed an equivalent counterparts not to lose heart and to remain word to counter the men who call women politicians strong in the race. She further says that women have rewhores. I call them ‘sweetheart’. I usually inform them mained a minority in leadership because of lack of a collective agenda and spirit to work that in Parliament there are no beds but only bills and laws together towards a common goal.Olang’ therefore urges them to pull together and toto be passed.” wards the same direction. — Retired Mombasa Councillor Margaret Olang’


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Why the principle of two thirds gender must be respected …By Barasa K. Nyukuri


he struggle for gender equity and equality coincides with the Country’s struggle for independence in 1963. Women of Kenya have suffered from decades of historical, cultural, legal, socio-economic and political discrimination perpetuated by patriarchal ideology and male dominated governance structures and gender insensitive constitutional and legal frameworks. As a result of such discrimination and marginalisation, women were consciously or unconsciously excluded from key public decision-making institutions and where it is deemed unavoidable or convenient given token treatment.

Gender provision The Constitution contains extensive gender provisions designed to equalise men’s and women’s status. This comes from the backdrop that Kenya is signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, and spearheaded the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies for Women initiative in 1985. This was followed by the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA: 1995), the Millennium Development Goals of 2000, among other international instruments and conventions. The Constitution expands the country’s existing commitment to gender equality. It protects gender equality in land ownership with provisions that counter customarylaw restrictions on women’s land ownership. Currently, less than five percent of the women of Kenya own land title deeds. The Constitution also guarantees representation for women by reserving seats for them in the Senate, the National Assembly and County Assembly as well as County

Executive structures. The Bill of Rights requires the State to implement “the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender”. Overall, assessment reveals that the new Constitution by far is a better legal framework in terms of women rights than the old one.

Women gains The gains include: All forms of discrimination including violence againstwomenareexplicitlyprohibited; Under the new Constitution, women can own and inherit land. Matrimonial property is protected during and after termination of marriage; Customary law that is inconsistent with the Constitution is void and, therefore, personal law which is discriminatory to women if in contradiction with the Constitution is invalid. The new Constitution guarantees equality in marriage — during and after its dissolution — as well as protection of matrimonial home and property. Women’s representation in all structures of governance is guaranteed; Women are recognised citizens and will be able to bestow citizenship to their foreign spouses and/or children born outside the Country; Equal parental responsibility of the mother and father to provide for the child within and out of wedlock; Increased numbers of women in all decision making organs including the devolved government; Elimination of discrimination in law, customs and practices related to land and property in land and; Any government or decision making organ that does not comply with Constitution is unlawful and unconstitutional. The Preamble of the Constitution recognises the aspirations of all Kenyans for a government based on essential values of human rights, equality, freedom, democracy, social

justice and the rule of law. These values have been virtually absent in the society and whenever they existed, women have been either disadvantaged or vulnerable. The Constitution regards as void or invalid customary or religious laws that are in contradiction with its provisions. This is important to women because the former Constitution has legitimised subordination of women as it embraces legal pluralism which embodies customary and religious laws that are discriminatory to women. The new Constitution reverses such trends in Article 2 94):- “Any law, including customary law that is inconsistent with this Constitution is void to the extent of the inconsistency and any of the omission in contravention of this Constitution is invalid.” Women in Kenya have for a long time championed accountable and transparent leadership and meritocracy in the employment of public servants/ State officers.

Overall, assessment reveals that the new Constitution by far is a better legal framework in terms of women rights than the old one. In this context, corruption, impunity and violence especially sexual harassment have hampered effective representation and participation of women in governance and public office life in general. The Constitution has changed this as stated in the following statement: The guiding principles of leadership and integrity include — selection on the basis of personal integrity, competence and suitability, or election in free and fair elections; objectivity and impartiality in decision

Participants follow proceedings in a forum to understand the gender provisions within the constitution. Picture: KenyanWoman Correspondent making, and in ensuring that decisions are not influenced by nepotism, favouritism, other improper motives or corrupt practices; selfless service based solely on the public interest, demonstrated by —honesty in the execution of public duties; and the declaration of any personal interest that may conflict with public duties; Accountability to the public for decisions and actions; and discipline and commitment in service to the people. Women representation in all decision making organs is a fundamental issue in advancing gender equality. The new Constitution provides a legal framework for women representation which is not provided in the former Constitution.

Affirmative action The articles delineate the composition of women representation in political parties, political parties fund and affirmative action. The statements are as follows: The electoral system shall comply with the following principles — not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender; Allocation of

party list seats The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission shall be responsible for the conduct and supervision of elections for party list seats and shall ensure that: each political party participating in a general election nominates and submits a list of all the persons who would stand elected if the party were to be entitled to all the seats within the time prescribed by national legislation; each party list comprises the appropriate number of qualified candidates and alternates between male and female candidates in the priority in which they are listed. Every political party shall among other functions — respect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and gender equality and equity; A political party shall not be founded on a religious, linguistic, racial, ethnic, gender or regional basis or seek to engage in advocacy of hatred on any such basis. – These are excerpts from a paper delivered at the workshop titled Beyond Rhetoric and Tokenism: Ensuring the Election of Women at the Sportsview Hotel, Kasarani on August 3rd-5th, 2011

Cabinet not ready to have more women From page 1

both men and women. It is not a fight between men and women. It is for the sake of moving the country forward as a team, Wachuri explained.

Decision making Alice Njau, Co-ordinator Foundation for Women Rights in Kenya voiced her disappointment that most members of the Cabinet went around the country telling women to vote for the Constitution because they were guaranteed to get representation in Parliament and other decision making organs. “We all remember them holding public rallies across the country. They said the Constitution was good and urged women particularly to vote for ‘Yes’ because it would benefit them substantively. Less than a year later, they turn around and say it is not good and want to distort it,” said Njau. She questioned the credibility of the Cabinet and whether they had sound judgement to lead this country. “They lied. They hoodwinked women to vote knowing it would not work. They did for their own person and political reasons. They rode on women’s backs to push for the Constitution and now they can remove

what favours women and leave in place what favours them. Nobody’s rights are safe in the Constitution. They can be removed anytime by this rogue, inconsistent and unreliable Cabinet,” said Njau. She wondered why the Cabinet was intimidating people not to ask for their rights. If you ask for your rights, they will be removed from the Constitution. “The Government is telling us that either they did not understand the draft or that they lack proper judgement. What does this say about their capacity to make sound judgements? Their words cannot be trusted. Now that some want to stand for elective positions in 2012, how will they prove to us that they can deliver?” she posed.

Obligation The National Women’s Steering Committee on the Constitution released a Press Statement noting that when the new Constitution of Kenya was promulgated on August 27, 2010, the obligation was placed on the people of Kenya to respect, uphold and defend the constitution (Article 3(1)). The statement said that in light of the need to redress any disadvantages

suffered by individuals or groups because of past discrimination, the women, in light of this realised the need to come up with a solution to avert a possible constitutional crisis following the next general election. Based on our commitment to promote constitutionalism and the rule of law in Kenya, the women had identified the rotating constituencies mechanism as the best for the Kenyan Context that ensures adherence to the principle of not more than twothirds representation by any gender as per the Constitution’s article 27 (8) and 81 (b).

Solutions Wambui Kanyi of Women’s Political Alliance, who released the statement said: “We are happy that the Cabinet acknowledged the two-third principle. Women are struggling to come up with a solution that will help implement this part of the Constitution,” she said. She said women were trying to make the best of a bad situation namely the constitutional provisions, which contradict one another. “We must seek a solution that best reflects the letter and spirit of the Constitution as whole,” reiterated Kanyi. “In our view, the solution should

Catherine Mumma of CIC, Florence Jaoko Kenya Human Rights Commission, Naomi Wagereka Chair FIDA and Grace Kimani Executive Director FIDA during a conference. Picture: KenyanWoman Correspondent.

give women constitutional rights. We would want whatever we do to also protect all the existing rights of men and women… and all other existing…all other groups that are already in the Constitution.” She said the Constitution put the mandate on the State to ensure it is

implemented. “We proposed the rotation in letter and spirit. Cabinet cannot, therefore, reject the principle under the Bill of Rights. The State includes the three arms of the Government and the Commissions, not just the Cabinet,” observed Kanyi.


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Challenges of implementing affirmative action …By Barasa K. Nyukuri


egative socialisation of the female gender and stereotypes have led to the perception that women should be prepared to be good wives and good mothers but not potential occupants of leadership and decision-making. This together with inadequate political goodwill from the Government beyond tokenism and selective application of affirmative action principles in appointments has trivialised the issue of gender equality. There is also inadequacy in gender equality laws and policy framework as well as weak and gender insensitive governance and development structures that the new constitutional order.


Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation chair Rukia Subow (left) joins other women leaders in a consultative meeting with the prime minister Raila Odinga to discuss gender provision within the Constitution. Picture: KenyanWoman Correspondent.

Other challenges include lack of solidarity among the women and youth stakeholders, which have negatively eroded the spirit and efforts to create, nurture and sustain a formidable women and youth movement in Kenya, Constitutional crisis precipitated by Articles 27(8) and 81(b) and their implications to parliamentary ( Senate and National Assembly) election results of 2012 as well as confusion and controversy over the election date mentioned three times as the second Tuesday of August every fifth year. The challenges of implementing affirmative action within the framework of the New Constitution include: deep-rooted patriarchal ideology and structures that have often supported status quo, misinformation and misinterpretation of issues, facts and gender concepts such as equity, equality, parity and gender justice issues. This has reduced and trivialised the gender debate to be more of a women’s affair and not a societal issue. In addition, there is lack of pro-active and progressive strategies to involve young women and men as well as adult male in the gender initiatives. The affirmative action debate has also been narrow in perspective. It has more often than not left out other marginalised cadres of society, such as the disabled, youth, paternalists and minority groups among others. There is need for the electoral management body (IEBC), Parliament, political parties and other stakeholders to address some of the barriers to women’s participation in political and electoral processes.

Party support For example lack of political party support for female candidates, particularly limited financial support and limited access to political networks, the elderly and maleoriented norms and structures that mitigate against women and youth public participation, including political party schedules that are difficult to reconcile with parental and family responsibilities. Other barriers include; lack of leadership-oriented training and education for women and youth, elderly men-dominated influential decision-making structures in most political parties, in which women concerns are not adequately addressed, the electoral management body (IEBC) should strictly monitor political parties’ nominations to ensure no short-changing of wom-

Parties can also support the greater political participation and influence of women by: sensitising party members, both women and men. There is also need to mainstreaming of women in the election management structures and political parties’ constitutions and other policy documents.

en and youth during political party nominations. Parties can also support the greater political participation and influence of women by: sensitising party members, both women and men, youth and persons with disabilities on gender and affirmative action principles and provisions of the Constitution of Kenya. Tailor made training women party members and aspiring candidates

North Eastern Province calls for change of attitude …By Harun Hussein


omen in North Eastern Province have called for a change of attitude among the pastoral communities in northern Kenya and support women to take leadership roles. Women leaders who spoke said despite the new Constitution that advocates for women leadership, several political meetings organised by elders to endorse candidates for governor, senator and parliamentary positions continue leaving women out of discussions.

Elections Rukia Abdille, the only woman who pulled surprises in the last General Election in Wajir after she was elected the Laghbogol Ward councillor urged women from North Eastern to come out of their cocoons and challenge men in leadership. Abdille made history as the first woman to be elected councillor from Wajir County. ‘’ It was like I had gone against culture and traditions and the most difficult part of my campaigns was convincing my family that I would vie for a civic seat’’ says Abdille who is popularly known as “Rainbow”. She said for one to seek leadership in the Somali community, the family must make a proposal to the subclan, then the sub-clan will own the initiative and table the proposal to the larger clan for approval. In this structure Abdille got her difficult part at the family level as they were reluctant and embarrassed at proposing a woman for a leadership position, an issue that never happened in the history of the community. “It took me a stressful two months to convince my family to forward my proposal and after they did so they encountered difficulties but I got sev-

eral women to talk to their husbands for approval. I managed it although I almost gave up,” recalls Abdille. Several tycoons from her clan were irked by her move. They spent millions of shillings to have people vote in favour of her four male opponents but she emerged victor. Abdille embarked on advocating for girl-child education and women’s rights while sitting alone among male civic leaders. It was only through a by election that she got a partner. Another woman was elected after the new Constitution through byelection following the death of her husband who was the councillor of Tarbaj Ward. Kaltuma Sheikh was elected through sympathy vote but this was her pass to joining pioneer women who were making history in North Eastern Province. In Garissa and Mandera counties there are currently no elected women in the local authorities. Those who are there are all nominated. North Eastern is on record for not electing a woman Member of Parliament since independence. The first woman MP from NEP is Sophia Abdinur who was nominated by ODM party. Doris Wangeci is one of the women who contested for a civic seats in Garissa but lost. She recently joined women’s lobby groups advocating for the urgent implementation of the new Constitution. A women lobby group in Garissa County has expressed worries over the slow rate of implementation of the new Constitution. Speaking under the auspices of Garissa County Foundation, a women rights group, the women said the pace at which the new Constitution was being implemented was worrying as it was behind schedule. They urged President and the Prime Minister to urgently intervene.

Led by the chair, Yustur Farah, the women said almost a year after Kenyans got the Constitution, only seven bills had been passed by Parliament out of the 16 that needed to have been enacted by August 27, 2011. “We unanimously voted for this Constitution as women from Northern Kenya with the hope that we will see the first elected women leaders from the region since old law locked out women and saw men dominating leadership,” observed Yustur. They lamented that no woman was ever elected for a parliamentary seat in the vast marginal north. The women expressed dissatisfaction that only three Commissions have been set up so far; the Constitution Implementation Commission, Judicial Service Commission and the Revenue Allocation Commission. All the three commissions were established more than three months later. The Chief Justice, his deputy and Deputy Public Prosecutor have also been appointed but the appointments were not done on time.

Regret They regretted that instead, 2012 elections and President Kibaki’s succession politics had taken centre stage, adding that MPs were more interested in building alliances for the next General Election as opposed to passing bills for implementation of the new law. The lobby group urged women countrywide to unite and call for quick implementation of the Constitution expressing fears that the country may plunge into anarchy due to failure to speed up the implementation process. “It was women and children who suffered in the last post-election violence and we should avoid a replica of the same by ensuring the right thing was done at the right time,” observed Yustur.

in party elections and general elections. Women can also choose to be independent candidates There is also need to mainstreaming of women in the election management structures and political parties’ constitutions and other policy documents. The Rotational Quota Formula or any other mechanism agreed upon should constitute a section of the National and Counties Bill and subsequent Act of Parliament with clear regulations and procedures of how it will be implemented in the political and electoral processes before the next general elections. This formula divides the 290 constituencies into quotas, which bringing the shortfall of the female gender to be about 72 seats, if they are not successful in the first passed the post election in the 290 constituencies. The constituencies will be group in 4 and the IEBC to randomly selected one (1) in each cluster for the same gender (this time women only) constituencies.

Formula The formula shall remain rotational for at least four successive general elections after which a gender audit is carried out to determine whether the constitutional threshold of not more than two-third has been complied with or not and then necessary mechanisms are put in place to address the imbalance or disparity of either gender in elective positions. The 72 seats will be added to the automatic seats of 47 plus six allocated under Article 90 of the Constitution of Kenya. The final tally will be about 119 seats constituting not less than a third of the total membership in the national assembly. For the Senate rotational formula, the 47 counties can be divided into clusters of nine counties to randomly produce a seat for a woman senator to take care of the shortfall of five (5) in the senate in case no woman directly wins a Senate seat after the Senate results are announced by IEBC. The critical questions being asked include the following; Is not such a formula discriminative against men, who under the same provisions of article 27 (1) states that every person shall be treated equally before the law? Is that not a limitation of the political rights of voters to freely choose a candidate of their own regardless of gender, without unnecessary restrictions, which bother on disfranchising them? Is this formula constitutional or unconstitutional?

Gender inequalities Is it true that many Kenyans are yet to be convinced, including members of the national assembly, cabinet ministers, local administrators, religious leaders, civil society leaders and ordinary voters too? What can be done to convince those who doubt this formula that has worked elsewhere to correct the gender inequalities in the electoral and political spheres of life? This option has to contend with the looming propaganda that the constitution favours women and that they are going to awarded free seats in the senate, national assembly and county assemblies, on top of those already preserved for them by the constitution. – These are excerpts from a paper delivered at the workshop titled Beyond Rhetoric and Tokenism: Ensuring the Election of Women at the Sportsview Hotel, Kasarani on August 3rd-5th, 2011


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Women score a first in Controller of Budget

…By Duncan Mboyah


t has happened at long last. A woman has been given a top decision making position and is the first holder of the post. After a failed attempt to appoint the Controller of Budget and Attorney General and the Auditor General three months ago, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga finally filled the positions after an array of interviews as demanded by law. The appointments saw Agnes Odhiambo, appointed as the first Controller of Budget under the new dispensation since the promulgation of the new Constitution. She is also the first woman to hold the position. The appointment followed calls by gender advocates that women deserve to occupy positions brought about by the new constitutional dispensation.

Appointment Odhiambo was named Controller of Budget after emerging the best overall from a list of 157 applicants that included 25 women. “I thank God for all this given that 157 qualified applicants applied for the position and I emerged the victor,” she said after getting news of her appointment. “My appointment is an acknowledgement for women and a win for professionalism.” Prior to her appointment, Odhiambo, served as Chief Executive of Constituency Development Fund (CDF). She is credited to have helped turn around the CDF with a five year strategy plan. Odhiambo was the Director of Finance and Administration at Post bank and had previously served in senior management positions in the private sector. She holds a first class Bachelors of Commerce (Accounting) degree and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Nairobi. She is also a certified Public Accountant of Kenya CPA (K). The Constitution demands that in Article 228 on Controller of Budget it says: (1) There shall be a controller of budget who shall be nominated by the President, and with approval of National Assembly, be appointed by the President; (2) To be qualified to be the Controller, a person shall have extensive knowledge of public finance or at least 10 years experience in


“I thank God for all this given that 157 qualified applicants applied for the position and I emerged the victor. My appointment is an acknowledgement for women and a win for professionalism.” — Agnes Odhiambo, Controller of Budget

auditing public finance management; (3) The controller of budget shall subject to Article 251, hold office for a term of eight years and shall not be eligible for reappointment; (4) The Controller of budget shall oversee the implementation of the budget of the national and county governments by authorising withdrawals from public funds under Articles 204; 206; and 207; The controller shall not approve any withdrawal from a public fund unless satisfied that the withdrawal is authorised by law; (5) Every four months, the controller shall submit to each House of Parliament a report on the implementation of the budgets of the national and county governments; Odhiambo has her job cut out for her. With her reign, Kenya will hopefully see an end to corruption that saw misuse of public funds such as the Goldenberg and Anglo-Leasing. In effect, Odhiambo has been charged with managing the country’s resources from the Consolidated Fund to ministries and State agencies. Her experience as Finance and Administration Director at Post Bank will help Odhiambo in her new dispensation. Odhiambo also worked with Unga Feeds as well as Metro Cash and Carry.

Responsibilities In response to these responsibilities Odhiambo said: “The position will require that we report on a quarterly basis to Parliament to ensure that misuse of funds is identified and rectified before it becomes unmanageable. We need to put in place systems to monitor and record use of funds at national and county levels. With Odhiambo’s appointment, women hope that there will be a gender sensitive budgeting process that will ensure their special needs are taken into account in national public funds. Many women, who have had experience in public finance management applied for the position of Controller of Budget among them Jacinta Mwatela, former Central Bank Deputy Governor. Mwatela was viewed as a front runner for this position considering that she is an extraordinary banker and public officer who served at the CBK for 30 years. Her story and record of service at the CBK offers an illuminating study on what personal

commitment to probity by an official can bring to public office. Two other women who were shortlisted for the job were Christine Mutingu and Elizabeth Nguringa. Odhiambo’s appointment comes after women’s organisations opposed President Kibaki’s nomination of William Kirwa as Controller of Budget. Kirwa was nominated together with three other men for positions of Chief Justice, Attorney General and Director of Pubic Prosecutions in what the court and women termed as being gender insensitive. Another position that saw a huge number of women submit applications is that of the Auditor General that attracted 19 women out of 118 applicants. In the end, three women were shortlisted for interview out of the eight finalists. The three are Elizabeth Nguringa, Sesi Mary Nthenya and Muthoni Wangai, all qualified to hold the position. However, the position was taken by Edward Ouko, a career auditor who has worked with African Development Bank for over 20 years. Ouko was until his appointment the Auditor General of the bank having risen through the ranks. President Kibaki and Raila received the names of Odhiambo and Ouko and forwarded them to the Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende for debate and approval by Parliament.Odhiambo and Ouko were vetted by the Parliamentary committee and finally sworn inby the President. Hopes of Kenya getting the first woman Attorney General were dashed with the appointment of Professor Githu Muigai. Another female front runner for the position, Betty Kaari Murungi was unsuccessful. Since the promulgation of the new Constitution last August, women have managed to get two high profile appointments though the balance of the two thirds principle has not taken effect. Besides Odhiambo, Nancy Baraza was appointed Deputy Chief Justice after a rigorous interview that saw most serving judges fail to qualify for the position. However, the Chief Justice in appointing new judges, went beyond the two thirds principle and appointed 13 women out of 28 new judges. He also ensured that minority groups were represented in the panel in accordance with the Constitutional requirements.

Male political privilege in gender balanced representation

…By Professor Patricia Kameri-Mbote & Dr. Celestine Nyamu-Musembi

enyan women breathed a sigh of relief when the new constitution was promulgated because it catered for most of the concerns they had raised over the years. Significantly, the Constitution provided for equality of women and men in legal, political, economic, cultural and social spheres. To realise the imperatives of equality, it was provided that ‘not more than two thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender’.

Expectations The expectation by women was that they would have more representativesin Parliament and other decision-making positions but this does not seem likely within the current conditions.The attainment of gender equality is a challenge as the cases that are currently before thecourts illustrate. Rights will not come to women automatically as those that have previously enjoyed them will be hostile to the new claimants of rights. Rights provided for in constitutions only come alive when implementation occurs. The row over parliamentary representation starkly brought the reality home – nobody had thought through the

actual mechanisms of actualising the promise of equality espoused in the Constitution. In a situation where the rules of the game remain intact, new players will have difficulties in entering the field and competing with the old players. Marginalized groups such as women cannot compete on an even keel with their male counterparts in many fields because of past injustices, culturaland structural constraints. Adoption of national laws for equal treatment of men and women without taking into account historical disadvantages means thatdisadvantaged groups continue to be disadvantaged and the equality of rights and opportunities does not result in equality of outcomes. As Aristotle aptly pointed out “if they are not equal, they will not have what is equal, but this is the origin of quarrels and complaints— when either equals have and are awarded unequal shares, or unequals equal shares”. While the constitution provided for formal equality between men and women, the realisation of gender equality calls for substantive equality that requires the dismantling of structural barriers to women’s engagement generally and to election and appointmentsspecifically. This can be

done through different mechanisms but they need to be anchored in law. Any formulae agreed to outside of law may be expedient but are open to legal challenge. They may also not be sustainable in the long run. Gender is one form of marginalisation but there are others – disability,religion, ethnicity, marginalised communities and regions – where gender is also a variable. It is therefore not possible to address gender fully in isolation of the other marginalisation categories. An Equal Opportunities Act defining the different kinds of marginalisation and how to deal with them is a good point to start.

Marginalisation Countries such as South Africa rank different forms of marginalisation in order of priority. Women must also identify effective strategies for creating and claiming space and thus slay the dragon of exclusion at all levels and in all spheres through alliances and networks. This is where the primary driver of electoral processes in Kenya – political parties – becomes a critical point of engagement. Debate is currently raging on what formula to employ in order to satisfy the constitutional requirement that

no more than two-thirds of the National Assembly should be made up of one gender. Some in the political class have expressed the opinion that women ought to be content with the forty seven seats reserved for female candidates to be elected by counties, and should not ‘encroach’ further. The debate on formulae has largely avoided the ‘elephant in the room’- the regulation of political parties, specifically, a legal requirement that political parties ensure that at the nomination stage the candidates bearing the party’s ticket are of a certain gender ratio. The same should also be done for religion, ethnicity, disability or any other social category recognized by law as marginalised. It is not surprising that nobody wants to address this issue becausewehave let political parties function either as personal institutions, asan opaque preserve of elite networks shielded from democracy requirements and as a monument of male political privilege. Research by the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD, 2005) has shown that globally, party-based quotas have proved to be more effective than reserved seats systems in enhancing gender-balanced political representation. The basic

difference between the two systems is that they intervene at different points in the electoral process. Party-based quotas intervene at the nomination stage to legally require a political party to field a certain percentage of its candidates from a specified marginalized group.

Requirement Significant penalties are usually imposed on a party for failing to meet the requirement, for instance through fines or withholding of state funding. Reserved seats systems on the other hand, circumvent mainstream political party nomination processes to create a group-specific avenue for representation of a marginalized group. The ‘special’ election at county level that is restricted to female candidates to fill forty seven of the seats in the National Assembly does precisely this. Party-based quotas hold greater promise for establishing social legitimacy for women’s political leadership than reserved seats do. By creating a special avenue outside of conventional political competition, the reserved seats system is viewed with suspicion and as inferior. For this reason, it is often justified only as a temporary corrective (affirmative action) measure.


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Role of women in political and electoral processes

…By Barasa K. Nyukuri


istorical events in Kenya shows that political influence of the political and electoral processes through activities of women can either facilitate or obstruct free, fair and peaceful elections. It is widely acknowledged that electoral justice through participatory management can only be possible if the majority of the population is involved in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the political and electoral processes. The main purpose of this paper is to identify and analyse the prospects and challenges of realising the directive principles of gender and affirmative action that makes it mandatory that in all elective and appointing bodies not more than two-third shall be of the same gender as we approach the 2012 general elections. The fact that these principles are categorically stated by the Constitution, any attempt to deviate from them renders the outcomes of such elections or appointments unconstitutional.

Legislation The Constitution requires the state to formulate legislation and develop mechanisms for achieving this threshold in all public governance institutions. This constitutional requirement should be recognised and adhered to by all state organs and public offices and institutions in the Republic of Kenya, including political parties. Unless these requirements are addressed in the Elections Bill, Political Parties Bill and other relevant bills on representation chapters of the Constitution, the next Parliament and by extension government is likely to be declared illegal and unconstitutional thus plunging the Country in a constitutional crisis whose consequences may be far reaching. We must appreciate the gravity of this constitutional dilemma and come up with practical solutions to forestall the crisis, without compromising and diluting our national values and principles of governance outlined in Article 10 of the Constitution.

An electoral official guides an elderly woman on how to cast her vote. Picture: KenyanWoman Correspondent This calls for objectivity, sobriety, constructive debates, dialogue and consensus building on the appropriate and widely acceptable formula and way forward. The fundamental questions that should pre-occupy our minds include: Can the next Parliament be exempted from fulfilling the requirements of Articles 27(8) and 81(b) so as to spare this Country from another expensive and cumbersome referendum process, which may jeopardise and erode the very core foundation of our political stability, cohesion and integration? Should we resolve crisis by amending the Constitution to alter the Electoral System and other related provision thus Article 27(8) in the Bill of Rights, which can only be amended through another referendum? Is a referendum desirable at this time when political temperatures are rising under the numerous national challenges like food insecurity, ill health, corruption and implementing the Constitution? What should be the referendum question/issue? Do we introduce a rotational formula of preserving some constituencies and counties for one (female)

gender constituency based on the quota criteria of the 290 constituencies and counties? Can political parties pro-actively contribute to the solution by nominating 50 per cent of either gender for all the elective positions of Parliament — Senate and National Assembly? Do we adopt a wait and see approach and wait for the crisis to occur then look for a solution and the consequences of such an approach when there will be nor parliament to legislate or amend the Constitution.

Proposal What is your comment or critique on the proposals and do you have an alternative proposal or strategy on the way forward with regard to this crucial debate of ensuring that women are elected in the 2012 general elections and subsequent ones under the theme: Implementing the Gender and Affirmative Action Directive Principles and Provisions of the Constitution Beyond Rhetoric and Tokenism, the theme of this Workshop? The paper points to the urgent need for critical analysis and review of the merits and demerits of each of the

above proposals and any other strategies put forward by other stakeholders. This will in turn enable stakeholders to build consensus on the most suitable mechanism of responding to the constitutional crisis. Remember time is running out in terms of the legislative solution to this issue, given the fact that the Elections and the Political Parties Bills are going to be discussed and passed by the National Assembly any time before the dateline of August 26, 2011. The million dollar question to be answered is: “What strategies should be adopted by the women leaders, political parties, civil society, especially women led organisations, Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution ( CIC), Kenya Law Reform Commission (KLRC), Cabinet, State Law Office, Constitution Oversight Committee on the Implementation of the Constitution( CIOC), the soon to be established Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and development partners to avert the looming constitutional crisis?” This paper underscores the potential and importance of women participation in governance with

specific reference to the political and electoral processes stipulated in the Constitution of Kenya. This is in line with the Foundation for Women Pastoralist Rights and FES of ensuring that women are elected to various elective positions in the 2012 as part of compliance with the directive principles of gender equity and equality as well as affirmative action provided for in the Constitution, thus Article 27(8) and Article 81(b). Article 27(8) states: In addition to measures contemplated in Clause (6), the state shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of members of an elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.” Article 81 (b) states that: The electoral system shall comply with ensuring that “not more than two thirds of members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.” It attempts to ignite debate on the above questions and challenges, without necessarily prescribing any single solution to the looming constitutional crisis. It reviews the gains made by women with the promulgation of the new constitution on August 27, 2010, points on the prospects and merits of the provisions that are likely to promote gender equity and equality, while at the same time highlighting those that promote political and civil rights and freedoms of male and female genders in governance. Needless to say, the implementing agencies, especially the electoral management body (the IEBC), should be able to recognise rights and freedoms of all voters and candidates at each step of the electoral process. In this context, women constitute a critical population in our country that cannot be ignored. Indeed, free, fair and peaceful elections and good governance are an essential pre-condition for sustainable development and democracy of any society. These should be reflected in the following tenets; fairness and equal distribution of resources and opportunities, equity and equality regardless of gender and ethnic background, the rule of law, transparency, participation, consultation and accountability.

Like a snake, those against gender equality must shed the old skin …By Karani Kelvin


he bill of rights has been lauded as being one of the most progressive in the region, nay, in the whole continent. Apparently the framers of our constitution knew exactly what the people wanted. How else can we explain the people’s euphoria over it? Primarily, it is the inclusion of hitherto forgotten and marginalised people into the big magnificent hut where the national cake is always divided that resonates so well with the populace.

Irony Ironically perhaps, if recent debates on gender representation are anything to go by, this self-same Bill of Rights has been a cause of great disillusionment among many men. You will be forgiven to think that the menfolk did not go through certain sections of the Constitution while it was still in draft before passing it. If they did, one can only read mischief

in their belated discovery of some provisions within the new law. The provision that “not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender” seems to make so many men uneasy. As it is, it is no longer business as usual. Used to occupying all the seats and creating more as and when need arose, men (especially) in politics are finding this new law on gender representation a bitter pill to swallow. And while they are grumbling and shambling all over, women are slowly but surely laughing their way into power! Now that is something! When did this revolution start? Let us forget history for a while. Let us go back to 2008, the national accord and the formation of the grand coalition government. Kenyans tacitly approved a government which from the very start had chosen to segregate its women folk from occupying the top jobs in the government. Some of us hoped that at least one woman would be

appointed to the position of Deputy Prime Minister. It did not end there. Fast forward to the circus of appointing people to fill high ranking positions within the same government. Neither the President nor the Prime Minister thought it wise to include women in their lists. This was also seen when the President also nominated only men to fill the top positions in the Judiciary together with the Comptroller of Government. This lot had only men on the list. Talk of old habits dying hard!

Victory Of course the women came out fighting and what a resounding victory it was! When all came to pass, neither the President’s list nor that of the Prime Minister stood the gender test. Then came the Judiciary appointments to the. Out of the five judges to sit in the Supreme Court, only one is a woman that is minus the Deputy Chief Justice who is a woman. This has been a bone of contention with arguments and counter arguments on

whether or not it meets the two third gender threshold as enshrined in the constitution. Most women have read these ‘incidences’ to mean that their gains in the constitution are being eroded. They feel that men are duping them and stealing from them what they have fought for all these years. A glance at our state of affairs shows that more needs to be done if we are to fully realise the gains in the constitution. For affirmative action to be fully appreciated there is need for understanding and political goodwill. That “women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres” can only become a reality if there is a willingness from all stakeholders. The good thing about it all is that it is not a matter of choice. The Constitution stands tall over every person and what they prefer. It must, and will, be implemented to the full.

Chapter One of the Constitution in Article 2 (1) states this clearly: “The Constitution is the supreme law of the Republic and binds all persons and all State organs at both levels of government.” The only thing those who are against change can do is slow down the process. They cannot kill it. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche likened those opposed to change to snakes. Those that refuse to shed their skins, he pointed out, have to die.

Implementation Of importance in this gender debate is how the country in its counties will implement the spirit and letter of the Constitution to safeguard against actions that will erode the gains women have made. We hope and pray that after the formation of county governments our energies will not be directed towards arguments and counter-arguments on whether or not we would have observed the constitution.


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Mobilisation and sensitisation critical to constitution implementation

…By Barasa K. Nyukuri


here is need for intensive and extensive political, civic and voter education as a strategy of mobilising and sensitising voting population, especially women and youth voters to understand gender and affirmative action principles and provisions in the Constitution of Kenya and other laws governing the political and electoral processes. This will determine success of the next General Elections in terms of compliance with gender and affirmative action. If it is not effective, the Parliamentary results of the 2012 elections will lack both legitimacy and legality and any person could rush to court under Articles 22 and 258 to declare the results null and void to the extent of their unconstitutionality for not attaining the mandatory threshold of not more than two-third of same gender in elective bodies.

Articles The Articles 27(8), 81(b) and 100 should be referred to the Supreme Court for interpretation before August 2011 so that its verdict becomes part of the laws that will govern the coming general elections and subsequent ones. Article 27(8) states: In addition to measures contemplated in Clause (6), the state shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of members of an elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.” Article 81 (b) states: “The electoral system shall comply with ensuring that “not more than two thirds of members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.” Article 100 states: “Parliament shall enact legislation to promote the representation in Parliament of:a) Women; b Persons with disabilities; c) Youth d) Ethnic and other minorities; and e) Marginalised communities.” It is only through effective mobilisation and sensitisation that youth and women will understand their rights and obligations. They will also be empowered to own and commit themselves to the new laws, new electoral system and electoral process from an informed point of view. Mobilisation and sensitisation of women and other cadres of society is both a critical step and bold strategy in the implementation of the gender and affirmative action provisions and principles of the Constitution of Kenya. It may go along way to ensure that more women are elected to attain the minimum and/or maximum constitutional threshold of not less than a third and not more than two-third, respectively in all elective and appointing bodies at national and county levels of governance. In this context, mobilisation is the process of identifying and recruiting allies for promoting free, fair and peaceful electoral process. It involves needs assessment with the aim of identifying the nature, magnitude and state of affairs in terms of risks and opportunities for creating, nurturing and sustaining a credible and transparent electoral environment. Sensitisation in this context refers to the process of raising awareness

among the mobilised groups or members of the community. These groups may include the youth, women, elders, minorities and marginalised groups, persons with disabilities, national and local leaders, members of the National Assembly, politicians, local administration, Judiciary and other law enforcement agents, community opinion leaders, civil society organisations and policy makers among others. The platforms and forums for sensitization should also seek to challenge and encourage women (both) young and adult women to take responsibility and actively participate in addressing challenges in the politiWomen from the community are taken through the constitution to enable them to understand the implementation cal and electoral enviprocess. Pictures: KenyanWoman Correspondent. ronment. Elections refer to the periodic exercise of choosing leaders and or making decision on important issues of national preciates the fruits of the new laws interests such as the Constitution of …By Ben Oroko but challenges women and the genthe country. Elections are fundameneral citizenry to interrogate the imtal indicators for democracy within hough the Constitution plementation process to ensure the the society. However, it should be process came with good laws are implemented to the letter pointed out that elections are not syntidings for women and and spirit. onymous to democratic governance they have confidence in Ombati calls for intensified civic or good leadership. the new laws, they are however diseducation to facilitate public particiThe disputed Presidential Elecsatisfied with the slow pace at which pation, during the constitution imtions of 2007 in Kenya and the events the implementation process is being plementation process. that followed re-awakened national undertaken. Though implementation process consciousness to the need to invest For Jane Mose, a community leadwas facing political challenges, Omin an electoral system with laws and er from Masongo Village, Nyaribari bati identified conservative cultural process that guarantees free, fair, and Chache Constituency in Kisii County, practices among various commutransparent and peaceful elections. “As women, we have the passing and promulgation of the nities as major challenge that will Elections if well managed are capanew constitution was a victory for the confidence that the frustrate women from realising the ble of evolving a democratic culture in women of Kenya, particularly those a country. In a democratic institution from the Gusii Community whose implementation process true fruits of the new constitutional dispensation. or country citizens/voters freely make rights to inherit land and property She, however, observes that cultura choice of the leaders, constitution and of the constitution was a taboo. al beliefs, especially among the Gusii system of governance and type of govcommunity continue denying potenis on course, since ernment they want. More so, citizens Implementation tial women leaders a chance to seek freely participate in decision-making Mose says that though the impleit is being steered leadership positions as provided for in and debates on the constitution and mentation process is behind schedthe constitution fearing being seen as other issues of national interests. by reform-minded ule, women have confidence that the social outcasts in the community. process being overseen by the Consti“Though the new constitution Rights commissioners.” tution Implementation Commission signals a new dawn for women in They enjoy their fundaments (CIC) chaired by Charles Nyachae is — Jane Mose, a community leader the country, it is regrettable that the rights and freedoms of assembly oron course. implementation process will face a ganisations, association, and worship, from Kisii County “As women, we have confidence major challenge from the conservative expression and conscience as well as that the implementation process of patriarchal Gusii community culture free will to choose their leaders. Dethe constitution is on course, since She says women from the Gusii which for a long time discriminated mocracy as a concept has numerous it is being steered by reform-minded Community who have been enslaved against women,” observes Ombati. definitions. The Greeks defined decommissioners led by Nyachae who by the conservative patriarchal socimocracy as people’s role or authority. Provision has the eye on the ball,” notes Mose. ety have a reason to smile following The essence of democracy from this She observes that women have the promulgation of the new constiShe expresses fear that if thorough point of view is people’s participation started seeing possibilities and tution that has opened a democratic civic education is not conducted to in decision-making. The modern defiopportunities to enjoy the fruits of space for them to seek leadership educate the public on the constitunition views democracy as governthe new constitution though it is at its positions. tional provisions on leadership, espement of the people by the people and “Though majority of the rural cially leadership, women seeking for initial implementation stages which for the people. has experienced various challenges, women from the Gusii community political positions will not make it. The broad contemporary definihave not yet come out of the cocoon Ombati called on various developespecially from the political class. tion of democracy is: a system of govof the community’s retrogressive culment partners and non-governmenMose says that with civic educaernance or way of life characterised tion in place, majority of the women tural practices which limit women’s tal organisations dealing with womby people’s participation in transparwill have an opportunity to interro- responsibilities to the kitchen chores en’s issues to consider re-directing ent and credible elections and regate the Constitution implementation and baby nursing, few of the women their efforts to the region to empower ferred freedom of speech, conscience, process at various stages to facilitate who have heard and read the new women with the required knowledge assembly and other freedoms exerthem audit the process to ensure the constitution have appreciated the on their constitutional rights. cised with responsibility and within “This will enable make informed new law is implemented to the letter changes affecting women politically the law, equality of all before the law, and socio-economically, ” observes decisions on seeking leadership and and spirit. equal access and control of resources Mose. electing fellow women to various po“The Constitution implementaand responsibilities. She says when the new Constitu- litical offices,” urges Ombati. tion process is about the lives of KeShe decried gender discriminanyans especially women and children tion was promulgated, majority of the – These are excerpts from a paper women, especially those in the rural tion saying it needed a lot of civic who have suffered decades of poor delivered at the workshop titled Beyond leadership and governance practices areas welcomed it with a sigh of relief education to sensitise for women to Rhetoric and Tokenism: Ensuring the understand their rights and opporunder the old Constitution inherited and jubilation in equal measure. Election of Women at the Sportsview HoJosephine Ombati, Public Officer tunities meant to empower them sofrom the colonial administration in tel, Kasarani on August 3rd-5th, 2011 to the County Council of Gusii, ap- cially, economically and politically. the country,” reiterates Mose.

Gusii women call for intense civic education



Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Food security viable only if women farmers get social protection

…By Dr Akinyi Nzioki


n a patriarchal society like Kenya, families still expect that women are the ones to put food on the table. They are expected to put food on the table, even when we all know that Kenya, over the years has increasingly become prone to food emergencies brought about by both natural and man-made circumstances. The predictable and cyclic occurrences of drought, poor rainfall and floods have exacerbated acute food shortage exposing many families in Kenya to stressful living conditions. This situation has led to increased food imports, with prices of main food stuff like unga (maize-meal) flying through the window and being out of reach of the ordinary Kenyan. In this context, are women still expected to put food on the table? If they do not expect domestic violence to escalate!

Report A report by FAO indicates that women in Kenya continue to play a pivotal role in agriculture. About 70 percent of the agricultural workers, 80 percent of food producers are women. They also undertake 60 to 90 percent of the rural marketing, therefore, making up more than two-thirds of the workforce in agricultural production. Hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers, many of them women are responsible for feeding Kenya. They carry out essential work such as hoeing, planting, weeding and harvesting with simple tools and little outside assistance. In addition to their work in agriculture, women bear the brunt of domestic tasks: processing food crops, providing water and firewood, picking fruit, walking distances carrying loads on the head or back to markets, preparing and cooking food as well as caring for children, the elderly and sick. Women work far longer hours than men, on average 50 percent longer. Yet, they do so without access to high quality seed, fertiliser and financing. They do so without access to reliable water supplies, market or agricultural services. They do so working soils that are depleted of nutrients and organic matter. And they do so, within global trade regimes that work against African farmers and narrow their market opportunities.

Production Despite the fact that women produce much of the food in Kenya, they also remain more malnourished than most men are. In many rural societies, women eat less food than men do, and when there is less food like now; they are the first to eat less. In this new era of high food and fuel prices, these pressures are likely to intensify further — threatening women’s peace and security at the household level — because they are still expected to put food on the table. Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) endorsed by heads of African Union (AU) states in Maputo in 2003, recognised that agriculture is central to eliminating hunger and reducing poverty and committed to raising productivity by at least six percent per year, and allocating ten

A women working in a maize farm while (inset) her counterparts are taken through the land clothe in the constitution. Picture: KenyanWoman Correspondent

A report by FAO indicates that women in Kenya continue to play a pivotal role in agriculture. About 70 percent of the agricultural workers, 80 percent of food producers are women. They also undertake 60 to 90 percent of the rural marketing, therefore, making up more than two-thirds of the workforce in agricultural production. percent of national budgets to the sector. In Kenya, despite the fact that agriculture contributes 24 percent of the national wealth, the Government, is not giving the sector the financial support needed to stimulate optimal production. This year (2011-2012) budget allocation estimates for the sector has been cut down to 3.53 percent from 4.7 percent last year’s budget, and thus falling much below the 10 percent agreed upon in Maputo. Most the budget allocated to agricultural sector is set to go to water harvesting pans and gunny bags! Out of this allocation, how much will benefit women farmers as food producers?

Crisis The food crisis, which should have been heavily reflected in this year’s budget, has severe effects on women, who not only assume primary responsibility for feeding their families but also contribute significantly to national food production. So! Are women still expected to put food in the gunny bags or in the stomachs? One of the greatest obstacles to increasing food productivity and income of rural women is their lack of security of land tenure. Secure access to productive land is critical to millions of women living in rural areas and depending on agriculture, livestock or forests for their livelihoods. Land reduces women’s vulnerability to hunger and poverty and influences their capability to produce food. The root cause of food insecurity in the country is the inability of people to gain access to food due to poverty. Hunger and starvation, which usually follows food shortages, is interlinked with poverty which is closely associated with a person’s lack of access to productive resources such as land, services and markets. It is important to note that large numbers of the poorest people, most of them women, live in farming households and depend for their livelihoods and food security on the productive use of agricultural land. While

grazing of livestock on extensive rangelands is a source of livelihood for pastoralists, access to pasture land is, therefore, critical. Gathering fruits, leaves and wood-fuel from common lands is a regular source of income for women and poorer households, as well as a vital coping strategy for the wider population in times of drought and famine. Land can be loaned, rented or sold in times of hardship, and thereby provides some kind of security. These uses tend to be undervalued in economic terms yet they are significant when stomachs go empty. So! Are women still expected to put food on the table? Although land rights are fundamental in achieving higher standards of living, women are consistently left out of land ownership provisions. The law may provide access to land, however, cultural barriers and poverty traps limit the majority of rural women’s ability to own land.

Land Women’s lack of sufficient land rights negatively affects their immediate families and the larger community, as well. Traditionally, it was recognised, that women must have access to land in order to cultivate and produce food. Title deeds and land ownership have made women now depend on their husbands, brothers and fathers for their livelihood and shelter. Should there be an illness, domestic violence, or death in the family, women will be left landless and unable either to grow crops for food, or rent land for profit. Recognising women’s access to land for ensuring equality of basic rights and for reducing poverty and ensuring household food security is crucial, if women are still expected to put food on the table. If tenure is secure, the holder can reasonably expect to use land to its best advantage in accordance with the right, reap a timely and fair return. It enables the holder to make manage-

ment decisions on how land-based resources will be used for immediate household needs and long-term sustainable investment. For women to use land more efficiently and make a greater contribution to food security, they need access to land, management and control of land based resources as well as economic incentives that security of tenure provides. Women have the primary responsibility for food security. Their success in meeting daily household needs depends on how well they manage and supplement a limited and delicately balanced set of resources: cropland, pastureland and forest. If tenure is secure, a woman can invest rather than exploit the land’s productive potential and is more likely to adopt environmental, sustainable farming practices. She can plan and quickly adjust resource allocation under changing climate or economic conditions and rely on the productive results of her labour. Control of the product is also an important consideration in examining women’s land rights. Security of tenure is often the key to having control over major decisions such as what crops to grow, what technology to use and the decisions as to what to consume and what to sell. Given women’s tendency to grow food as opposed to cash crops and spend income on family food, security of tenure for women must be viewed as a key link in the chain from household food production to national food security. Article 43 (c) of the Constitution spells out that “every person has the right to be free from hunger and to have adequate food of acceptable quality”. Kenya faces an acute problem of poverty, and it is estimated that 49 percent of rural population, most of them women, live below the poverty line. The number of women living in poverty has increased disproportionately to the number of men and women compared to men have a higher incidence of poverty which is

more severe. The rising poverty has resulted in a decline of food entitlement, which has further compounded the crisis of food insecurity for these groups. Social protection policies are being put in place to tackle poverty and vulnerability while the Constitutional provision interprets that, social protection is a basic right and Government responsibility. In order to assure food security, the Government has adopted various strategies including efforts to increase production, distribution of food in semi-arid and arid areas, and cash transfers to vulnerable groups such as the elderly heads of households, persons with severe disabilities. With food crisis, people hit the hardest are those already living in poverty. Citizens are already spending 60 percent to 80 percent of their budget on food. They are eating less food and less nutritional value; pregnant women and young mothers are forgoing medical care; more women are turning to prostitution to pay for food; and more families are pulling children out of school unable to afford fees and clothes. The crisis is forcing families to sell off productive assets, compromising their ability to escape long-term poverty out of short-term desperation. The poor are hungry and malnourished, even when there is food in the country, because they cannot afford to buy the food that is available. Since rural women are increasingly experiencing extreme and chronic poverty and livelihood shocks, women farmers need social protection.

Vulnerability The most vulnerable people having the greatest impact during the food crisis are women and children. The Government must take steps to protect people from emerging threats to the right to food. It must provide the poor, most of them women with social safety nets — that is, unconditional cash transfers or food aid — and make sure that, rural women have the same rights as men to access land and other productive resources. In order to effectively address food insecurity in the country, Kenya needs to adopt transformative social protection policies with regard to women’s land rights, tenure security and regulatory reforms that aims to reduce the probability of shocks, including the incidence of chronic poverty, and to address economic, social and cultural rights, discrimination and exclusion. Already, the Constitution eliminates gender discrimination in law, customs and practices related to land and property and provides for legal protection for the rights of wives, widows and orphans. It also directs Parliament to enact legislation, ‘to regulate the recognition and protection of matrimonial property’. This is why, when the Ministry of Lands continues to dither with the Land Bill, we are worried. Women’s movement in Kenya and defenders of women’s rights and like minded civil society organisations have worked tirelessly in addressing women’s rights in land and have made gains in the land reform agenda. Women cannot wait any more for implementation of the Constitution and the National Land Policy, because you expect them to put food on the table.


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Land reforms key to eliminating feminisation of poverty

…By Joyce Chimbi


and continues to be an emotive and thorny issue in Kenya as reports into various ethnic clashes over the years extensively cite conflict over land as one of the major causes. Documents by various government ministries show that agriculture continues to be the bedrock of the economy with an estimated 80 percent of the rural population depending directly on farming. In fact, Vision 2030 which is a government strategic plan on how to boost the growth and development of various sectors shows that of the eight million households in the country, five million are directly involved in agriculture. Land and environmental resources are, therefore, significant to the livelihoods of people whose subsistence and economic growth are heavily dependent on such resources. This has made land a highly coveted property in the country. However, land ownership has remained a reserve of men who hold a staggering majority of land title deed.

Challenges According to a report on challenges facing women in Africa prepared for the African Women’s Rights Observatory, a programme under the United Nations Development Programme, only one percent of women have registered land title deeds in their names while five to six percent of title deeds are registered in joint names. “This is in spite of the fact that up to 80 percent of the workforce is provided for by women yet they have no say in major decision making processes pertaining to land use and allocation,” explains Njoki Kanini, a land owner in Kiambu County, Central Province. This gaping inequality has heavily contributed to feminisation of poverty in the country. “Men are usually concerned with cash crops and rarely with food crops. After women have tilled the land and produced various crops, the men take over,” explains Karanja Kiama, a farmer in Busia, Western Kenya. The situation is made worse by the fact that even though women are the labourers, education on agricultural services is directed to male farmers. “Agricultural officers target male farmers under the assumption that since men are predominantly the majority of land title deed owners, then they know what is best to do with the land and will pass on the information, which this rarely happens,” expounds Kiama. Although agriculture heavily contributes to the growth of the economy accounting for over 24 percent to the Gross Domestic Product as reflected in reports by the Ministry of Agriculture, the contribution of women to this growth remains invisible. Due to women being undervalued as equal stakeholders in growing the economy form an agricultural perspective, they are equally marginalised from engaging in economic decision making processes. “Co-operative associations, where various decision making processes are made are a preserve of male farm-

Women tilling land constituting a large percentage of women who are labourers on farms that they do not own. Picture: KenyanWoman Correspondent

ers, women toil all day but they do not get an opportunity to guide various processes that can help improve land produce,” explains Mercy Njambi, a farmer and businesswoman at Wakulima (farmers) Market in Nairobi which is one of Kenya’s largest food markets. In a bid to address the land problem in Kenya, the Kofi Annan led mediation talks to broker peace as a result of the 2007 post-election violence recommended the need for land reforms as well poverty and inequality. Therefore, citing land, poverty and inequality among the most critical issues the coalition government needed to address in order to prevent a recurrence of violence.

Policy It is against this backdrop that on December 16th, last year, the Cabinet approved the National Land Policy that seeks to introduce fundamental reforms that are primarily geared towards paving way for massive changes in land ownership. In its objectives, the National Land Policy seeks to provide a system that “will provide all citizens with opportunity to access and beneficially occupy and use land”. It also seeks to ensure “equitable access to land in the interest of social justice”. Speaking of the just approved policy, Minister for Lands, James Orengo said that the policy emphasises control in use and access to land. It is imperative to also note that the current Constitution allows the girl-child to inherit land just like a boy-child. This is a significant gain for women because it touches on the serious issue of patriarchy on whose foundation land ownership in Kenya is built. Article 60 deals with principle of land policy and in clause (1) (f) states: “Land in Kenya shall be held, used and managed in a manner that is equitable, efficient, productive and sustainable, and in accordance with the following principles: Elimination

of gender discrimination in law, customs and related practices related to land and property in land.” Although it is important to have policies in place that speak to inequalities in access, use, control and ownership of land, notable developments in efforts to narrow gender inequalities in regard to land ownership can largely be dealt with by addressing retrogressive cultures that are harmful to development. The National Land Policy recognises that women have been discriminated against on the basis of their gender when it comes to land issues. The Policy recognises that “few women have land registered in their names and lack of financial resources restricts their entry into the land market. Moreover, international conventions on women’s rights relevant to women’s land rights ratified by the Government have not sufficiently been translated into policies or laws”. In Article on Gender and Equity principles clause 223 the policy states: To protect the rights of women, the Government shall: a) Enact appropriate legislation to ensure effective protection of women’s rights to land and related resources; b) Repeal existing laws and outlaw regulations, customs and practices that discriminate against women in relation to land; c) Enforce existing laws and establish a clear legislative framework to protect the rights of women in issues of inheritance to land and land based resources; d) Make provision for spousal registration and documentation of land rights, and for joint spousal consent to land disposals, applicable for all forms of tenure; The National Land Policy in its reforms looks at widows and orphans whose poverty situation has been perpetrated by situations where upon the death of the male head of house-

On December 16th, last year, the Cabinet approved the National Land Policy that seeks to introduce fundamental reforms

hold they have been disinherited by relatives. The Policy recognises the role HIV/Aids has played in leaving women helpless and exacerbating their economic situation. The policy in Article that relates to HIV and Aids states that “the HIV and Aids pandemic underscores an urgent need to reform cultural and legal practices that discriminate against women and children with respect to access to and ownership of land”. It states in clause 216 (a): “The Government shall protect the land rights of people living with HIV and Aids and ensure that their land rights are not unfairly expropriated by others and; (b) “Facilitate public awareness campaigns on the need to write wills to protect land rights of dependants.”

Ownership “This is the point where the law works closely with culture. If this patriarchal society can understand the need for collaboration between men and women in land ownership and usage, the economy would grow significantly because all of us would be pulling in the same direction,” explains Owuor Omondi, a gender advocate in Nairobi. The Constitution is calling on Parliament to revise, consolidate and rationalise existing land laws. It says in Article 68 (c) (iii): “Parliament shall enact legislation to regulate the recognition and protection of matrimonial property and in particular matrimonial home during and on termination of marriage. In Article 68 (c) (vi) It states: “Parliament shall enact legislation to protect dependants of deceased persons holding interest in any land including the interests of spouses in actual occupation of land.” Even though it is a long way to go before more women can account for a larger number of land title deed owners, the current legislation on land in both the Constitution and the National Land Policy may just pave the way for a more long term solution to Kenya’s perennial land problems which are at the heart of the perpetual inequality issue in regard to land ownership.

The African woman in development …By Grace Igandu


ince breaking away from the chains of colonialism, African nation-states have for years, struggled to reach the levels of industrialization and development that have been achieved by the West. Much to the disappointment of African nationalists, this struggle has proved to be an uphill task. In fact, the international community has often described Africa as a “sleeping giant.” It is paramount for Africa’s full potential to be released and this can only be done by invoking the active participation of its people, in their own affairs. More importantly, the overall development of Africa is also pegged on the continent’s ability to empower women. For centuries, men-in the context of Africa’s patriarchal societies- have made crucial decisions affecting the progress of their families, communities and territories without involving women in the decision-making process. Leadership has been viewed in several cases as one of the roles that should be played by men while women are given ‘softer’ roles to play in society. Yet women play a large part in developing the continent. According to United Nations statistics, African women produce approximately 70% of the continent’s food, even though they end up earning less than 10% of its total income.

Proportion This disproportional ratio not only keeps women from reaping the fruits of their labour but contributes to the suppression of Africa’s social capital. Women in Africa are yet to be fully included in the affairs of their countries and communities. Furthermore, their roles and contributions in nation-building are rarely recognized or celebrated. By including women in the solving of developmental and economic issues, entire communities stand to benefit. Like the maxim indicates, “when you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” When it comes to social spending, women are more inclined to use their resources for the benefit of their children, not just for themselves. Hence, by enhancing women’s participation in development, Africa as a whole can expect to rise up even faster. Kenya among other African countries has begun taking the much needed steps towards affirmative action. With the promulgation of a new constitution in 2010, Kenya opened up more doors for women by according them their long-awaited rights. Also, apart from being granted their rights, women now have greater leadership opportunities at the national and county levels. On the continental level, the African Union’s gender programme is designed to promote gender equality in the fields of trade, development, education, health, politics and conflict resolution. The regional body recognizes that gender and development go hand in hand, thus structuring its programs around approaches that will enable both men and women to benefit equally. Hence, for women, it is their time not to eat but to actively participate in awakening the “sleeping giant” and in alleviatiating such issues as poverty, inequality and unemployment. Additionally, it is important to involve men in encouraging and accommodating the expanding roles of women today, which includes their participation in Africa’s decisionmaking and capacity-building.


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Scientists push for treatment as HIV preventive measure

…By Joyce Chimbi


fter years of what seems like an endless search for an HIV vaccine, research now shows the use of antiretroviral drugs by HIV negative people could reduce HIV transmission upon exposure to the virus by up to 73 percent. The Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug works on the premise that any person who suspects they might be at risk of contracting HIV can use specific HIV drugs to reduce chances of being infected. Although antiretroviral drugs have been used and are being used to treat people who are already infected with HIV, in some cases they have also been used to help a person’s immune system prevent the HIV virus from being established in their body in cases such as rape where post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is used as a HIV preventive measure.

Progress This fairly new school of thought in which an HIV negative person can take an ARV pill daily if they anticipate risky sexual behavior that may make them vulnerable to HIV infection raises very critical issues; “Why give an ARV pill daily or in whatever doses to reduce HIV infections while other models of prevention have been proven to work?” poses Dr John Ong’ech, a gynaecologist and HIV specialist in Nairobi. He adds: “We have the ABC (Abstain, Be faithful and or use a Condom) and Prevention of Mother to Child (PMTCT) among others.” Ong’ech says: “This would be sending the wrong message while a lot of money is being pumped into behavioural change messages which have been significant in HIV prevention.” In a study dubbed the Partners PrEP trial carried out among 4,758 HIV discordant couples at Kenyatta National Hospital and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, in conjunction with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the University of Washington in the United States, the results proved that taking a combination of antiretrovirals (Truvada or a combination of Tenofovir and Emtricitabine or Tenofovir alone) already in use in Kenya for treatment of HIV, can reduce the risk of HIV infection by up to 73 percent. These drugs have been selected on the principle that taken once a day, they not only have limited side-effects but they also show a slow development to drug resistance particularly if the person taking them got infected with the HIV virus. Since the significant percentage of HIV transmission worldwide is through unprotected vaginal sex, it was believed that an ARV pill taken daily could not only significantly reduce the chances of infection, but it could possibly eliminate the risk of HIV transmission altogether. “As you are well aware, it is prevention that will win us the war against the epidemic in the absence of a curative treatment. The research to find a curative measure is still underway but if you look at national responses and the prevention revolution that is required to reduce new infections to manageable proportions and then to 0-infection within a short period

Prof Walter Jaoko left and Prof Omu Anzala are researchers who have been working on the Aids vaccine in Kenya. Picture: KenyanWoman Correspondent. ‘prevention’ is the way to go,” explains Girmay Haile, Senior Institutional Development Adviser UNAIDS. According to Haile: “This latest finding has created a momentum towards narrowing further and preparing to address the pockets of new infections to target such interventions.” He adds: “We now know that close to half of all new infections come from people within steady unions and maybe it will be most logical to focus on such groups and come with effective preventive measures in which the non-infected partners are also taken into full consideration.” Jacinta Nyachae of the Kenya Aids Law Project although supportive of any concrete measure to fight HIV is quick to note the infrastructural challenges that come with using PrEP as a preventive measure.

Prevention “Using treatment for prevention is a good strategy but do we have the necessary resources to deal with the influx of numbers once HIV negative people are put on drugs? It is important that the issue of resources is addressed to enable all those in need of ARVs to access the drugs.” In spite of the challenge that provision of ARVs to HIV negative people poses with various reports showing that an estimated 600,000 people are in need of the drugs, this recent study is being received positively, “I think anything to reduce infection is a plus. However, the risk and stakes are high. At the moment condom use is the best way to prevent infection so if one chooses to take the pill and forego the condom and end up getting infected, it will be tantamount to practising careless behaviour,” says Lila Kiwelu, a researcher in Kenya. Kiwelu adds: “However, reality also shows that there are people living in high risk situations where they have little control over their sexuality so it is always better to give the individual a choice. Give them all the information necessary to decide for themselves. Those in difficult marriages may be able to make use of this.” This study has been seen as one of the most remarkable breakthroughs in the fight against HIV/Aids. “The complexity of HIV infection demand radical ways to fight further transmissions. The bottom line is

that people need protection,” explains Pauline Irungu, East Africa’s coordinator for the Global Campaign for Microbicides. “While ABC has worked for some people, it has not offered protection to others and, therefore, the HIV epidemic continues,” she explains. Irungu observes: “New tools are, therefore, needed especially those that women can initiate since they bear the brunt of the epidemic. PrEP is one such potential tool and research is yet to be completed.”

Caution There is, however, need for caution. “The concept has been inspired by models of prevention along the lines of PMTCT and greatly informed by contraceptive mode of prevention (for family planning) but it is dangerous to say that anyone can take these drugs as a preventive measure,” emphasises Ong’ech. He adds: “In discordant couples it is a workable strategy but under very strict medical scrutiny.” The doctor believes that for discordant couples it can be significant during the period that a couple intends to get pregnant although it would still demand keen medical observation. This, he says, is based on what he has observed in practice and as has been revealed by global studies that within one year, one in ten discordant couples will convert and both partners will test positive because of risky sexual behaviour. Medical experts opposed to the strategy argue that Kenya does not have the systems required to support such a venture because a person cannot be put on ARV without having been tested for HIV. In addition, once testing has been done and a supply of drugs given, another test needs to be done for the next supply. It, therefore, begs the question of how this can be practical, in a system whose human resource and equipments such test kits are already strained. The aspect of side effects cannot be over-emphasised. Health experts say that in some cases, side effects can be very severe causing hepatitis and kidney failure among other health complications. “I am disturbed because as a social worker, I see HIV positive patients struggling to stay on medication despite

the side effects,” explains Mary Atieno, from Kibera. “Research shows that some of the side effects can be so severe that one in five people will give up PrEP treatment before completion.” Further, the argument against PrEP maintains that it is disturbing to expose HIV negative people to HIV drugs because the medication remains in the bloodstream for a long time. This may lead to toxicity and drug resistance if, unfortunately, the person gets infected with the HIV virus at some point. More importantly, this mode of prevention does not factor in scenarios where people may have been recently infected with the virus but tested negative since they were still in the window period and the virus was undetectable. “Every drug you take has side effects, this PrEP isn’t a vaccine, to deliberately and with no strong reasons, expose yourself to HIV infection just because you swallowed a pill is unacceptable,” emphasizes Dr Mary Amuyunzu, an anthropologist in Nairobi. “There is not any strong reasons because other basic measures against HIV such as using a condom have been proven effective,” she says, wondering why scientists would propose that people go into a PrEP mode.

Complications Amuyunzu says PrEP is a concept that basically complicates all preventive methods that have been pushed for before and proven to, if correctly followed, significantly reduce HIV infections. “We are not talking microbicides which are a great option as we wait for a vaccine against HIV, but a drug whose long term potential to damage the immune system of an HIV negative person is very real.” Although there are already strong arguments against the issue of PrEP as a preventive strategy, because put on the cost-benefit scale it appears to fare poorly, it has nonetheless not deterred scientists from exploring the idea further. Other than Kenya and Uganda, PrEP trials are also underway in Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa. As the debate for and against PrEP rages on, only time will tell whether indeed the gains far outweigh the losses, and whether putting HIV negative people on ARVs is the solution we need.

The normalisation of domestic violence

…By Grace Igandu


n several homes across the country, the sound of horrific shrieks and screams can be heard. Neighbours wait for the quiet calmness of the night to return before they can get a good night’s sleep. Even though they know what is happening next door, they would rather keep out of affairs that are not their own. “See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.” Domestic violence has become the norm in Kenya as several women, in towns and villages alike go through physical violence and abuse at the hands of their spouses or partners. This seems to be a normalised trend despite the presence of a new constitution that serves to protect women against this kind of ill-treatment, as indicted in article 29 (15). The reasons behind the pervasiveness of domestic violence may be spread over cultural, economic and social patterns. First, African cultures have for a very long time, dictated that men are the holders of absolute control over their families and are therefore expected to maintain order in their household; and this may include the use of wife-beating. Second, a number of studies have shown that men tend to be more inclined towards violence after the loss of income or when faced with economic hardships. In Kenya, several men are the sole bread-winners of their families. This position thus allows them to wield power and dominance over their wife and children. However, once this power is lost, some men may feel as if their worth as men has been taken away from them; leading to a build-up of frustration and anger. And unfortunately, women end up being the outlet for their fury. Socially, the clear line between the roles of men and women is quickly becoming blurred as more and more women are venturing into traditionally male dominated fields. While many men have adjusted to these changing roles, there are others who are completely resistant to change and would rather put their energies into keeping women down. And one way of doing this is through the use of violence. Through understanding the causes of domestic violence it could be easier to develop long-lasting solutions to this social vice. Preserving the cultures of Kenyan communities is important but the perpetuation of cultural practices and customs should be based on how beneficial they are to the community. This means keeping the positive aspects while phasing out the harmful symbols of a culture, such as, domestic violence. As a country, Kenya needs to shift some of its focus from the political arena and instead concentrate on bridging the wide gap between the rich and the poor. With the help and cooperation of the government, Kenya can promote sustainable development and equitable distribution of the country’s resources across the board, thus allowing everyone to get a ‘share of the pie.’ Socially, civic education can be a useful tool in educating both men and women at the grassroot level about the significance and advantages of promoting gender equality and balance. By understanding the impact of the promotion of women’s rights, civic education could enhance the respect given to women in their communities. With this in mind, it is therefore apparent that the shrieks and cries of the night can be ended for once and for all.


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

How women living with Aids suffered forced sterilisation could determine how long I can live and, therefore, did not buy the argument advanced by the doctor that I was endangering my life through subsequent pregnancies,” she explains. “What irks me most is the fact that there were no efforts to counsel me prior to the procedure to allow me time to recover and accept my new condition,” Opany says. Although she is a mother of three boys, Opany says that the procedure denied her the dream of having a baby girl.

…By Faith Muiruri


er heart boils with rage and her eyes turn teary as she recounts how a doctor forced her into an irreversible sterilisation procedure. Lillian Atieno is devastated. She was plunged to the depths of despair at a tender age. She was only 19 when the procedure was performed without her consent during a caesarean operation. Atieno had just been diagnosed with HIV/Aids at child birth when her doctor decided she would not be allowed to have more children because of her ailing condition. Although she delivered a bouncing baby boy, the doctor proceeded to permanently seal her right to have more children without her consent. “I was shocked when the doctor told me that the hospital had decided to perform the procedure because I could not survive another pregnancy in future,” she poses.

Agony Atieno left the hospital devastated and for months, she agonised over her condition and the grim realisation that she could no longer conceive. The period that followed was a wade in murky waters. Her husband succumbed to HIV/Aids four months later and she had to contend with doing menial jobs to support her young family. However, her tribulations took a new turn when she remarried two years later. Although my second husband supports me with my children, he is not contented with my situation and constantly reminds me that there is nothing that binds him to the marriage. “Sometimes he refuses to provide for the kids because he is not their biological father but mainly because I have been unable to conceive again. I am afraid that one of these days he will throw us out of his home,” she observes. Atieno has visited several hospitals to see whether the condition can be reversed in vain. ”All doctors tell me that once the

Coercion So the story of forced sterilisation continues. Ruth Achieng also suffered a similar fate. She was rushed to Kenyatta National Hospital after experiencing excessive bleeding. She was unconscious at the time and by Joyce Opany (left) explains how she was forced into sterilization because of the time she regained consciousness, it was too late as the doctor informed her HIV status. Picture: Njeru Wangethi her that they had sterilised her. On enquiry, the doctor explained procedure has been done it is imposOpany recalls that in September that was the best option considering sible to reverse. Some say the proce- 16, 2003 she was admitted at the that she was HIV positive. dure was consensual and, therefore, Kenyatta National Hospital after she Achieng says that the procedure I can only blame myself. I have suf- developed labour pains. Little did she know the doc- came as a shock although she had suffered and I continue to suffer while the practice continues unabated,” she tor with the consent of her husband fered miscarriage in three consecutive said during an interview with Kenyan would perform a surgery that would pregnancies. The three represent hundreds of harshly deny her the joy of motherWoman. women in the country who have to Atieno is not alone in this dilem- hood in future. constantly endured gross violations of “I knew I was HIV positive and ma. The story of Joyce Opany, 42, restheir reproductive health rights simply anytime I got pregnant my husband onates with deep pain. The procedure was performed almost eight years ago would pick a fight and demand that because of their HIV status. In some but the pain is still fresh in her mind. I undertake a surgical operation to cases the women are given options to remove my uterus and forestall pos- choose between accessing free anti retsibilities of my getting pregnant in fu- roviral drugs or retaining their fertility. “I knew I was HIV The women say they have been victimture,” she explains. Opany would, however, stand her ised by the society and only hope that positive and anytime I ground until she conceived again. one day they will get justice. got pregnant my husband However, this last time she found herThese testimonies were given at a self in for a rude shock as her husband meeting held by the African Gender would pick a fight and had approached doctors at Kenyatta and Media Initiative (GEM) who comHospital who agreed to missioned a study to initiate an advocademand that I undertake National perform the operation after delivery cy campaign to stop forced and coerced sterilisation of women living with HIV/ a surgical operation to without her approval. She says that the explanation giv- Aids in Kenya. remove my uterus and en by the hospital that her HIV status The GEM Executive Director Faith would complicate future pregnancies Kasiva says the study that will cover forestall possibilities of was farfetched and an infringement of different parts of the country seeks to educate women living with HIV/Aids my getting pregnant in her rights. “I was strongly opposed to the on their rights in healthcare as well as procedure because I knew only God document their experiences. future.”

“We need to educate women that they have rights to control and decide on matters of their own sexuality and reproductive health, free from coercion, discrimination and violence. This includes the right to decide whether and when to have children and the means to exercise this right,” Kasiva explained. A statement by the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) states that surgical sterilisation is a widely used method of contraception. However, an ethical requirement is that performance be preceded by the patient’s informed and freely given consent, obtained in compliance with the Guidelines Regarding Informed Consent (2007) and Confidentiality (2005). Information for consent includes, for instance, that sterilisation should be considered irreversible, that alternatives exist such as reversible forms of family planning, that life circumstances may change, causing a person later to regret consenting to sterilisation and that procedures have a very low but significant failure rate.

Concent FIGO further explains that women consent to sterilisation should not be made a condition of access to medical care such as HIV/Aids treatment, natural or caesarean delivery or abortion, or of any benefit such as medical insurance, social assistance, employment or release from an institution. In addition, consent to sterilisation should not be requested when women may be vulnerable, such as when requesting termination of pregnancy, going into labour or in the aftermath of delivery. Further it is unethical for medical practitioners to perform sterilisation procedures within a government programme or strategy that does not include voluntary consent to sterilisation. The Bill of Rights within the new Constitution stipulates that no person shall be discriminated against on the basis of health status. dream, Sirleaf says tackling poverty and corruption remain the key challenges that her government must confront.

— Joyce Opany

Kenyan woman in need of family planning …By Ben Oroko


hough family planning is a right of men and women to determine the number, timing and spacing of their children, statistics show that over 100 million women in developing countries who are married or living with men report that their needs for contraception remain unmet. In Kenya, high fertility and declining mortarity, saw the country ranked one of the countries with the fastest population growth rates in the 1970s and 1980s worldwide. Consequently, the country became one of the African countries to encourage family planning as a way of lowering fertility rates to mitigate population pressure on land and resources. Kenya’s total fertility rate declined from an estimated 8.1 children per woman in the late 1960s to 5.4 in the early 1990s,a success attributed to growing aceptance of family planning services across the country. According to the United

States Agency for International Development(USAID), family planning is important for the health of the children and the mother and for the economic situation of the family. Having children less than two years apart or more than five years apart can have health consequences for the mother and children.

Solution Rebeccah Nyaboke, a mother of three, admits that family planning is important for the health of the mother and child, translating to a health family founded on sustainable economic situation at household levels. Nyaboke observes that,planning the birth of one’s children for certain times,especially spacing out births a few years apart and planning for a child or children, leads to a healthy family. “As a parent,I believe every parent has a responsibility of providing food, clothing,shelter and education for their children.It is against this background, I concur that family planning significantly impacts on the family’s

Ms Winfridah Abuya at her Daraja Medical Centre in Kisii Town. Picture: Ben Oroko

health and financial situation,” observes Nyaboke She says, planned pregnancies not only lead to healthy mothers and children, but also contribute to healthy families and sustainable socio-economic development at household levels. Margaret Kwamboka,a mother of three from Bomonyama village,South

Mugirango in Gucha South District observes, the freedom to choose how many children and when to have them, is a fundamental human right. “Every woman has a right to plan her pregnancies and have access to family planning methods of her choice, to space or limit births to prevent unintended pregnancies which more often than not have negative health and economic impacts on the lives of mothers and their families,” states Kwamboka. Kwamboka says,family planning reduces the number of unintended pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies, which she observes,are more likely to end in induced abortion and far less likely to receive adequate prenatal care than wanted pregnancies. Sammy Marucha,a father of four,concurs that family planning has both health and financial benefits, since it enables couples to decide the number of children and when to have such children in relation to prevailing health and economic situations at family levels.

Marucha says,delaying or spacing pregnancies more often than not has financial benefits for mothers and their families as they give mothers more opportunities to earn money from their socio-economic activities and fewer dependants to provide for. Winfridah Abuya, a trained nurse and a proprietor of Daraja Medical Centre in the Kisii Municipality, admits that women have a choice over their sex and reproductive health rights, arguing, communities have no right to decide the number of children a woman can have without being involved in such decision.

Partriachy Citing the Gusii community, Ms Abuya regrets that, the community’s conservative patriarchal society continue denying women their right to choose family planning methods of their choice, leading to majority women from the community bearing children they cannot take care of. Continued on page 14


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Under the umbrella of hope, Nyabigena women live positively

…By James Mbaka


bout 30 years since the first Aids case was reported, Kenyan women continue to bear the brunt of the scourge. Although there are stated commitments by successive governments to mitigate the effects of the disease, little is being done to alleviate the status of women living with HIV. The worst hit by the effects of the scourge are poor rural women who have endured persistent stigma forcing them to regroup and advance their common cause through small income generating activities in a bid to access services that can add an extra day to their lives.

Stigma Nyabigena Village in Kisii County is synonymous with soapstone carv- Some of the members of the Nyabigena Women Self-Help Group cleaning and polishing artifacts and carvings for sale. Picture: James Mbaka ing. Here, a group of women living with HIV are fighting malnutrition tus and shied away from taking the ARVs. He the group says her husband died eight months and stigma. Soapstone mining is the leading economic died guilty but I will live to help others live with ago but she says the group has helped her conactivity in this area. However not all families are this scourge,” she explains. Gesare is proud that tinue paying school fees for her two sons in blessed with this precious stone. Consequently, since she started the Nyabigena Women Self- high school. The group has also offered her advice on nuyoung women and men walk some reasonable Help Group, many women have come on board distances every morning in search of labour in to assist each other in managing their destiny trition after she looked so weak soon after her husband’s death. The group even offered her through economic empowerment. the quarries to at least eke a living. some food supplements that nourished her. She How did she moot the whole idea? The lifeline here depends on meagre earn“I had gone to bury a relative in Siaya County now looks young and rejuvenated. ings either from mining, carving or even trans“My husband was merely an excavator and portation of the excavated stones to the storage and saw a small group of women consoling the facilities usually situated conveniently at the widow by staying with her and assisting in do- stone miner. He never owned a quarry, therefore, we depended on the little earnings he got mestic chores in the home,” Gesare recalls. nearby Nyabigena market. at the end of the day which never sustained us A group of women are waiting at the temporary New beginning fully forcing the two boys to drop out of school,” warehouses. They are not ordinary women; they are strong and determined and have managed to cut a After the funeral she approached one of explains Bitengo. She is, however, proud of the niche for themselves in this community. the active members who disclosed to her that group that has enabled her avoid the vagaries From a distance, they break into a work- the group was made up of HIV-positive wom- of seeking labour on a daily basis. The group decries poor payments and says ing song, perhaps to give each other impetus, en who were out to help one another during it is too little for the work they do. Currently hope and resilience as they continue working. such moments. A glimpse at their faces speaks little about who Upon her return home, she talked to her the wholesalers pay them between one to three they really are. neighbour Celestine Kerubo about the idea of shillings for every carving polished. However Gesare says that is low given that They sit in a circle with some even nudging starting a group that could bring together vilone another. They are not sisters but have been lage widows especially those who had been hit some carvings take a lot of time in polishing them. made to be so. These women share a common by HIV/Aids. The group polishes an average of 1,000 carvThe co-founder is now deceased but Gesare cause: fighting stigma associated with HIV/Aids. is proud of the immense contribution she gave ings per day and sometimes upto 1,200 on a very Determination to the group. Although she succumbed two busy day. This earns them between KSh1,200 to They are determined to live. They are mak- years ago, Gesare pays glowing tribute to her as KSh1,500 per day. About 70 per cent of the amount is distributing a joke of the days when women infected with a heroine in her own right. “She was principally in charge of talking ed amongst themselves with each getting around the virus would be at their death beds counting hours to their graves. This group is testimony of to widows whose husbands had succumbed KSh75 per day, 20 per cent goes to savings and 10 concerted efforts to demystify the Aids virus as to the scourge and she really did a wonderful percent caters for meals and their nutrition. work to help this group grow to ten members,” being a death sentence. Testimony While several other women from the village explains Gesare. The group that operates in Nyabigena market Janet Omoori, 42, a member of the group trek tens of kilometres to reach the nearby quarries to assist their husbands in sorting, packing and engages in cleaning and polishing the artefacts says stigma and segregation is the greatest even transporting the precious stone, these women and carvings. They use sandpaper to smoothen challenge for people living with HIV/Aids. own no quarries and have no husbands, they de- the sculptures. They used to walk everyday for She laments that often people look down at the six kilometres in search of labour but today they group as a collection of hopeless and deathpend on offering washing and cleaning services. Before they got here, the women would walk are proud that their good services have earned awaiting fellows. “Some think that we are coming together in about eight kilometres in search of labour but them a brand with many businessmen seeking a countdown to our hours of death but I believe recently managed to rent a small backstreet their services. “When we started we used to look for cli- that HIV/Aids is not a death spell, there is life room from where they undertake their work. ents, but nowadays we receive several orders even with the scourge,” observes Omoori. They formed Nyabigena Women Self-Help She says the group has enabled them access Group that has ten members. Today four of them with two being placed daily,” says Alice Biyaki, the ARVs on time and even gives fare to weak are not at work. They have walked four kilome- 32, who joined the group six years ago. The group transports the carvings from the members to board Boda Boda (motorcycle taxi) tres to Tabaka Health Centre to replenish stocks wholesalers into their small rented room where they to reach health facilities. for the anti-retroviral drugs. wash and clean them before they are finally sold. She challenges the community to look at “Some said we could not be alive today but Jane Bitengo who is now six months old in them as ordinary people going on with their we ignored that and came together under this lives as usual in an ordinary way. banner to claim our identity. Today we are “Some think that we are Alfred Oroko, a wholesaler has employed proudly positive,” observes Jane Gesare, a piothe services of this group for over two years and neer of the group. coming together in a he minces no words to speak on their praise. She has been with this group for ten years “These women are doing a good job, they countdown to our hours of and still counting. Her face has no evidence of finish the polishing work timely and personone reeling from the effects of HIV/Aids. death but I believe that HIV/ ally I cannot recall a day when they delayed Infact she looks younger than her 43 years. After the death of her husband, a former teacher Aids is not a death spell, there my work. They are hardworking and proud of themselves,” Oroko says. in 2001, Gesare thought that she had no more is life even with the scourge.” These women have vowed not to wait for life. She never imagined living this long espethe seemingly elusive help from government cially among the community that knew what — Janet Omoori, a member of the or non-governmental organisation; they are killed her husband. slowly transforming their lives into ones full of “He was malnourished and emancipated Nyabigena Women Self-Help Group hope and enthusiasm. definitely because he did not accept his sta-

Protecting gender equality

…By Faith Muiruri


irst they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the communist and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me. The words of Pastor Martin Niemoller to the Nazi’s aptly captures, the ongoing debate on the one third gender rule in all public positions. The debate kicked off by an assertion in the cabinet that it was technically impossible to achieve the two thirds principle has refused to go. The latest affirmation by the First Lady Lucy Kibaki that it was impossible to implement section 81 (b) of the Constitution which bars any elective body from having more than two thirds of its members from one gender further complicates the implementation of that particular provision. However women rights defenders have send out a passionate appeal to Kenyans to safeguard all the gains in the Constitution. “If you allow them to take away the two thirds principle, they will come for all the other rights and there will be nothing left in the constitution,” cautions the chairperson of the Federation of Women Lawyers Kenya (FIDA) Naomi Wagereka. She says that all Kenyans must be vigilante as anti reformers are regrouping to steal the gains already enshrined in the Constitution. The chairperson says affirmative action is critical towards the realization of Vision 2030. “We cannot talk about Vision 2030 when we are planning to leave out 52 percent of the population from decision making platforms,” she poses. Prof Karuti Kanyinga of Nairobi University says we are faced with a situation where we may end up with a constitution without constitutionalism. He says the principle of affirmative action is not a privilege. It is a right that must be protected through legislations as outlined in the constitution “The two thirds principle is meant to correct past injustices meted out on women and lay a strong foundation for social justice,” he says adding that the constitution has put in place measures for redress. He however says that impunity is organizing to defeat the rights of the minority groups, disabled and women who have for decades suffered marginalisation. “We are talking about committing injustices against women, the disabled and minority groups who have for long been excluded in leadership positions. This has been nurtured by a political culture that tolerates violence, mobilizes on the basis of ethnicity and thus woman have not been unable to penetrate the turbulent field,” he says. Prof Kanyinga says that Gender equity has been achieved through violent struggle and should be protected in all possible ways “The two thirds principle is about representation of values as opposed to the common belief that women want free seats. It is not a seat, it is not a chair but representation of issues and values of our society. It is about how best everyone can be provided with an opportunity to articulate aspirations of the society in an inclusive manner as opposed to having a bunch of men advancing their selfish interests,” he said. He says that unless we commit ourselves to include everyone, we are missing an important opportunity to lay a solid foundation to transform our institutions He blamed the scenario to the lack of coherence by parliament and the government to further the spirit of the constitution. “The big challenge now is that those who were opposing the constitution are in the forefront of its implementation. They are now looking for opportunities to scuttle the document because they failed during the referendum,” he explains. He says that past elections have not favoured women as voters register have been manipulated, terror has been unleashed on female candidates in a bid to scare them away from polling stations. He says that proportional representation can only be upheld in a scenario where we have institutionalized political parties that represent values of social justice and not the present grim picture where political parties have only existed as vehicles to win an election. He is emphatic that we should resist attempts to amend the constitution.


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Culture hinders women from accessing credit facilities

lending institutions,” noted Mose. However, according Wakenya Pamoja Sacco Society, acting Chief Executive Officer, Gideon Oyuma majority of the women from the Gusii community still lack information on the existence of the WEF loans which are disbursed to women through institutions like his Sacco and other micro-finance intermediaries in the region. Oyuma concurs that the dominant Gusii patriarchal society has for many decades enslaved women economically as majority of them have been instilled with negative attitude towards taking credits and loans from banks and financial institutions, fearing that failure to service such loans will lead to auction of the family land or property. “Despite WEF loans making positive changes to women’s lives across the country, it is sad that women from the Gusii community continue shunning the loans due to the influence of the conservative patriarchal society and outdated customary laws which frustrate women’s efforts to liberate themselves from economic enslavement,” observed Oyuma.

…By Ben Oroko


hough the Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) continues to benefit many women across the country, there is a big contrast in the Kisii region where majority of the womenfolk shy away from the loans due to the influence of the conservative patriarchal society Retrogressive customary laws have discouraged women from accessing loans from banks and other financial institutions to economically empower themselves. The situation has been compounded by various myths spread by community members which instil fear in women, making majority of them to treat loans with contempt and fear. Many believe that taking a loan will lead to auctioning of family land or property if one defaults in servicing the credit. It is because of these misconceptions that the WEF loans are yet to be received positively by women in the Gusii region, leaving a chunk of the money lying idle in the local micro-finance intermediaries mandated to give money to women in the grassroots to venture into or expand their businesses.


Fund The Government established the Fund in 2007, to provide sustainable solutions to the challenges facing Kenyan women in reference to A woman entrepreneur sorting her vegetables uplifting their financial status and helping bring for sale. Picture: Ben Oroko positive impact into their standards of living. Some of the critical challenges addressed by the Fund include fear for loans among establishment of the Fund, saying it will liberwomen and cultural barriers that limit wom- ate women from poverty and financial excluen’s ownership of assets demanded by lending sion in the money economy. “Conditions for securing loans from comfinancial institutions and commercial banks mercial banks, especially for women entrepreas collateral for loans. The Fund which is a flagship project under neurs who are not in any formal employment the economic pillar in the Vision 2030 blue- has been difficult since lending institutions print is part of the Government’s commitment demand for collateral which majority of the to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) women from the Gusii community do not Three that targets women empowerment and possess,” observed Mose. She blamed the situation on the commugender equality. Women in the informal sector who talked to Kenyan Woman, positively nity’s conservative customary laws on land welcomed the fund describing it as a God-send inheritance, ownership and values which deny opportunity to liberate them from the chains of women access to bank credits and loans. “Unlike commercial banks and other fieconomic enslavement by the lending institutions and commercial banks. They said finan- nancial lending institutions where credits cial institutions deny women credits and loans and loans are secured through collateral, the for lack of collateral or guarantee, which is an Government’s establishment of the Women eligibility requirement for one to qualify for a Enterprise Fund will facilitate female entrepreneurs in the informal sector access loans loan. Jane Mose, a small-scale trader in Kisii easily without stringent conditions of colCentral District welcomed the Government’s lateral demanded by commercial banks and

He noted that though his Sacco has in the past disbursed KSh10 million of the WEF loans to 2,000 women in the region, majority of them have still not recognised the existence and importance of the loans in empowering themselves economically. Oyuma disclosed that despite the local women’s poor response to the loans, the Sacco has already been given a top up of KSh15 million by the WEF to disburse to women in the region at eight percent interest rate per annum on a reducing balance. “Women entrepreneurs are given loans on graduation basis and one qualifies for another phase of loan after successively servicing the first and an additional loan is based on the success of her funded business,” clarified Oyuma. The minimum requirement for any women entrepreneur to qualify for a WEF loan from the Sacco, include ability to raise 15 percent cash collateral, one business person to guarantee her and she must have an ongoing business. Oyuma encouraged women in the region to apply for the money instead of leaving the funds lying idle in the Sacco’s accounts and yet the cash are meant to empower women, roll back rural poverty and improve their standards of living for sustainable development.

Kenyan woman in need of family planning from page 12

“It is a sad story that the Gusii community’s intolerant and conservative patriarchal society continues violating local women’s rights to choose the family planning methods of their choice,unless they seek permission from their husbands or in-laws.This sad trend means majority of the women from the community will be forced to give birth to numerous children they cannot take care of,”laments Abuya.

Family planning Abuya who offers family planning and counselling services at her clinic,says access to family planning services for everyone in the society,including adolescent girls,would assist in preventing rampant cases of maternal and child deaths. “Too many births,too close together and births to adolescent girls endanger women’s lives and their children’s lives.Delaying a first pregnancy until a girl is at least 18 years of age,will ensure a safer pregnancy and delivery-reducing the risk of her baby being born underweight,”discloses Abuya. She clarifies that, a woman’s body needs

at least two years to recover fully from pregnancy and childbirth,saying the risk to the mother’s health is therefore greater if births come too close together. “A mother needs time to rebuild her health,nutritional status and energy before she becomes pregnant again.Men need to be informed on the importance of a two-year space between births and the need to limit the number of pregnancies to protect their families’ health,”counsells Abuya. Abuya oserves that,a woman’s body can easily become exhausted by repeated pregna ncies,childbirth,breastfeeding and caring for small children born too close together. She adds that, after four pregnancies,especially if there has been less than two years between births,the mother faces increased risk of serious health problems such as anemia. Concurring that family planning is one of the most powerful ways of improving the health of women and children,Abuya challenges every couple to take responsibility for preventing unplanned pregnancies,instead decide on and use of a family planning method to delay pregnancy,space births and limit the number of children they have.

Margaret Kwamboka with her child at Bomonyama Village Kisii County. Picture: Ben Oroko.

Bank empowers women with entrepreneurship programme …By Joseph Mukubwa


bank has set in place a programme that seeks to empower youth, women and small enterprises with the knowledge, skills and attitudes that they require to adopt good management practices that will transform their lives and livelihoods. The programme has already trained over 57,000 young men and women countrywide who have completed 12 weeks of training in financial education. The Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship Programme broadly fits with Government’s objectives for the financial services sector particularly that of increasing access to financial services and improving efficiency. The programme seeks to address many of the defining challenges facing the nation, including increasing the rate of growth of the economy and creating employment, particularly for our youth. In addition, it is aimed at transforming small and medium-sized enterprises that are owned and managed by youth and women as a key driver for achieving broad based economic growth and poverty reduction in the nation. The programme is tangible proof of the commitment of its partners to work together with other stakeholders and Government to achieve the common goal of developing vibrant and sustainable enterprises. It will provide productive jobs, incomes and wealth for the members involved. Equity Bank, the Equity Bank Foundation and The MasterCard Foundation has also put their efforts in providing the entrepreneurial training and skills development required for effective access to credit and financial services for our youth, women and small enterprises. County based self-help groups have been benefiting from the new program introduced by Equity Bank a few years ago. Many groups including Githunguri Fanikisha and Gichiche Kamunjoki self-help groups in Othaya which mostly comprises of women members have been trained on how to start many income generating projects including keeping rabbits, chicken rearing, rearing of dairy animals and improved the quality and quantity of coffee among other plants since they were trained last year. Several kilometres away, another group of 20 mostly women named Gachami Women Fanikisha Group has also been trained on the new programme on finances. The group’s treasurer, Esther Wairimu, says the initiative has changed her life as she has been able to improve the quality of crops growing in her farm. “My cows have increased milk production per day to almost double the litres they were producing before the training,” explains Wairimu. The trainings which are free of charge are conducted once per week for one hour and take 12 weeks using the local language that they are able to understand with ease. “Many farmers in the various groups from Kiriaini, Othaya, Kangema, Murang’a, Murarandia and Mukurwe-ini areas have benefited in the program which started in October last year,” said Grace Wambui, who is master trainer entrepreneurship in charge of Central region. The farmers are trained by trainers from the foundation who also to link them with extension officers from the ministries of Agriculture, Livestock, Youth as well as Gender and Social Services which helps them in registering of the groups. “We target any group with members aged between 20-35 years and not necessarily women and youth but men are also involved in the programme although not in big numbers,” explained Wambui. The groups are also trained on how to save their earnings which can help them to access loans from Equity Bank. “They are trained on four modules which include budgeting, savings, bank services and debt management. These are very vital modules which help them in their day to day living,” reiterated Wambui. She added: “The trainers go on the ground and do not meet farmers in hotels. After 12 weeks the farmers graduate before training on entrepreneurship for one day per month after which they are given a certificate.” Farmers who benefit from the training are able to get loans after making some savings.


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Hope amid despair for displaced children

Helen Wangari who travelled over 300 kilometres from Mawingu to Molo. Two brothers are from Kuresoi farm in Molo and are now both in Form Four. John Mwangi and Peter Karoro, say that they do wish to return to their Mawingu Primary School which was burnt down. They are now targeting good grades at the end of this year. Four other children from the same family are also here. However, they are still shocked that they have never seen their father since the post election violence. They say their lives turned out well with the caring mother and a peaceful environment for learning here.

…By Joseph Mukubwa


ven as Kenyans start planning for the next General Elections, there is a group to whom horrors of the last polls remain a ghost that has refused to go to rest. These are the families that were displaced from their homes and lost close family members. The story cannot be told better than with a group of 17 children who lost their fathers and mothers, or do not know where they are following the violence that followed the disputed lections in 2007. At the outskirts of Nyeri town in Ruring’u area, one woman has spent a lot of her time with children who are mostly orphans. For her passionate love of children, they have known her as their own mother since childhood. But Nancy Nyambura Wachira of Huruma Children’s Home has also given 17 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) accommodation at the children’s home where they have been living since they were evicted from their homes four years ago.

Arrival When they arrived in the farm which is neighbouring Ruring’u Stadium in January 2008, the manager in charge of a children’s home had not the slightest idea that the internally displaced children would be calling her mum. It is more than four years now and the 17 children have come to only know Nyambura as the only mother who has tender and motherly love. “They came here as very traumatised children. Some had just been circumcised and were yet to heal. Others didn’t know what to do. I told my God it was time to serve Him in a mighty way and I took them in as any other child, recalls Nyambura. It all started after the post election violence over the bungled presidential elections in early 2008. The children who were initially 45 in number were relocated from the volatile areas of Rift Valley Province and moved to Nyeri to seek refuge.

Performance Nancy Nyambura of Huruma Childrens Home shares a light moment with the chlidren under her care. Picture: Joseph Mukubwa

They camped at Ruring’u Stadium where the owner of the children’s home, Rev Bernard Muindi came across them and ordered Nyambura to collect the children. After Muindi saw how the children were suffering in the cold and rains, he decided he would cater for them and informed the relevant authorities. The children by the time were very dirty, hopeless, heartbroken and depressed. Today they are clean, safe and have hope in life since they have been counselled on many occasions and all are still continuing with their education. The home added more beds to accommodate the new visitors who are now used to the home. “We had to go and look for professional counsellors in order to help them cope with the situation they were in when they arrived. They have

regularly gone to a healing process and do not want to return to their homes since they enjoy the life here,” explains Nyambura. She adds: “They are now much better and are able to concentrate with their school work.” Nyambura has been an inspiration to the children who include three girls and 14 boys. She vows to stay with the children until their mothers come for them. Most of them hail from Laikipia County, Eldoret, Molo and Kapsabet. “It is very hard to cater for many children from different parents but here I am, I have somehow managed to cope with it. Initially we did not have school uniforms, text books and shoes. We struggled until we were able to get these and now the children are very happy in school,” notes Nyambura. She says the challenge has been in the scarce resources since they had

over 30 other children in the home before the others arrived. Initially the IDPs were 32 in number but some have been picked with their parents leaving behind 13 of them. The children’s home has 62 orphans. The children aged between six and 20 are now learning comfortably at Riamukurwe Primary School in Nyeri Municipality. Others are at Riamukurwe Secondary School which is several kilometres away from the home. “Here we are concentrating well in learning and can no longer wish to return to the old school. I will refuse to return there even if my parents come for me. I’m comfortable here,” says Martha Nyambura, 14. “The manager has provided us with love, care and attention that we needed. We are comfortable here,” says

“It is very hard to cater for many children from different parents but here I am, I have somehow managed to cope with it. Initially we did not have school uniforms, text books and shoes. We struggled until we were able to get these and now the children are very happy in school.” — Nancy Nyambura Wachira of Huruma Children’s Home

Some of the children are performing quite well school and John Mwangi, 19, emerged second in the three-kilometre Family Fund Run in Nairobi, last year sponsored by the Standard Chartered Bank. He brought home wonderful prizes. Others are reported to have excelled in the examinations. “I have seen this as a blessing, to have these displaced children visit us since initially we used to have only destitute and orphans who were depressed. They now see each other as brothers and sisters and are ready to chart the way forward for their lives,” reiterates Nyambura. However, she is calling on well wishers to help them since the resources the home has is running out of stock. She would like to see more food donated to the home. She says the home lacks basic facilities like mattresses and blankets as well as school equipment and school fees for the older ones. She observes that there are some people who still want to bring more children to the home but due to limited resources they cannot hold more. “We need a class for their studies in the evenings especially for the Form Four and Standard Eight candidates,” says Nyambura. The home also need sponsors as two girls who finished Form Four last year are idle and need to further their education.

Coconut husks give Sidi a better life

…By Bernado Tsuma


idi Yeri, a mother of four has acquired a new name in Malindi. She is known as Mama Nazi (Mother Coconut). This is not because she gave birth to a child called coconut, no. It is because she is, most of the time, surrounded by hundreds of husks of coconut, coconut shells or bowels of the white stuff.

Experience “I have been grating coconut for the last nine years. At first I did it as part of my work but later it became a means for earning a living,” she told The Kenyan Woman in Malindi recently. Sidi who dropped out of school while in Standard Seven at Bathe Primary School in 2002 took up housework in urban centres after life became unbearable in the rural area. “A strange illness stopped me from proceeding with education. I begun seeing blurred images and finally I could not read any letter. So I quit school and looked for a job as a housemaid in town,” Sidi explains. The eighth born in a family of 12 children, none of her siblings went beyond Standard Eight except the last

born who is now in Form four. However, two of her brothers are working in Europe after learning foreign languages in Malindi and finding white friends. What strikes anyone who meets this young woman in her 30s is her determination and zeal to earn. She operates from a permanent base along Boby Tuva Road near Bora Salama Restaurant. Hers is a story of hope, focus and sheer determination. She has, as a result managed to beat all odds to emerge a fairly comfortable single mother, quite the opposite of many a young men and women in a place like Malindi, who waste their prime age energies immersed in narcotic drugs and alcohol. “As a young rural girl I was mesmerised by life as a housegirl. I ate freely and had a place to sleep. Sometimes my employers gave me clothes so I did not bother for anything else,” she narrates. However, as time went by, Sidi realised she was being misused as she severally went without salary. Then one day, she decided enough was enough and walked away from her Asian employer.

“Wherever I worked, I stayed near Digo women who gave me their coconuts to grate for them for free, at first,” she went on. Women from the Digo community living in South Coast are famous for using coconut for cooking fish and bread as other delicacies will go right with them. They also use the coconut to produce soapproduce soap. “When I left my job, I decided to grate the coconuts at a fee. Since they knew I had acquired the art, the women brought them to me and slowly, I became like a specialist of some sort,” she explains.

Earning Sidi grated each piece for three shillings. This price increased to the five shillings she charges today. From 50 pieces per day, today she grates numerous and declined to reveal how much she earns daily. However, from my assessment this would range from KSh300 to KSh500. “With this money, I have saved and bought a plot at Ziwa la Tsahu along the Malindi-Ganda Road. I am in the process of building a fiveroomed residential cum commercial house where I will house my aunt

Jumwa Yaa who has all the time kept me in her dwelling place in town,” notes Sidi. With four children and being a single mother, Sidi says she has not regrets as she can feed, cloth and educate her children without begging from anybody. She makes a strong call to the youth in the country and particularly in Malindi to embrace hard work, any work, because this is the only way to better one’s life. “Many young girls in Malindi have turned to prostitution chasing after wazungus (whites) while the boys consume and are used to peddle narcotic drugs. They should remember that this is a dangerous and shortlived occupation because the law will sooner or later catch up with them,” advices Sidi. Instead, she urges the youth to start income activities no matter how small. “Later, if you concentrate on it, it grows and you stabilise. With time, the business grows bigger,” she says. “I am planning to open up more bases within the estates where I can recruit other women to grate coconut so as to expand my business,” she says. Others should emulate that determination.

“With this money, I have saved and bought a plot at Ziwa la Tsahu.” — Sidi Yeri Picture: Bernado Tsuma


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Winds of change blow as Ilchamus abandon FGM …By Grace Kamuyu


long the long road to Marigat District, I was not sure of what to expect at the function that we (with other journalists) had been invited to cover. The highway with its sideways intrigues and fascinating features made me realise just how vast and diverse our country is. The differences in housing, road, and even modes of dress are just but the outstanding features the people have to offer. So, off we went to Marigat District to meet the Ilchamus community and to share with them this historic moment in their community. Why was the event historic, you may ask? The main reason was that the community was finally putting their foot down (quite literally) to end Female Genital Mutilation or FGM as it is commonly known.

Reasons The main reason why the rite has been criticised is because it has been a barrier for the girls in the community to attain education. “We as a community have to encourage both boys and girls to acquire education as it is the only way to alleviate poverty,” explains Kiprich. To this he quickly adds that there have been success stories in their quest and over ten girls have gone up to university level. Janet Naning’oi is one of the commonest examples the community is using to prove that one can gain respect and prestige without the cut. She is a university student at Egerton University where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Education. Naning’oi is lucky to be where she is now and she had come to join hands with her community to declare that FGM was not the “gate” as she refers to it, to adulthood and respect. “I missed going through the practice by a whisker in 2003”, she says. The fact that, that day in itself is kept as a secret, she, like other girls did not know when she would finally see women approaching her mother with a leso (a common piece of material that is normally tied at the waist when women are carrying out chores). This was a sign that indeed the young girl in that homestead was ready to undergo the rite. Janet, sensing danger after her mother got the “visitors”, decided to run away. By then

By Lucy Langat


he Ilchamus have been treated as a minority group, living deep in Baringo and Marigat districts, with little attention from leaders, except when political campaigns are at their

Practice The practice which has been widely carried out by the community has seen many girls get married off at an early age, develop health problems like Fistula, miscarriages, problems at birth and even in some of the worst cases, death. Common reasons for the persistence of the practice are the need to observe customs and traditions, the attempt to improve marriage prospects for women, the wish to curb women’s sexual desire and to mark the passage from childhood to womanhood. The event was attended by the Ilchamus community which comprised elders, circumcisers as well as the young and old. Also in attendance were organisations from the NGO world and representatives from the Government. According to Francis ole Kiprich, the local chief of Salaban Location, Marigat Division, FGM has been a standing culture among the Ilchamus. “The rite has handicapped many young girls as it is seen as the only passage to enter adulthood, and eventually get married off,” explained Kiprich. According to the Ilchamus tradition a girl cannot be accepted as an adult unless she undergoes the rite. Since most of them are seeking to be respected, own a home and get children, they choose to go through the ritual. Kiprich who has been working in the area for the last 18 years says that it has taken the community ten years to bring the practice to an end. He is quick to point out that there are others who are still practising it, albeit secretly. The circumcisers, working together with the mothers of the young girls, force them into the rite by convincing them that it actually is a plus for them if they go through it.

Ilchamus take a step to empowering their daughters

Some of the women circumcisers during a past function. Inset: Janet Naning’oi, who is an example and proof that one can gain respect without the cut. Pictures: Grace Kamuyu

According to the Ilchamus tradition a girl cannot be accepted as an adult unless she undergoes the rite. Since most of them are seeking to be respected, own a home and get children, they choose to go through the ritual. she was only in Class Six. But where had she got the courage from? Actually, Naning’oi was lucky to have got the advice from her teacher at school who by that time was working together with other teachers in the area, to discourage young girls from going through the rite. Together they had formed a group known as the Ilchamus Teachers Lobby and their main aim was to see that the young girls in the area are given an alternative to FGM which is education. So, armed with the knowledge and especially of the dangers involved while undergoing “the cut”, Naning’oi chose to remain adamant to the mother who kept on insisting that it was time to become an adult. Most mothers are blamed for forcing their young girls to undergo the practice, since, in the Ilchamus community, the role of initiating a girl to adulthood lay squarely on the arms of the mother. Naning’oi’s only bait was to convince the father to support her idea to forego the practice and instead further her education. As luck was on her side, the father agreed to give her a chance and supported her through the education. Speaking during the interview, he says that his greatest motivation was to see his daughter attain education as this was something that he was not able to get himself. “My girls were brought up in the Christian faith, and I chose to give them exactly the same thing that I gave to my boys,” says the father of seven. He even chose to further educate the community that a girl does not need to undergo the rite. “These cultures are binding and they lost their meaning a long time ago,” he observes. Though Naning’oi has been able to further her education, a lot needs to be done in order for the community to finally put an end to the practice. The “cut” is regarded as very important for any woman or young girl willing to

join adulthood. When a girl doesn’t go through it, she is victimised in the society by her peers and the rest of the community. This basically means that she cannot go out to herd, attend community functions or mingle with others. Most challenging is that she cannot get a suitor to marry her. Therefore, when most of the young girls who contemplate forgoing the practice think about all these consequences, they opt to go through it. Some, even force their mothers into taking them through the knife, albeit in their quest to “fit” in with the rest of their peers and the society at large. It is with these deep rooted ideologies that various groups, both governmental and nongovernmental, have been working together with the community of Ilchamus to ensure that the practice is stopped and alternative rites of passage initiated to enable the girls pursue education.

History However, it would be noted that the practice has been in existence for a long time and letting go has proved to be not so easy task as Florence Gachanja, the National Programme Officer for Gender and Advocacy at UNFPA puts it. “The Stone Age practice cannot be wished away in a second and it has brought about many challenges in a bid to stop it,” observes Gachanja. It has taken a lot of hard work and so many years to ensure that slowly by slowly the community members disown the practice. FGM has its roots entrenched in the culture of some of the communities who practice it. Surprisingly, once the campaigns against the practice begun, the community seemed receptive, but not for long. They begun what Gachanja explains as “medicalisation” of FGM. This is where the mothers, who still wanted their girls to undergo the rite, would take them to hospitals within the area, to undergo the rite. The reason being that the messages used were against the use of the “knifes” that the traditional circumcisers used, and not the rite per se. Although this trend might reduce the immediate pain or risk of infection, it does not prevent long-term complications or psychological trauma. FGM must be seen as representing a danger to women’s health as well as a violation of human rights. “The medicalisation of the practice is not acceptable,” reiterates Gachanja. There has been a change now they have learnt that for any community to let go of an archaic and undermining practice, the initiatives have to come from them. “To this regard, we are creating social networks within these communities,” explains Gachanja.

peak. For this reason, the Ilchamus have remained withdrawn, sometimes appearing in a bid to fight for their rights, only to return to their remote villages to live a life of loneliness. Twice they have gone to court, in 2005 to fight for their own constituency and in 2006, to protest against introduction of the Mathenge plant in their area. The Ilchamus won the two cases, but are yet to get a constituency of their own as they have never had a parliamentary representation. The Mathenge plant is still spreading in areas they live. The Pokots, who are their neighbours have not spared them either. Often, Pokot rustlers raid the homes of the Ilchamus, driving away thousands of cattle, never to be recovered. Currently, more than 800 families remain displaced at Kiserian, Baringo Central after Pokot rustlers raided their homes in 2005. Women have been particularly oppressed among the Ilchamus. Their male counterparts have used culture to deprive the girl child her rights to education and exposure.

Culture Female Genital Mutilation has been an ‘acceptable’ practice among this tribe, even as it remains against Kenyan law. To the Ilchamus, FGM has been a culture too deeply-rooted to die. However, this marginalised sub-tribe of the Maasai has taken a step to boost not only their image, but also empower their women. “It has been a long journey, if only we did not practise FGM and early marriages, then our women would be great leaders, but today we say no to FGM,” says Francis Loking’oida, an Ilchamus elder. Janet Naning’oi, 20, was among the first girls to shun FGM. Naningoi was supposed to undergo FGM when she was 12, stop going to school and be married off to a man of her parents’ choice. But Naning’oi had heard her teacher say that FGM was not good and girls were not supposed to be married off at a young age. “I had made up my mind that I would chose education, not FGM,” says Naning’oi. When she noticed some strange women visit her home at Salabani, Marigat District, and that her mother had bought new kangas, Naning’oi knew it was time for her to make her stand. “I will not be cut,” she told her mother, who would hear none of it. “When my elder sister was taken into the ‘operation’ room and everyone paid attention to her, I ran away, aware of the risks but determined to be educated,” explains Naning’oi. She is now one of only ten girls of the Ilchamus community who have joined university. Naning’oi is a first year student at Egerton University studying Bachelor of Arts Education, specialising in Kiswahili and Christian Religious Education (CRE). Margret Tenges, the first one from the Ilchamus community to join university is currently pursuing her Masters degree at one of the leading universities in the country. Those who mocked them, who laughed at them, who refused to accompany them while herding cattle have become admirers of the few Ilchamus girls who chose education. Elder Loking’oida, 78, regrets having married off his daughters at a young age, and having been at the forefront in support of FGM. “But I am now reformed, I no longer support FGM, our girls must go to school. Matung’ai muratare oo ntoiyee (We have refused FGM),” Loking’oida says to other members of his community. They all repeat the slogan before signing a declaration to abandon FGM. Importantly present during this occasion, one of its kind among the Ilchamus was the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Children’s Affairs and Social Development, Dr James Nyikal. He says it was a challenge to convince the elders to abandon FGM as they insisted it was part of culture to initiate girls into ‘womanhood’.


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Maternal deaths have women worrying …By Ben Oroko


s states and governments race against time to meet the targets of the 15year term Millenium Development Goals(MDGs), citizens from the member states, Kenya in particular have reservations on the achievements of the targets. The member states set five goals to be achieved by 2015, with Goal number Five being reducing maternal mortality and improving maternal health. A nagging question among many citizens from the member states, is why so many women continue dying out of complications related to pregnancy or childbirth?

Complication In Kenya alone, the situation is disappointing as many women, especially the rural poor continue dying at alarming rates out of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. The worrying trend of maternal deaths in the country casts a dark shadow on the Government’s commitment to reducing maternal mortality and improving maternal health services among the women folk across the country, in line with the MDGs targets by 2015. The worrying situation is best captured by a case scenario at Bonyamasicho rural village, Masongo Sub-Location, Nyaribari Chache Constituency in Kisii Central District in the Kisii County, where grandparents are taking care of a grandchild who survived after the death of her mother, a day after giving birth. It is early sunny morning.The Kenyan Woman writer arrives at a local homestead and a few metres away, a medium-sized woman in her late fifties,clad in a short-sleeved yellow blouse and a matching black skirt, emerges from a mudwalled and grass thatched hut,holding a young girl’s hand. The woman welcomes the writer with a broad smile and few minutes later identifies herself as Wilkistah Mong’ina Abai. Behind her beaming face is a sad past. She is a victim of the maternal death tragedy,after losing her first born daughter to a maternal-related death, a day after delivering at home through the assistance of unskilled midwives.

Disappointment “I am a disapointed mother after the death of my first born daughter, Sophia Nyaboke who died a day after delivering her first born daughter at home.I look at the circumstances under which she died as mysterious to me and my family as Iam yet to come to terms with her death,” laments Mrs Abai amid interrupting sobs. Abai, suspects her daughter’s death may have been caused by complications related to pregnancy due to her failure to attend to antenatal care clinics. She believes that, her late daughter then a Form Three student at a local Masongo Mixed Day Secondary School did not attend ante-natal care clinics as she kept the pregnancy a secret to herself, reason why she could not seek antenatal care clinic services in a health facility. “Though I cannot tell what real befell my daughter after her delivery at home, I am optimistic that my daughter’s death at childbirth could have been caused by anaemic conditions compounded by other pregnancy related complications, due to lack of access to ante-natal care services,” observes Abai Holding her surviving grand child on her laps as she feeds her with porridge, Abai recounts how she came from a local market and found her late daughter had given birth,only to be found death in her bedroom the following morning. She says, to date her daughter’s death remains a mystery and has been traumatising her as she left her with a one-day old grandchild whom she immediately initiated to her breast milk,after suspending her last born daughter, then one and half years from breastfeeding to pave way for the orphaned

grandchild to breastfeed. “Looking at the fateful morning when my daughter who had just given birth the previous evening was found death in the house under mysterious circumstances, I thank God for having stood by me while breastfeeding and bringing up this young granddaughter from day one to four years now,” states Abai as she wipes out drops of tears flowing gently down her cheeks Abai, the mother of four,recounts how she could brave long and cold sleepless nights breastfeeding and singing local Gusii language lullabies to console the persistently crying Bosibori to sleep. She admits that, bringing up and breastfeeding another mother’s child is a unique task, given the child’s sensory hormones which facilitate the child to identify with its real mother. Abai discloses that, at initial stages was hectic to breastfeed the young Bosibori until she got used to her breast milk, she could suckle and vomit immediately-a development which caused panic, with her grandmother fearing for the child’s chances of survival. “Despite going through these challenges in upbringing my grand daughter to this age, I feel indebted to my God that He has been fair to me and my family inthe noble cause of seeing this young girl grow to four years,” Abai says amid deep giggles. She terms bringing up her grand daughter as one of the life challenges that she will live to remember for many years, since it was like a dream to have her daughter’s death coincide with her last born daughter’s breastfeeding period-a situation she says was godsend as her breast milk saved her grand daughter’s life, without which she doubts whether the child would have survived to her current age. She says that, though it was a task with various challenges, she does not regret having dedicated her life to bringing up her grand child under close supervision and care, something she says saw her abandon all her household family income generating activities to provide a conducive growth and development environment for her grand daughter.

Wilkistah Mong’ina Abai carrying her granddaughter, Sevian Bosibori outside their homestead, she lost her daughter to maternal death. Pictures: Ben Oroko “Imagine for the last four years, I have not been going to the local market as I dedicate most of my time with my grand daughter, since I have no stable source of income to employ a house help to assist me take care of the child and give me a chance to attend to other family duties,” discloses Abai. She admits that, her grand daughter posed various challenges to her in the course of bringing her up, especially inthe provision for basic needs meant for a health growth and development of a child, adding “Having not been prepared for extra family budget after stopping childbirth, I am now forced to factor in my grand daughter’s needs which translates to extra costs in my family budget,” says Abai. Abai, however attributes maternal deaths to poverty and retrogressive culture among some mothersin-law who influence home deliveries without the help of skilled medical personnel, critically compromising both the lives of the mother and child. She also blames lack of access to quality health care services by women, especially in the rural communities for contributing to maternal deaths as Constituency Development Fund(CDF) health facilities in the rural areas lack qualified health care personnel and modern facilities to handle pregnancy related emergencies, leading to the deaths of either the mother,

the child or both. Abai also appeals to the Government to address the problem of insecurity and poor transport and communication network inthe rural areas, factors she feels are part of the contributions to cases of maternal deaths as women are forced to seek services of unskilled traditional birth attendants for fear of going to health facilities at night due to insecurity compounded by poor transport network. Her husband, Samwel Abai says, despite posing various challenges to the family, her grand daughter has been a unifying factor inthe family as her upbringing saw him unite with his wife to see the young child grow up in a conducive environment. “This grand daughter of ours is a blessing from God and as a family we have more hopes in her future life, since she is a girl-child as an old man I believe that God will use her to reach out to others after assisting her through this difficult life circumstances,” states Abai as he cuddles the innocent looking Bosibori, sitting on his laps during the interview. Abai challenges local communities and grandparents with cases similar to that of his grand daughter,to take courage and ensure the children are assisted to grow up responsibly without abuse and neglect.

Advancing an agenda of empowerment amid adversity …By James Mbaka


n the same Nyabigena Village, a group of women living with HIV Aids is managing their destiny. When I recently visited the village, to meet the group of about twenty women gathered under a large banner proclaiming their identity, they were standing proudly beside the income project, a quarry full of soapstone. They hire labourers to mine the soapstone and then sell the stones to small scale carvers. “The women are an inspiration to each other, and even when they do not get something, they do not despair. When one says they did not get anything, another recaps: “I think you will starve if you will not secure any work.” When asked what they are doing at the spot, the women say: “We are surveying our plot that holds our quarry. We want to bring in people tomorrow to dig out the stones,” says one of them. And what do they do with the money that they make?

Requirement “Surely you knew the answer before you asked — pay school fees for Aids orphans whose parents were members of this group before their deaths and buy some food supplements.” They add: “We never have enough drugs.” These healthy looking women have resorted to soapstone mining as an income generating project to buy food supplements to cater for their ever demanding diet. They do not want to be emaciated or malnourished because they believe there is life with the scourge. According to Agnes Kerubo, the group’s chairlady who is also living with HIV, they have learnt to live positively but stigma and segrega-

tion remains the greatest challenge. “Many shun our efforts and dampen our spirits because they have this misguided notion that by associating with people living with Aids they will get infected,” observes Kerubo. This self-help group started 15 years ago has taken root in this village and has ridiculously played a role in educating Aids orphans and above all more often than not finds themselves off-setting funeral expenses when a member succumbs to the virus. According to Kerubo profits generated from this project are also ploughed into educating orphans occasioned by the pandemic. Bernard Okemwa, a second-year education student at the Maseno University is a beneficiary of this group having lost both of his parents while about to sit for KCPE. He cannot hide his joy for what the group has done for him. “My parents died in the same year when I was in Standard Eight in quick succession but since they were members of this group, I found myself a beneficiary,” says Okemwa. He says that the group has paid his fees from secondary school giving him hope of one day realising his dreams. Kerubo asserts that the work on their shoulders is challenging especially in ensuring members remain psychologically stable and free of trauma related to the pandemic. She says their faith in God has also enabled them to merge the principle of humility and patience. “We have surrendered our fate to God,” says Kerubo adding that the group has invited professional counsellors who have given them tips on how to live positively with the virus while simultaneously carrying out their daily chores without fear.

Over the years, the project has changed to a lucrative venture that has benefited the members with some long serving members of the group full of praises. “I have seen many members come and go and with my experience, I now run the affairs of the group,” notes Joyce Nyatuka. From the proceeds, Nyatuka has managed to educate her three children to secondary level after her husband died of Aids five years ago. The last of the three is now in Form Two. She says removing the top layer of the soil in order to extract soapstone has been a challenge but prays that the group will soon approach the area legislator Manson Nyamweya to help them with a tractor to help excavate the soil.

Knowledge “You know that the best stones are underneath. The soil you are seeing on top there has hampered our efforts to reap the full benefits but we will ask the legislator to use the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to clear it off,” says Nyatuka. The group leased the plot from its owner through their own contributions and will revert it after ten years within which they expect to buy each other a plot outside their home. “My ambition is that I own a plot of my own, our land is rocky, I cannot cultivate nor farm on it,” observes Nyatuka. Like many others across the country, these women have fought their way out to manage their affairs and take control of their destiny. Despite many challenges that face the womenfolk including gang rapes, physical and sexual violence, women have continued to advance their agenda in the society.


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Push for ratification of AU Protocol in South Sudan

…By David Njagi


clipsed by a stretch of human rights abuse, women from the new State of Southern Sudan can hope to join the global web of free people if a new push by female lobbyists to have their interests incorporated into the African Charter on women’s rights comes home to bear. A coalition of 37 women’s organisations from nine African countries have the rights of Southern Sudan women in their list of activities, in a new project rallying for the ratification and domestication of the African Union (AU) Protocol on Women’s Rights.

Campaign As part of an African campaign on women’s rights informed by the Maputo platform which was adopted in 2003 by the AU Heads of States, the lobbyists have stated their commitment to have South Sudan become a signatory of the Protocol. However, a few hurdles stand in the way. “South Sudan first needs to become a member of the AU so that the Protocol becomes something meaningful,” observed Faiza Mohamed, Executive Director of Equality Now, Kenya. She reiterated that they would need to advocate for the government to ratify it and then link up with Sudanese women. Among the issues that the movement hopes to achieve includes, lobbying for women’s wider political space, higher girls’ school enrolment, elimination of early marriage, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and women’s rights to decisions in reproductive health. “We want to see real change in active participation and playing good role models in terms of public decision and also accessing justice as well as protection of their rights,” noted Mohamed.

A report released by the Amnesty International in May on Sudan indicates that women still continue to suffer cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment from armed groups, both in government and militia groups. In one section captured by the report, there was concern that police continue to arrest women, young girls and men in the North on grounds of ‘indecent or immoral dressing or behaviour’, a trend that the North is not keen on doing away with, according to the set laws and structures. “The public order police have continued to blackmail women and sexually harass them during arrest and in detention. They target women from vulnerable backgrounds, including women living in poverty, those internally displaced as well as those from Eritrean and Ethiopian communities living in Khartoum,” the report notes.

Sudanese women follow procedings during the cessation ceremony Inset, women celebrate a successful separation from North Sudan. Pictures:Frank Ouma

Leaders Regional leaders are also fidgety with the country’s long tradition of inter communal fighting over cattle, land and natural resources as well as proliferation of small arms and human rights abuses, although the scale of incidence is expected to lower with the ushering in of the newest republic. However, it is the 2009 National Security Act passed in December and which came into force in February 2011, that lobbyists with the ‘raising a voice’ project fear most due to its gloomy human rights record of arresting and detaining political activists and human rights advocates. According to the group, whose movement is sponsored by Oxfam GB, trends in the Horn and East African region have shown that national

security agents have continued to be immune from prosecution and disciplinary measures for human rights violations. But hope is on the way as the movement’s members drawn from Equality Now, Africa Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), East Africa Sub Regional Support Initiative (EASSI) and Akina Mama wa Afrika, lobby the 22 remaining countries to ratify the protocol. “We have 53 member states in the AU and now that South Sudan has become an

Gender barometer launched in South Africa …By a Correspondent


outh Africa has launched the 2011 Southern Africa Gender Protocol Barometer which introduces an index for measuring progress against the 28 targets of the Protocol to be achieved by 2015. This Barometer process moves into high gear with the introduction of the SADC Gender and Development Index (SGDI) that complements the Citizen Score Card (CSC) that has been running for three years.

Data With empirical data on 23 indicators in six sectors, the SGDI puts SADC countries at 64 percent of where they need to be by 2015 — the target date for meeting the 28 targets of the Protocol. Seychelles, South Africa and Lesotho lead the way with Mozambique, Angola, Malawi and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the bottom four. Under this barometer citizens rate their governments at a mere 55 percent (one percent up from last year). “This measure is important because although the CSC is based on perceptions, it includes rights-based measures such as Constitutional and legal rights; gender violence; peace and security missing from the SGDI,” says Nkosozana DlaminiZuma, Minister of Home Affairs.

Across the board, citizens score their governments more harshly than the SGDI. For example, Seychelles gets 79 percent in the SGDI but 61 percent in the citizen scoring exercise. A significant reason for this difference is that the citizen score card includes gender violence, Constitutional and legal rights as well as peace and security that are missing from the SGDI. These rights-based considerations are likely to considerably lower scores, and point to the importance of broadening the SGDI in the future. Nine SADC countries constitutions provide for the promotion of women and seven have other provisions that relate to gender equality. However, contradictions between customary and statutory law abound even where these are outlawed by the Constitution. Representation of women in Parliament has gone from an average of 21 percent in 2005 to 25 percent in 2011 in the SADC region compared to three percent to 19 percent globally. This makes SADC countries second to Nordic countries. In Tanzania the proportion of women in Parliament rose by six percent to 36 percent in the October 2010 elections. South Africa has missed the opportunity to achieve gender parity at local level by 2015 when women’s representation slipped back to 38

percent in recent local elections. For all countries holding elections this year or before 2015 like Zambia and DRC this will be the last opportunity to achieve the target. Thirteen SADC countries are at some stage of developing or adopting a National Action Plan (NAP) to end Gender Violence. Only Angola and Madagascar have no NAPS. Four countries have draft NAPS; five have adopted NAPS; one — Mauritius — is at an advanced stage of implementation.

Achievement Lesotho and Mauritius have both adopted and costed their NAPS. Gender violence remains the single most important impediment to the attainment of gender equality in SADC. Most cases of gender violence go unreported and a large number are withdrawn. A pilot project on developing comprehensive indicators for measuring gender violence in the Gauteng province of South Africa showed that over half the women have experienced violence of some kind in their lifetime; 18 percent in the last year. The most predominant form of violence — emotional or psychological — has no classification in police statistics. Men in the sample admitted to such behaviour even more than women reported experiencing such violence.

independent country, they will properly join and become the 54th state,” noted Mohamed. She observed that 21 countries have ratified it but there is need for 22 countries to ratify the Protocol to make it binding on them. Among the articles captured by the Protocol include, elimination of discrimination against women, right to life, integrity and security of the person, elimination of harmful practices, access to justice and equal protection before the law, protection of women in armed conflicts as well as right to inheritance, among others.

Biting food crisis and the solutions


he State Department is working with the American Refugee Committee and the design firm IDEO on the “Neighbors” campaign to engage the Somali diaspora, not only the United States but around the world, to help raise awareness and funds for the relief efforts. And we are working with the White House to mobilize churches, mosques, and synagogues to support this effort. We must remember that time is not on our side. Every minute, more people, mostly women and mostly children, are dying. They’re becoming sick. They are fleeing their homes. We must respond. We need to rise to the level of this emergency by acting smarter and faster than we have before to achieve both shortterm relief and long-term progress. Think of what it would mean if we do succeed. Millions of people would be saved from this current calamity. Millions more would no longer live tenuous existences, always prepared to pick up and move to find food if drought or conflict or other crises occur. Parents would no longer have to endure the agony of losing their children when the food runs out. And food aid from countries like the United States would be needed much less frequently because we are now supporting agricultural self-sufficiency. This would be a transformational shift for the people of our partner countries. It would be a new era of security, stability, health, and economic opportunity, peace, and stability. And it would signal a new chapter in the world’s relationships with the people of these countries. As they become themselves able to care

for their families, they will become real models and examples of prosperity and stability and they will become partners to do even more to help people live up to their own God-given potential. If we achieve that future, we will have done something truly remarkable. Just as the Green Revolution made such a difference, what we are trying to do now is to get back to what worked then, focus on the basics, focus on the work that is done by IFPRI. I had a change to meet the directors, and they’re working on how you enhance nutritional substance with micronutrients. They’re working on how you provide better seeds for crops, how you help herders whose natural desire is to hold on to their livestock because it represents to the rest of the world their significance. All of this is in the tradition of the Green Revolution, which made such a difference. But then the world moved away, thinking that our work was done. And in fact, it was not. And we got very good at delivering emergency assistance when we put our minds to it, but we lost our way. And we have to do both, both the crisis and the future investments, so that we can see progress in very tangible ways. And history will record that as being a significant accomplishment for all, including those of you in this room, who played your part. So we have a lot of work ahead of us, but I came today to make sure that in my own country and beyond, people know we have a crisis and we must respond. Excerpts of a speech by Hillary Clinton — International Food Policy Research Institute


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Even in Cameroon women refuse to be second in command


dith Kabbang Walla, 45, popularly known here as Kah Walla, is Cameroon’s only female candidate for the upcoming October presidential elections. Kah Wallah says she’s trying to rouse the women’s vote. “Women are excited about having a woman candidate, but the challenge is to get them active,” Walla said during a recent visit to the northwestern city of Bamenda. “We need to see them register, vote and seek to be voted across all political party lines.” Walla, who is running her campaign under the slogan “The time is now,” said her main campaign activists were young people. She said getting women involved was more challenging.

Ranks Women hold only slightly more than 10 percent of the seats in Cameroon’s parliament and are non-existent in the top leadership ranks of the military and local government. Walla knows all too well the intimidation tactics used to discourage women’s political involvement in the authoritarian government. “I was kidnapped on May 20,” said Walla, recounting some of the obstacles to her candidacy. ”I had water cannons turned on me and I have had some forms of intimidation, too.” The other woman who attempted to vie for presidency is Cameroon is Diana Ambofei, vice regional chairwoman of the Social Democratic Front, Cameroon’s main opposition party in Cameroon’s Northwest region. Ambofei who can relate to Ka Wallah’s problems says death threats forced her to withdraw from running for parliament in 2002. ”I was summoned to a hut by the traditional heads in my constituency and palm wine was sprinkled at the entrance of the hut,” she said. ”They said if I wanted to live, I should cross

…By Ben Oroko

the entrance of the hut and stop my campaign, but if I do not want to see the dawn of the next day, I should cross the entrance of the hut and go on with the campaign. I left the hut and declined my candidacy, explained Ambofei. Ambe Julia, divisional delegate of Elections Cameroon, an independent supervisory group, said that when her organisation encouraged women to register to vote, the women said they needed to seek consent from their husbands. Since most women are farmers, she added, it is hard to find them at home during door-todoor efforts. Ambe said women made up the majority of party members in Cameroon but had little access to political debates. They mainly cook food and provide entertainment during party events. President Paul Biya has been in office for nearly three decades and altered Cameroon’s Constitution to run again this year. One change in this election is that citizens living outside the country will be allowed to vote, The Associated Press reported July 11. Walla, named by the World Bank in 2008 as one of seven leading female entrepreneurs in Africa, declared her candidacy in October 2010, and the Cameroon People’s Party endorsed her in April 2011. A social entrepreneur, she has worked with civil society during the past two decades to develop projects and policies to benefit Cameroonians, from farmers to motorbike drivers to people with disabilities. She said women were the first group to hold a public demonstration against colonisers in the fight for Cameroon’s independence, but women faded into traditional roles within political party circles after the country gained independence from France in 1960 and Great Britain in 1961. Although a couple of other wom-

“Women are excited about having a woman candidate, but the challenge is to get them active. We need to see them register, vote and seek to be voted across all political party lines.” — Edith Kabbang Walla, the only female candidate in the upcoming presidental elections Picture: Courtesy Internet

en have run for president — one in 1992 and another in 2004 —Walla said they didn’t get as far as she has. ”My candidacy is the first to draw national and international attention,” she said. She said her priorities, if elected, would be advancing the rights of women, the disabled and the linguistic and ethnic minority.” These people have been left out of the decision-making processes in the country,” she said.

Walla, a board member of the World Entrepreneurship Forum, an international community of entrepreneurs, said she also planned on reviving Cameroon’s economy. “Cameroon has tremendous natural and human resources,” she said. ”We have the potential to be a strong economic force on the African continent. We need to get our vibrant informal sector formal so that people can have decent work. Jobs are a major focus for my economic programme. We need to take advantage of our geopolitical position to build a gateway into Central Africa.” Walla said she planned to rebuild social services.

Analysis Martin Fon Yembe, a political analyst and staff writer for the Political Punch, a Cameroonian political newsletter, said Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won the election “on the heels of a very wild civil war”, proving that a woman could prevail in the rough sport of politics. But he said intimidation and foul play might obstruct Walla’s chances of winning. ”Given a level playing field, Kah Walla will singlehandedly defeat the other candidates in the election,” he said. ”But, alas, there is blackmail, slander, corruption and all those vices, which are already playing against her and any other female candidates in Cameroon.” Michelle Hain volunteers as the organisational development adviser for the Community Initiative for Sustainable Development (COMINSUD), an organisation dedicated to sustainable development in the Northwest region of Cameroon. She said male domination of formal politics has meant that Cameroonian women have concentrated their efforts in civil society organisations, such as parent-teacher associations. Fon Nsoh, COMINSUD coordi-

nator, said that the organisation had been looking to engage women in politics through the Democracy and Empowerment of Women (DEW), project. ”In the Northwest region of Cameroon, in over 100 opportunities for a woman to be an MP, we have had just one female parliamentarian in the past 15 years,” he said. ”Through the DEW project, we are identifying and promoting women and youth candidates to run in elections. Our interest is not in pushing the agenda of any political party. We are interested in seeing women in elected positions.” Nsoh said that Cameroon’s Constitution sets no quota for women in parliament, as other countries in the region have done. ”Some women do not trust the political environment,” he said. ”That’s why we have voter apathy. Stereotypes need to be uplifted. Also, we still have many records of outright intimidation against women daring to get into politics by men. Election campaigns could be expensive for most women, who most times do not have pockets as deep as those of men,” he said.

Encouragement Nsoh said his group hoped to encourage about 1,000 female and young candidates to run in the municipal and legislative elections in 2012. Walla said she already considers her bid a success because it has helped change attitudes about women in politics in Cameroon. ”I am honoured to know that an eight-year-old pupil wrote my name as her model in a class exercise when their teacher asked them to cite the name of someone who inspires them,” she said. I also have women who walk up to me and thank me for taking a bold step and making a statement that women can aspire and dream big dreams.” — Courtesy of Womens news

Women in Nyamira facing a myriad of problems efficiently in her current position. Out of her experience in MYWO leadership, she is optimistic that women in the County will vote for her as woman representative. While Orwenyo has been able to come out of the shadows, on the social scene, women from Nyamira County continue suffering in silence under the retrogressive husband decrees, which do not give women room to make contributions on family and national matters. Most development matters ranging from family development are executed under the conservative customary laws which treat men as being final decision makers in the family unit.


lthough a gender sensitive constitution is already in place, a majority of the women still face various political, social and economic challenges across the country. In Nyamira County alone, there are myriad of challenges facing women who had a lot of expectations when the new constitution was promulgated. The women’s main economic activities include farming in tea, subsistence crops, dairy, fish farming and horticulture horticulture as well as brick making among other activities.

Obstacles It is almost impossible for women to contest and win a political seat because the dominant patriarchal society has over the years denied them their right to compete favourably with their male counterparts. This habit has sidelined women from the Nyamira County and the whole of Gusiiland from position of decision making. It is interesting to note that majority of the women in the County are yet to understand their rights as provided for in the new Constitution as they lack information on what is in the new law and how it affects them in their daily lives. Women from the County are in need of civic education to sensitise and empower them with knowledge on the existing leadership positions provided for within the new law. Though there are several political slots for women in the County systems of governance, majority of the women from the County are still

Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation Nyamira county chair Mary Orwenyo who is running for the women’s representative seat. Picture: Ben Oroko unwilling to declare interest for positions in the 2012 General Elections, despite several of the educated women having good leadership qualities. Their fear is blamed on the dominant patriarchal environment which discourages women from seeking competitive political positions since those who have attempted, have ended up being treated as social outcasts who are out to make political capital in the male dominated political field. However, Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation (MYWO) area chairlady Mary Orwenyo has declared her intention to run for the seat of woman representative in the County, hinting that women in the county have confidence in her leadership credentials, having served them

Violence Women from the County also experience a lot of gender based violence due to the ignorance ignorance of laws that protect them against the perpetrators. Majority of the women suffer from wife battering in silence, which is construed to mean disciplinary action to correct a wife as enshrined in the community’s customary laws, not knowing it is a violation of the women’s human rights by their spouses. Also with sexual and gender based violence are many cases of rape and psychological trauma out of incest executed on daughters by their fathers leaving the women with no option as they cover the issues in secrecy to protect their marriages. With the conservative customary laws, women hardly report cases of incest and sexual abuse of their daughters for fear of being divorced or beaten by their husbands. The situation has deprived many women their right, exposing them to psychological stress and trauma to life life threatening points.

Access to maternal health services among women from the County is a challenge, since the County is only served with Nyamira District Hospital alongside other rural-based health facilities which are understaffed and and poorly equipped to provide the required skilled maternity services. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), although outlawed is still rampant in the County, with the vice taking modern clinical approach since the locals attach the vice to cultural values. Orwenyo has been leading the fight against the vice but it keeps coming up discreetly in different forms. The issue of security which has a direct relation with women’s right to professional maternal healthcare services still remains a challenge as majority of the women in the far-flung rural areas cannot access the services at the district level at night due to insecurity. HIV/Aids is a challenge to the women as most men refuse to go for tests to determine their status while the women already know their position. Surveys indicate that, majority of the women in the County provide labour in the tea farms, but they do not get any substantial share from the tea proceeds as their husbands pocket the money and spend it luxuriously in social joints, much to the detriment of women who shoulder family responsibilities. There are several cases where men from the County do not actively participate in tea farming, leaving the burden of tending to the crop to their wives, only to go to the banks and cooperative societies to collect monthly and end-year second tea payments, commonly known as bonus.


Issue Number 21 • September 2011

Investment in food security can pay off By Hillary Clinton


want to thank the International Food Policy Research Institute for hosting me today and for the leadership you show in a key area of global development — helping governments design and implement successful policies for reducing hunger and under nutrition. This is an issue that is on your minds every day, but it is now on the minds of many people because of the crisis that is raging in the Horn of Africa. It is, first, a food crisis; a severe drought has put more than 12 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Somalia in danger of starvation. It is also a refugee crisis, because at this point, hundreds of thousands of people have left their homes in search of food and safety. Some are walking more than 100 miles with their children in their arms to reach refugee camps, which are so overcrowded that thousands wait outside the fences, and more arrive every minute, many close to death.

Crisis What is happening in the Horn of Africa is the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world today, and the worst that East Africa has seen in several decades. The United States and our partners in the region, including the World Food Programme, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF, NGOs, and donor governments, are racing to save as many lives as possible. Fortunately, we did have a bit of a head start because of the Famine Early Warning System Network known as FEWSNet. The United States supports it along with others. It monitors drought and crop conditions and alerts governments and aid groups when crises are coming. This network, along with the analysis from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, enabled us to begin prepositioning food in key locations throughout the region starting last year. But a great deal more must be done, and it must be done fast. Famine conditions in Somalia are likely to get worse before they level off. And while we hurry to deliver life-saving assistance, we must also maintain our focus on the future by continuing to invest in long-term food security in countries that are susceptible to drought and food shortages. It is this connection between food emergencies and food security that I would like to speak to today. Because our goal is not only to help the region come through this

crisis, but working with organisations like IFPRI to do all we can to prevent it from ever happening again. Food security is the key. Over the course of this crisis, US officials have made multiple trips to the region, including just this past weekend to Kenya, a delegation led by Dr Jill Biden and joined by former Senator Dr Bill Frist; USAID Administrator Raj Shah; Eric Schwartz, our Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration; and Gayle Smith from the White House. They saw the best and worst of what is happening on the ground. They visited the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute, a top-notch facility long supported by the US Government. And I had the chance to visit it on my trip to Kenya two years ago. I was very impressed by the work that I saw there by scientists who are cultivating crops that can thrive in drought and are enriched with essential nutrients. These breakthroughs have already saved lives and I’m sure will save many more in the future. But the delegation also visited Dadaab, the refugee complex in eastern Kenya. Even before this emergency, it was the largest refugee camp in the world. Some people have been living there now for 20 years. It was originally built for 90,000 people. Twenty years later, more than 420,000 live there, including thousands of third generation residents.

Refugees So the current refugee crisis is taking place against the backdrop of a prolonged refugee crisis. The United Nations is working as fast as it can to build new facilities, but well over a thousand people arrive every day. Most — in fact, the vast majority of those arriving — are Somalis, because Somalia is the epicentre of this emergency. Southern and central Somalia are the only places in the region where famine has been officially declared, because unlike Ethiopia and Kenya, Somalia has no effective national governance. And the terrorist group al-Shabaab has prevented humanitarian assistance from coming in. It has killed and threatened aid workers. There are also credible reports that al-Shabaab is preventing desperate Somalis from leaving the areas under its control. Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands of Somalis, largely women and children, are managing to flee to the north or leave the country altogether. They are pouring over the borders

Prime Minister Raila Odinga commiserates with starving Somali’s during his visit to the Dadaab Refugee Complex in North Eastern Kenya. Picture: KenyanWoman Correspondent into Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti. That, in turn, severely strains the capacity of those local communities and countries. A hunger crisis is not solely an act of God. It is a complex problem of infrastructure, governance, markets, education. These are things we can shape and strengthen. So that means this is a problem that we can solve if we have the will and we put to work the expertise that organizations like IFPRI possess. We do have the knowhow. We have the tools. We have the resources. And increasingly, we have the will to make chronic food shortages and under nutrition a memory for the millions worldwide who are now vulnerable. Two of our partner countries in Feed the Future are Ethiopia and Kenya. And even amid this crisis, they prove that progress is possible. The last time a drought of this magnitude struck Ethiopia, in 2002 and 2003, more than 13 million people faced starvation. Today, fewer than five million do. Now, that is still an unacceptably large number, but it is also an astonishing improvement in a relatively short period of time. And it is evident that investments in food security can pay off powerfully. In 2005, the Ethi-

opian Government established the Productive Safety Net Programme with support from international donors, including the United States. It helps small-holder farmers diversify their crops, create local markets, better manage their water resources, and increase the nutritional content of their own diets and those of their children. More than 7.6 million farmers and herders have now been helped by this program, people who are not among those in need of emergency aid today. In Kenya as well, people who were greatly affected by the last severe drought are now safe, even thriving. Paul Weisenfeld from USAID, who is here today, shared a story with me about a woman farmer he met last month from the northernmost arid part of Kenya. It has been the hardest hit by the current drought. She lives on a communal farm made up of former livestock herders whose animals all died in the previous droughts. Today, thanks to help from international donors, she and the other farmers raise various vegetables and fruits, including mangoes, and her crop is so abundant that she is not only selling them locally, but exporting them to the Middle East. In both Ethiopia and Kenya, the

United States is helping to carry out comprehensive strategies that were designed by the countries themselves to suit their distinct needs and strengths. In Ethiopia, a top priority is strengthening the value chain to help small-holder farmers sell their products at local and regional markets. In Kenya, supporting herders is a leading concern, so USAID is working to connect them to markets, improve animal health services, help local institutions lobby for better livestock trade policies. Both governments have developed country investment plans; both have committed to invest at least 10 percent of their national budget on agriculture. Kenya is nearly there and Ethiopia has exceeded that goal. And in both countries we are paying special attention to gender, to ensure that the women who do a significant amount of the planting, harvesting, selling and cooking are effectively supported. So we have a lot of work ahead of us, but I came today to make sure that in my own country and beyond, people know we have a crisis and we must respond.

—This are excerpts from a speech delivered by Hillary Clinton to an International Food Policy Research Institute meeting on food security

Executive Director: Rosemary Okello Editorial Director:

Arthur Okwemba

Managing Editor:

Jane Godia


Duncan Mboyah, Joyce Chimbi, Omwa Ombara


Henry Owino, Barasa K. Nyukuri, Hussein Dido, Harun Hussein, Prof Patricia Kameri’ Mbote, Dr. Celestine Nyamu-Musembi, Karani Kelvin, Ben Oroko, Dr. Akinyi Nzioki, Grace Igandu, Faith Muiruri, James Mbaka, Joseph Mukubwa, Bernado Tsuma, Grace Kamuyu, Lucy Langat, David Njagi, Frank Ouma, Womens News, Hilary Clinton.

The Kenyan Woman is a publication of African Woman and Child Feature Service E-mail:

Design & layout:

Bernadette Muliru and Noel Lumbama (Noel Creative Media Ltd)

This paper is produced with support from The United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF)

Kenyan Woman Issue 21  

The Kenyan Woman is a publication of AWCFS and is produced with support from United Nations Democracy Fund

Kenyan Woman Issue 21  

The Kenyan Woman is a publication of AWCFS and is produced with support from United Nations Democracy Fund