Issue Number 28 • July 2012
Issue Number 28 • July 2012
Realisation of gender rule in a limbo …By Faith Muiruri
enyan women still need to fight hard to realise their political rights. Although the political landscape has for many years been typified by a low proportion of female representation, there are no clear mechanisms to ensure equal representation. Constitutional provisions notwithstanding, most proposals on how to realise the two thirds gender principle in Parliament ahead of the General Elections have been rejected. Not even proposals to amend the Election Act to compel political parties to comply with the two thirds principle while nominating candidates for elective offices has been positively received. Much remains to be seen of what becomes of the proposed Constitutional of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2011.
The Bill seeks to amend the election date and entrench the two thirds gender rule as part of the electoral practice in Kenya. If the bill becomes law, then political parties have no option but to nominate women MPs according to their strengths if those elected do not reach the two thirds threshold. However, this too appears headed for obscurity as debate shifts to the election date and delimitation of boundaries. Further, critics already feel proposals in the Bill may lead to Parliament having more than the constitutionally required 349 MPs. This leaves the Kenyan woman politically disfranchised despite the mandatory provisions of Article 81 (b) of the constitution. In fact, women candidates may now be forced to fend for themselves in the absence of a legislation to lend support to their candidature. It is against this backdrop that women rights activists plot to have the bill withdrawn to allow for the inclusion of more robust provisions on the gender rule. According to Jane Serwanga, Deputy Director FIDA Kenya, the Bill has been watered down by the
It is now time for women to go back to school
hanks to President Kibaki’s intervention, Wanjiku and company can now heave a sigh of relief that she can vote for anyone of her choice as long as they are armed with a post secondary certificate. The controversial issue of whether to raise the bar for aspirants seeking elective positions split the country into two with most MPs opposing the constitutional requirement that they must be University graduates. The question critics are asking is whether time has come for Kenya to set a high bar for public officials in the legislature as is the case in the public sector and other arms of Government like the Judiciary and Executive. The idea may be noble and well intended, but critics especially in civil society and women’s movement say it may lock out many deserving and marginalised groups like women, people with disabilities, and those from arid and semi arid areas.
Civil society groups demonstrating in support of the new constitution. They demand that the constitution must be use to the letter. Picture: Kenyan Woman Correspondent unrelenting debate on the election date with the gender rule being relegated to the periphery. “Unless a new bill is crafted to capture the gender concern, we are likely to go to the elections without a clear roadmap on how to realise the gender rule,” notes Serwanga. She says this spells doom to the Kenyan tax payer who will have to contend with a bloated parliament.
“If we go to the elections without a clear formula on how to realise the two thirds gender principle, then we are likely to be confronted by trends that have characterised elections outcomes where women are virtually underrepresented. This means that parliament will be unconstitutional and the situation can only corrected by aligning the number of women to reflect constitutional provisions,” explains Serwanga in a stakeholder forum on the two thirds principle convened by the ICJ Kenya. Similar sentiments were expressed by Jill Ghai, a constitutional lawyer and director of Katiba Institute. According to Ghai,
the country may end up having as many as 402 legislators if the two thirds principle is not realised at the elections. This Bill should be withdrawn and presented afresh to give room for the realisation of the gender rule,” notes Ghai. However, she proposes numerous options which can be explored to increase the number of women representation in the country. Key among them includes the quota system which has helped to increase women representation in countries such as India. “Although the quota system has produced prolific results in the Indian Upper House, it has been rejected by their Lower House in the same way the Kenyan MPs rejected it in fear that they may be barred from defending their seats in their respective constituencies,” explains Ghai. She says that the quota system would have guaranteed the realisation of the gender threshold without amending the constitution. However, it violates people’s rights to choice by limiting their options
of candidate. Ghai notes that women elected under the quota system are also unable to build long-term credibility as effective representatives because of rotation. According to Charles Ouma, a principal lecturer at the Kenya School of Law, over 20 countries in Africa have either legislated quotas or political parties have voluntarily adopted them to increase women representation. He cites Egypt, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
And just like Ghai, Ouma warns that the quota system can lead to the fielding of sub-standard candidates, create a political glass ceiling, bloat legislature and manipulate by appointing constituencies. Another option that can be explored to increase women representation includes the adoption of the mixed member proportional Continued on page 4
A recent countrywide campaign to promote peace under the Tuvuke Initiative, confirmed the women’s fears in Garissa, Thika, Muranga, Isiolo, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, Nairobi and Busia. Said one participant: “It is not that we don’t want graduates to be elected to the legislature, what we are saying is that we need time until the next elections to prepare ourselves.” It is noteworthy that as a nation we will soon be celebrating our golden jubilee independence celebrations while still faced with the three diseases identified by the founder of the Nation, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. These are illiteracy, disease and poverty. However, we must laud the Government for introducing and encouraging free primary education that has seen many children — girls and boys go to school. However, hearing our leaders talk about education, one would wonder whether we are “a nation of illiterates” as claimed by one of the MPs during the stormy debate on the Statute Miscellaneous Amendment Bill touching on electoral laws among others. Indeed, year in year out, our local colleges and Universities churn out thousands of graduates into the labour market who join the queues of unemployed men and women from all over the country. If the President had assented to the amendments, over 80 sitting MPs out of 220 would have had their political future brought to an abrupt end. That in itself shows how an ordinary Kenyan voter values education. They have cited marginalisation, historical injustices and discriminatory cultural practices against women since time immemorial as reasons for the problem. In other words, Kenyans are staring in the face of the full impact of what they voted for in the referendum, which most voters cast a YES vote for after heeding to calls by their leaders that there was no need to read the draft because they had already studied and given it a green light. Two years later, the full implication of what the comas and dots in the new Constitution mean is being felt as legislators burn the midnight oil to pass legislation to make it operational. Now Kenyans who want to vie for elective posts know why it is important to arm themselves with a post secondary education not only to better their own lives, but also to better their chances at the subsequent polls. As the old adage says, knowledge is power.
Issue Number 28 • July 2012
Majority still ignorant of contents of the new constitution …By Jane Cherotich
ver 90 percent of Kenyan citizens have not read and understood the Constitution despite the fact that the first General Elections under a new constitutional framework are around the corner. Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations (KARA) Stephen Mutoro said this during a one day meeting with residents of Busia and its environs in the town.
The meeting was geared towards sensitisation of the area residents on devolution and devolved government in preparations for the elections. “We are discussing devolution in terms of leadership and we are hoping to provoke people to elect their leaders wisely, election will not be business as usual this time round,” Mutoro said.
Kara’s assessment revealed that 90 percent of the residents had not read the crucial Chapter Six of the Kenyan constitution on leadership and integrity. Mutoro reiterated that the provisions of Women leaders at a meeting: Over 90 percent of Kenyan citizens have not read the constitution. Picture: Jane Cherotich Chapter Six which dwell on leadership and integrity needed more constitution. Payers Association Kizito Wangalwa “We also need to focus on proviattention as Kenyans “We chose Busia in Western Prov- who is also eying the Governor’s seat sions of Chapter Four of the Constiare preparing to go to the polls. ince because it is the boarder County in Busia County noted that very few tution on marginalized groups and in neighbouring Siaya, Bungoma and women were seeking for leadership our case it is women,” Wangalwa said. He urged the residents to seek inHe urged the residents to seek Uganda,” Mutoro told journalists at positions in the County despite the fact that there are more women than formation that will enable them have leaders who have no skeletons in the close of the meeting. Former coordinator National Tax men in the county. democratic and accountable govertheir closets as this would save them nance. He pointed out that Busia restime and embarrassments when such idents should engage in what would leaders are vetted. Over a hundred participants at“We also need to focus on provisions of chapter bind them with their leaders. Through the discussions, the tended the forum which brought four of the constitution on marginalised groups County residents were enlightened together youth, women and comon their rights and how to demand munity based organisations to deand in our case it is women” for them as envisaged in the new conliberate on various issues relating to — Kizito Wangalwa stitution. devolved government under the new
County official’s appointments revoked Aspirant beaten …By David Kiarie
he appointments of 47 County Commissioners by President Mwai Kibaki last month has been revoked by the High court following an appeal by the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA). High Court Judge Mumbi Ngugi said the appointments were null and void as it contravened several sections of the constitution. The judge noted that the President has no powers to appoint the County Commissioners adding that he is supposed to follow the constitution in all that he does.
The Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA) early last month faulted President Kibaki appointment of 47 County commissioners and demanded that the exercise be revoked citing gender imbalance. The association noted that the appointments negated the spirit of the new constitution, which requires that one third of any appointment be from the other gender.
“The appointments do not meet the threshold stipulated in our Constitution and utterly violates Article 27 (8) with regard to ensuring that not more than two thirds of the appointments made were of persons of the same gender,” read the statement in part. Ngugi said during her ruling that
lawyers before her had disclosed that there were 26 women district commissioners serving currently, but the President had failed to pick 16 to meet the two third thresholds. She added that the government had acted in a haste to fill the vacancies without following the laid down procedure of public participation and competitiveness. “The positions were not advertised and public participation was not exercised. For the past two decades, Kenyans have been fighting for a reformed society and that is what culminated in the new constitution and it should be upheld,” she said in her ruling. FIDA Kenya Chairlady Ruth Aura, in a press release noted that the appointments have contravened the national values and principles of governance, particularly the principle of equality as enshrined under Article 10 of the Constitution.
“Our government has committed to upholding the Constitution and to uphold the gender parity principle enshrined under Article 4(L) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union,” noted Aura terming the appointments as a gross violation of the Constitution. She said the action by the President is demeaning to not just Kenyan women, but to those in the entire African continent given that the African Women’s Decade was launched in Kenya, an indication that our government is committed to promotion and empowerment of women in line
with the themes of the Decade. The women’s rights body wants the appointments by the President annulled and fresh appointments be made in line with the principles espoused in the Constitution. “We demand that the President revoke the appointments and follow the criteria set out in the Constitution failure to which FIDA-Kenya will take appropriate action to remedy this injustice,” observed Aura. Only 11 women were appointed out of the 47 available county positions. A third of this translates to at least 15 commissioners and thus contravenes gender provisions in the constitution. The appointments have also drawn criticism from other circles, with Kenya’s Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, saying he was not consulted by the President while making the appointments that are also supposed to reflect representation of persons with disabilities and those from marginalised communities.
Ngugi however warned that the country has a new constitution that should be followed by leaders in changing the way things were being done in the previous constitutional order. She said that by failing to consult the Prime Minister on the appointments, the President also contravened section 26 of the accord. FIDA and other bodies had moved to court to seek the nullification of the appointments for failing to meet the two third thresholds.
at radio station
…By Martin Murithi
woman aspirant for Buuri Constituency has gone to court seeking compensation after she was allegedly beaten by the owner and workers of a vernacular FM station in Meru. Faith Kawira had gone to the station after learning that they were airing derogatory and defamatory information. When called and ask the management the motive behind the show and sought that they stop the programme, she was met with violence instead. “I called them and wanted to know why they were discussing negative things about my family. The director of the station then called me to their station offices and when I inquired the motive behind the show they stormed out and started kicking and boxing me out of their premises,” she said. Kawira sought treatment at the Meru Level Five hospital where she was treated and discharged albeit with abdominal bleeding. “From the kicks and blows, I started bleeding seriously through my birth canal and walking has been a problem since then, “she said. “In the show, they claimed that I was looking for votes yet I am a Kikuyu and not a Meru. This is all lies. They also said they don’t know where my husband comes from and the source of my money which they said I should declare,” Kawira explained. According to the politician, workers at the FM station demanded KSh100, 000 so that they could talk good things about her on radio. “They told me my opponents had given them more money and for me to clear my name I should give them KSh100, 000 which I objected and then they began beating me furiously,” she explained. According to Kawira said the radio station has been airing shows that are defamatory to the characters of many people. She urged the Communications Commission of Kenya to ensure disciplinary action is taken against the owner and staffs whom she said are not qualified journalists.
Issue Number 28 • July 2012
Agnes Awinja Okong’o
It is not business as usual as change comes to Awendo …By Jane Godia
hile most women are taking what could be considered the better option in going for the women’s representative seat in the coming General Elections, one woman has a different agenda. She is aspiring for a parliamentary seat, which she knows too well will not be an easy ride for her. Agnes Awinja Okong’o has set her sights on the newly created Awendo Constituency. She believes that her constituents have suffered out of bad leadership and she is coming in with a breath of fresh ideas that should bring change. “We have a potentially economically viable constituency that is very rich. However, we have suffered because of poor leadership,” she observes. “I am coming in as a servant leader who is going to listen to the constituents’ needs and address them,’ reiterates Awinja. She notes: “I will not impose projects on them. Together we will look for solutions to the problems they are facing and address them after joint consultations.”
Her message to the people of Awendo is “do you want change or more of the same. Ok kaka pile (it is not business as usual). That change must come,” says Awinja in her rallying call for the people to vote for her. This is not Awinja’s first time in politics. She attempted to get into Parliament in 2007 but lost at the nomination stage. “I have always worked with the community helping those who do not have. They are the ones who pushed me into politics in 2005 when they asked that I vie for the parliamentary seat,” Awinja explains. She adds: “Although I lost as I was vying through the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party, I did not look at it as a loss because the nominations were not transparent.” Awinja would like to work for her constituents to fulfil their needs. They are like my family,” says Awinja. However, she notes: “I must take care of my immediate family before I go outside.” Why did Awinja opt for the Member of Parliament’s seat? She says that if she had aspired to be Senator of Women’s Representative, it would have meant taking care of a larger constituency. “To be Senator or Women’s Representative would have meant me going to areas where I have never been before within the County,” she says. “In the Constituency I am known. The ward is too small because I have already tried the Parliamentary before.”
She observes: “Before I go for the Senator I want to go for member of Parliament to fulfil the needs of my people.” Today Awinja has greater hopes than last time that she will clinch the nominations and eventually the seat. “My vision is to see women and youth in the constituency economically empowered. When you have empowered women and youth, you have an empowered nation,” she reiterates. As an aspirant, Awinja is already in talks with her constituents to address issues that affect them. “There are dispensaries and health centres but all are ill equipped. They lack nurses and clinical officers and nurses.” She says schools in the region are also ill
equipped and nobody is paying attention to this. “Children are sitting in crowded classrooms for lack of desks. “The major issue is poor performance and as a teacher this hurts me very much. Poor infrastructure and lack of motivation is our biggest problem,” she says. According to Awinja, there is a lot of untapped natural resources in the constituency, the first being the soil which is very fertile.
She regrets that everybody has gone into sugar cane farming and this is their undoing. Awinja would like families to give the youth land to carry out another form of agriculture that is not cane farming. “If each family could give the youth a piece of land to grow vegetables for selling or rearing chicken, the youth would have some income and would stop idling,” notes Awinja. She also observes that sugar cane waste can be used to generate electricity and the solid waste can be used to make chip boards. “We can come up with savings and credit society for the boda boda (motor cycle) riders,” says Awinja. “Our soil is capable of producing groundnuts. Women and youth can come up with societies that will help market the groundnuts in bulk,” she observes. Awinja advices that they could use the Kaizen method of ensuring that every product from the ground nut has some work and does not go to waste. “Our soil is good for brick making and some youth are already engaged in this,” she notes. There are also women who are already using the soil to make economy jikos.
“We could also use the land for growing sunflower. This would be used in producing vegetable oil. The machine for pressing the oil only costs KSh89,000,” says Awinja. She notes that the oil could be sold to women for frying fish as well as to the villages for domestic use. According to Awinja the residue from the sunflower could be used for making seed cake which is good animal feed. Other than the land, Awinja is worried by the high dropout rate of girls at primary level. “Most of them ending up getting married or working as house girls,” she notes. Awinja, with a team of women from the region have initiated a Young Women Leadership Centre which will nurture the girl child into leadership. “We will mentor the girls and come up with clubs that will allow the girls have an exchange programme,” she says adding that “we want to provide them with role models”. Already she is in conversation with the local provincial administration over the high dropout rates. “I am already talking with the chiefs to find out from mothers why girls are dropping out of school at such a high rate,” she says. However, at village level, Awinja, who is
Picture: Jane Godia
“My vision is to see women and the youth in the constituency economically empowered. When you have empowered women and youth, you have an empowered Nation.” — Agnes Awinja Okongo
a trained teacher talks to girls, encouraging them to remain in school as this would help delay pregnancy and early marriage. “In the community where I am married women are treated as second class citizens. “I am hoping that through the Young Women Leadership Centre we will also talk to fathers so that men can have a change of attitude,” says Awinja adding that in every stage of political decision making there is need for girls to be present.
“Through Young Women Leadership Centre we will identify girls who have the ability to further their education,” she says. “Some of us were lucky to have had parents who ensured that we went to school. In the village, fathers get tired of educating daughters and push them out of school,” notes Awinja. “The passion within me is seeing happy empowered women and youth. Once one is empowered economically they become happy.” Before getting into politics, Awinja worked as a teacher. The mother of five children then joined the education office in Kisumu. However, she later left and joined Madison Insurance and was posted to Kakamega as branch marketing executive, a position she held and rose through the ranks to become branch manager until October 2005. “All along even when I was teaching I was selling insurance privately for Madison and could not be promoted because I lacked a de-
“Some of us were lucky to have had parents who ensured that we went to school. In the village, fathers get tired of educating daughters and push them out of school. The passion within me is seeing happy empowered women and youth. Once one is empowered economically they become happy.” — Agnes Awinja Okongo
gree,” she says. However, she got a scholarship from the World Bank and got her degree from Kenyatta University. She later enrolled for Masters degree which she is yet to complete.
After Madison, she registered her own company Lowreshi Commercial and Insurance Agencies in October 2005. “I started the organisation because I wanted to work with the community,” she says. In post election violence, together with other women, they started an Internally Displaced Person’s Camp in Kisumu. “We went around the city, me, Betty Okero and Amina Akello raising funds to help resettle IDPs. We talked to the Stephen’s ACJKK Church in Kisumu which gave grounds for hosting the camp,” says Awinja. She observes: “Although it is the women who started the camp, the men tended to have more visibility.” In her Awendo constituency she helped build 24 houses for IDPs from Naivasha and Ruiru.
Working with the community is something Awinja cannot stop as she speaks of building a house for a man who had been treated as an outcast. “Through help from the Community Believer’s Fellowship and Nehemiah International, both local churches, we built a house for this man who was an outcast within us.” As the country heads towards General Elections, Awinja is not resting on her laurels. She has a few words of advice for women who are coming out to vie. “When you come out for competitive politics, as a woman you must wear the skin of an elephant. It will be rough and tough,” Awinja says. She adds: “The women must play like a woman and win like a man. The woman should be confident and assertive, eloquent and dress respectfully.”
Issue Number 28 • July 2012
Leaders accused of ignoring women’s agenda …By Martha Nyambura
omen legislators have been accused of reneging on pledges that rode them into office. According to Prof Nyokabi Kamau, a gender consultant, female politicians become masculinised while in Parliament to the extent that they deem it unimportant to focus on women’s issues such as maternal health. “The initial motivation for women parliamentarians begins with an attractive agenda but these change along the way,” she said. Addressing women aspirants, Kamau cited the clash between the women’s agenda and that of political parties that they choose to run for office. “These differences in the agendas contribute to the muting of the women’s voice as well as agendas during and after the campaigns,” she explained.
Kenya currently has 22 female parliamentarians that accounts for about 9.8 per cent representation
compared to their counterparts in Uganda which is at 35 percent; Tanzania at 36 per cent with Rwanda leading globally in female representation at 56.3 per cent. Provisions in the new Constitution call for not more than two thirds of elective or appointive positions to be of the same gender in addition to setting aside special seats for women. However, according to Prof Maria Nzomo of the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies (IDIS) at the University of Nairobi, the gains for women in the new Constitution continue to be threatened by the rigidity of the country’s social and cultural outlook on gender roles. She noted that despite the political gains for women over the years, the society continues to put a limit on the role women and girls play in the development of the nation. “There is need for gender re-socialisation on the leadership role that women and girls play from the household to the national level,” she said. Nzomo noted that Kenya was in need of good leadership that can cre-
Women parliamentarians consulting during a break at a meeting. Most of them have been accused of ignoring women’s agenda. Picture: Kenyan Woman correspondent ate a difference in the country and one that is accountable to its citizenry. According to Lydia Mukami who is aspiring to clinch the Kirinyaga county governor seat having a personal manifesto to act as one’s guideline is essential to help women leaders in keeping the promises that they make to the electorate. In 2007 Mukami failed to clinch the Mwea seat but it was not for a lack of ideas. “I failed successfully because out of the 28 candidates running, I man-
aged position five,” she said. The former Kenyatta University student said that parties’ manifesto should be made to meet the needs of the electorate to avoid any conflicts. She noted that the current crop of leadership in the country has failed to listen to the needs of the electorate. “A good leader should be flexible enough to listen and meet the electorate at the grassroots in order to meet their needs,” she observed. Recently the Women’s Empowerment Link (WEL) in collaboration
Realisation of gender rule in a limbo Continued from page 1
system. However, according to Ghai, this was removed by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs in Naivasha. “The Committee of Experts (COE) in their revised harmonised draft had proposed the inclusion of extra seats, to bring up the number of women to one third as well as persons with disability,” explains Ghai. The proposal was, however, rejected as it was impossible to know how many extra seats would have been needed because the CoE, wisely, did not specify the number of geographical constituencies. The extra members would have been taken, from party lists, in proportion to the number of votes cast for each party in the constituencies.
MPs seems a lot,” she notes. Ghai argues that it might be necessary to have a body of about 400 based on the assumption that 10 percent of women can be elected to constituencies, roughly 50 more women would be needed to get upto one third women. Also the size of the National Assembly would not be fixed. According to Ghai, the country can also explore the pairing system to meet the two thirds gender rule. Under the system certain larger constituencies would have two members each — one man and one woman. Or have only even larger constituencies with at least one of each gender plus one from either, and no county women seats. “This may entail a party putting first choice first and if the party wins that seat that person is the presumed holder of the seat. Once the results are declared, the gender balance has to be assessed so that enough of the under-represented gender is taken from the least successful tickets to make up the balance and the overrepresented gender from those tickets dropped,” explains Ghai. She warns that the system could be abused by political parties who may end up placing women to compete in marginal seats where possibilities of winning the seats is impossible. They could have a true mixed member proportional system, with only 210 constituencies, and 80 list members, the latter allocated on the basis of votes received. This would produce a house
roughly proportional to the votes cast (making the perpetuation of the existing very unequal constituencies less important). Either all the 80 could be women, or as many as needed to produce onethird women. Or they could adopt a purely proportional representation system (there are several methods, though not all are “simple” as the Constitution requires). Proportional representation has a natural tendency to produce legislatures that reflect the make-up of the country – because the parties want to appeal to all sectors in their choice of candidates. This idea has a lot to recommend it, including removing or reducing the burden of constituency boundary redrawing – but it does not guarantee the two-thirds rule.
To amend the Constitution would require 90 days between the first presentation of the Bill in the National Assembly Ghai says that something similar ex(reading) and the second reading; the ists in relation to county assemblies, but second reading is usually followed by a the CoE itself changed the distribution committee, which could comprise all the based on proportion of votes to a system members. For the Bill to pass, two thirds based on proportion of seats won in the of the members of the House of Assemwards. bly would have to support it on both the second and the third readings. She intimates that a constitutional Some would argue that this would amendment could reintroduce the mixed infringe a provision of the Bill of Rights member proportional system to the Na– Article 27(8) which says the State must tional Assembly. do what is needed, including legislation, “But can the MPs buy it, having gotten to achieve the two-thirds principle. Such used to the idea of 80 new constituencies? a change requires a referendum. HowIf they insisted on keeping 290 constituever, this point is arguable, while removencies, and having extra seats for women ing Article 81 (b) about every legislative would the electorate buy it? Already 349 body satisfying the not more than two-thirds principle is not part of the human rights Factbox provisions. After amending the ConIn Africa, there are three main quota systems: stitution, the new Elections Constitutional quotas. Some countries, including Burkina Faso and Uganda, have con- Act might have to be amendstitutional provisions reserving seats in national parliament for women. ed. More important, perhaps, Election law quotas. Provisions are written into national legislation, as in Sudan. and something people should Political party quotas. Parties adopt internal rules to include a certain percentage of consider very seriously: do women as candidates for office. This is the case with the governing parties in South Africa we want the constitution to be amended at this point at and Mozambique. all?
with 42 civil society organisations launched the Kenya Women’s National Charter through which women political aspirants will use to make demands on political parties. Grace Mbugua, Executive Director of WEL said they would be organising debates for women aspirants at the county levels to give women a platform to sell their agendas to the public especially considering that many aspirants who are running for the first time are faced with funding constraints.
Women challenged to compete for political seats …By Ben Oroko
omen from the Gusii community have been challenged to lift the yoke of conservative customary laws and practices which hinder them while seeking political leadership. “Exploit the gains brought by the new constitution and come out in large numbers to contest for various leadership positions provided for in the new constitutional dispensation,” says Nominated Councilor Ms. Josephine Ombati. Ombati described the Gusii community’s customary laws as having been overtaken by events and called on women from the community to come out and compete for the political seats. Speaking at Matieko Secondary School, Mosocho Division in Kitutu Chache South constituency, Ombati who is eyeing one of the elective seats warned fellow women against crowding themselves in the women representative seat instead of declaring to challenge men in other elective positions that are provided for by the constitution. “With the promulgation of the new constitution, many women have a right to tap gains made through the new constitutional order in the Country and no woman should shy from seeking and competing with men for any elective political position in the country,” she warns. He says that the opportunities for women are well captured in the Bill of Rights and it is a new dawn for Kenyan women to use the opportunity to take the Country to the next level,” states Ombati. Ombati observes that, though there are special seats for women as provided for in the new constitution, women should not focus only on such seats but instead cast their political nets wider and contest for the other seats perceived to be traditionally reserved for men. For women in the Country to achieve the required one third representation constitution threshold, Ombati says, they must be given a fair chance and opportunity to articulate their visions for the electoral areas they intend to represent. “The issue of security for women during electioneering campaigns should be adequately addressed by the government to assure women of their security and safety during campaigns as part of the efforts to open up the democratic space for women to participate in the Country’s electoral and political process, “observes Ombati. She argues that, women, particularly those from the Gusii community will never make a meaningful political leadership impact in the male-dominated political field if they are not allowed free access to the target electorate and sell their policies to them as their male competitors.
Issue Number 28 • July 2012
Gains made through the new constitution must be retained …By David Kiarie
he Federation of Women Lawyers of Kenya (FIDA Kenya) has vowed to ensure that the constitutional implementation process takes its right course. According to Chairperson Ruth Aura, the organisation will work with like-minded partners and the government to ensure effective and timely implementation of the document.
“We are concerned about the two-thirds gender rule as captured under Article 27 (8) of our constitution which provides that not more than two-thirds of members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender,” noted Aura. Speaking during the launch of the Federation’s Annual Report 2011, which analyses the progress of implementing the constitution of Kenya, 2010, Aura observed that this particular provision faces immense challenges that may derail its implementation and realisation. National Gender and Equality Com-
mission chair, Winfred Lichuma, called on all stakeholders in the constitutional implementation process to ensure the gains made through the new document are retained, while stressing on the need to walk the talk by shifting from mere rhetoric to acting in the spirit of the constitution. Lichuma called on women in the country to vie for elective positions in the coming general election, saying this was the only sure way of attaining the two-third-gender principal. “It will be a key achievement to attain the two-thirds principal in the coming polls, and I am appealing to women to not only concentrate on the special women seats but other seats as well in order to increase their numbers in leadership positions,” reiterated Lichuma. She said there was need for intensive civic education for both men and women to ensure better political participation and called for partnership with the civil society. “My office will reach out to all partners who are keen on gender development in Kenya in order to ensure fairness and fight discrimination against women,” Lichuma said adding that she was dedicated to uplifting
women and men alike. She reiterated that the Commission will use the Constitution to protect women against the patriarchal nature of the society which discriminates against them. She promised to fight for fairness among children, youth, persons with disabilities and the marginalised. She added that the commission would act as the voice for the voiceless. She called on the Government and the Judiciary to ensure that both men and women in Kenya are treated equally, warning that the Gender and Equality Commission will not hesitate to move to court if people from one gender were treated unfairly. “We shall strive to seek dialogue and use the best agreeable formula, but if dialogue proves unworkable, there will be no harm in seeking constitutional interpretation in court,” Lichuma noted. She said the constitution was supreme and called on stakeholders involved in development of the various policies and legislations following the promulgation of the new constitution in 2010 to ensure the documents capture the spirit of the new constitution.
She termed the report as timely and relevant, considering the political state of the country, which is preparing for the first general elections under the new constitution. The report, dubbed ‘Are We There Yet?’ tracks the progress made in implementing the constitution, with a focus on guarding the gains made by women in the new document. It covers the changes within the Kenyan judiciary, a review of the informal justice systems, the right to health for women, the law on the division of matrimonial property, women and environment, cultures infringing the rights of women as well as a looking into possible scenarios during the next general elections.
The report, which recognises the role of the media in ensuring credible elections, also looks into the atrocities women suffered during the 2007-2008 post election violence. It recommends vigilance in the next general elections to ensure democracy and rule of law are upheld. The report further calls on women to play their role in ensuring that the next general elections will be democratic and inclusive.
Leaders urge lawmakers to support twothirds gender rule …By Henry Owino
he National Women’s Steering Committee has lauded the Cabinet for a recent move to give direction on the two-thirds Constitutional Gender
Rule. The Cabinet approved the standalone amendment Bill, aimed at giving full effect to the affirmative action principle with respect to gender representation as prescribed in Article 27(8) and 81(b) of the Constitution. The Article states that not more than twothirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender. This ensures that all elective public offices will not be biased in appointments but consider gender balance. Speaking to journalists, the national chairperson of Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation, Rukia Subow said women political aspirants and leaders have welcomed the move by the Cabinet to support the Constitutional principle of not more than two-thirds same gender rule.
She emphasized the move has motivated most women and now it is up to legislators to pass and have it put into laws of Kenya. Subow urged women to take the advantage of the elective public offices of their interests to vie regardless of political party affiliation. However, she cautioned that challenges may be numerous for them as women but they should not look back. Subow regretted that several women are only eying the 47 set-aside seats for women representative and ignoring the other offices as though they are designated for men alone. She advised women to come out in large numbers, vie for various seats, and sell their agenda to the electorates then leave the rest for God to answer. Subow made the remarks at Maendeleo ya Wanawake house in Nairobi where various women’s organisations leaders convened to convey their gratitude to the Cabinet for their positive gesture of fulfilling the Constitution requirements in spirit and to the letter.
“We are now calling upon the legislators to emulate the Cabinet, in giving national direction on this matter and to support the proposed Bill when it is tabled in Parliament and ensure it passes,” Subow urged. She pleaded with Kenyans to support the move by the Cabinet as noble cause to ensure that as a nation possible constitutional crisis outcome after the next election does not occur. She explained Article 3(2) does not allow for formation of the next government should the results fail to comply with the two-thirds gender rule.
Rukia Subow, Chair of Maendeleo ya Wanawake addressing a press conference in her offices in Nairobi.
“Members of Parliament should support the passage of this Bill to ensure that as a nation we avoid any possible constitutional crisis if the outcome of the General Elections fails to comply with the two-thirds Constitutional gender principle.” Article 3(2) which states that, any attempt to establish a government otherwise than in compliance with this Constitution is unlawful. The National Women’s Steering Committee was established in the year 2011, as a national network of women’s organisation to spearhead oversight of the Implementation of the Constitution in letter and spirit, with a special focus on the constitutional two-thirds gender rule principle prescribed in Article 27(8) and 81(b). It is comprised of national women’s organisations and is convened by Women’s Political Alliance-Kenya (WPA-K), Caucus for Women‘s Leadership (CWL) and Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation (MYWO).
Since then other organisations that have joined the committee include; FIDA-Kenya, COVAW, Christian Partners in Development Agency (CPDA), League of Muslim Women of Kenya (LMWK), CRAWN Trust Kenya, League
Picture: Kenyan Woman Correspondent
of Pastoralist Women of Kenya (LPWK), Social Reform Centre (SOREC), Sauti ya Wanawake Pwani, League of Kenya Women Voters (LKWV), Africa Women Studies Institute (AWSI) of the University of Nairobi, Foundation of Women’s Rights in Kenya (FWRK), Womankind, Garissa, GROOTS Kenya, National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK) and Women’s Empowerment Link (WEL) among others. According to Wambui Kanyi, Executive Director WPA-K, women are ready and willing to participate in elective political offices but most are being viewed as weak candidates hence denied party support and other benefits to climb the ladder. She noted this as a plot most political parties’ leaders are practicing in order to create room for nominations to women in case of constitutional crisis. Kanyi cautioned the method being used as it will lead to a bloated parliament at the expense of the tax payers that would make life extremely expensive for the common mwananchi. “MPs have no otherwise but to ensure the gender rule is adopted. Women are the majority voters and if they decide to vote them out come next elections they will vote in more women than men so, it is a two way principle,” Kanyi observed. According to Daisy Amdany, chairperson
of WPA-K, women are faced with myriad challenges as far as electoral process is concerned compared to their male counterparts. However, she noted that should not be an excuse as election is about competition and they will ensure more women aspirants are elected. Amdany refuted claims that women are not involving themselves actively in the current campaigns but waiting to be nominated by political parties, knowing very well about the constitutional standoff. “Campaigns have not been officially declared and men aspirants are using lots of money to bribe voters something women would not want to do. Elections are not about money but principles and ideologies that a candidate stands for. We shall support women when the time comes for it,” Amdany explained.
She reminded all politicians that this round elections and campaigns are under a new constitution so, bribery, hate speech, violence are just some of the policies that will disqualify candidates from contesting. She assured the women aspirants of the organisation’s support adding that Independent, Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will not condone any form of hooliganism unlike in the past.
Issue Number 28 • July 2012
Cathy Irungu sets a youthful agenda for Nyeri county …By Waikwa Maina
he days when the saying youth are the leaders of tomorrow are long gone. Today, there are many young women and men who are coming out to declare their interest in contesting political seats. One such woman is Cathy Wanjiku Irungu who is aspiring for the Nyeri County Women’s Representative seat. Irungu draws her inspiration from the electoral laws in the current constitution which she says provides a safe haven for women aspiring for political positions. Irungu is among young women in leadership. She actively participated in the Kibaki Tena campaigns in the 2007 General Elections while still a student at Kenyatta University where she was also a leader. Irungu’s leadership started at Muruguru High School where she was the school captain. Later, at the university she became a student leader and during the last general elections when she had the opportunity to meet President Mwai Kibaki to discuss issues affecting the youth. This is how her leadership skills were sharpened
Today, Irungu is engaged in aggressive civic education empowering women and the general community on making informed decisions in the next coming general elections. “Though I am contesting women’s representative position, I strongly believe that women are the unifying factors in a family,” notes Irungu. She adds: “It is, important and I am embarking on a mission targeting to empower every member of the family, which is a great factor in forming a stable and socio-economically empowered community.” Even as she respects family values, Irungu is
worried with the consumption of illicit brews in Nyeri County which has affected many families. “Consumption of these brews is a time bomb, as the community is diminishing. If elected I will ensure that such alcoholic drinks are not sold in Nyeri County,” stresses Irungu. She poses: “People are making billions of shillings at the expense of the general community. What is the need to accumulate billions of shillings but lose a generation?” Due to financial constraints, Irungu was at one time forced to drop out of college to start a flower business to raise her college fees. She was out of university for a whole year but did not give up that she would one day graduate. It is during this time that she learnt real life experience and how desperation was eating up young people.
“From that time, I got the urge to change things. It gave me a true feel of how things are. I also resolved that I will be a role model by not looking for jobs, but creating them. Population is rising and education is becoming costly, I want us to have a paradigm shift from jobseekers to innovators,” she reiterates. Irungu notes that what the people lack is information since there are so many opportunities, but people don’t have that information. However, even as she gets into the centre of politics, Irungu is aware that it is a dirty game that is shrouded with violence. She is calling on security agents and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to be vigilant and introduce initiatives that will protect women contesting political positions. She says that people found insulting and discrediting opponents should be disciplined by the electoral body and the police. “As a woman, I am looking to law enforcers to implement the law and protect women from
all kinds of political violence. We appreciate the fact the constitution has elaborate laws on elections but my fear is implementation ability by concerned organs,” observes Irungu. The young woman who decided that she will go beyond employment started her own non-government organisation that has helped her understand community needs. She hopes Cathy Irungu is keen to empower youth from the floor of the House. Picture: Waikwa Maina to use that experience to change the lives of the women and young people when elected. Irungu’s strength is in her ability to interact also be one of my priorities,” she notes. with everyone regardless of age, race or gender Even before the new constitution came, she and this has been boosted by her youthfulness. had started mentorship programmes for the She promises to work with everyone when young girls. elected to ensure the country is well governed. She started Nyeri County Information Centre “We now have the senator and governor who in Nyeri, and plans are at advanced stage to open will be the key players, but I’ll put them on their more branches in the rural areas. The facility’s key toes at county and national levels. I envision objective is to help farmers and other diverse ena country that is well governed from the top as trepreneurs get markets for their products. The aspirant was born in Mathira, went to mine is legislative post,” she notes. The biggest challenge with county women rep- Ndima-ini Primary School in the same area, beresentatives is that they will have to seek votes from fore joining Muruguru Secondary School. She is all over the county just like governors and senators, currently pursuing a Masters degree. Irungu is a founder member of the Kenya though their positions are not as superior as those of the two. Due to this factor resources will be a Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry. After graduating from Kenyatta University in major challenge to women contesting the seats. 2008, she had a hard time raising capital to start her business. She then started visiting women Among the issues, she intends to address as a entrepreneurs to borrow a leaf and learnt of the financial challenges facing young women traders. women’s representative is equal opportunities for She later contacted an official in the Minthe women right from the family levels. istry of Trade to discuss the financial problems “Over 80 per cent of farmers are women yet and that is how the idea to form Kenya Women they do not own land, they also lack skills on Chamber of Commerce was born. modern farming practices and value addition She owns Rolling Rocks Agency, a company which is the answer to gainful farming practices, dealing with distribution of various fast moving I will endeavour to empower women on land re- commodities. She is also a member of various lated issues,” notes Irungu. schools board of governors among other leaderShe observes that sexual and reproductive ship positions locally and nationally. health rights are issues that cannot be ignored. She is among more than 12 candidates who “The issue of maternal health is a major challenge have declared interest for the Nyeri County in Nyeri and other parts of our country and it will Women’s Representative seat.
Women set to change political agenda
…By Musa Radoli
or a long time women have been missing in the political scene. However, it is no longer business as usual as the law of the land has changed and the word out is that women must be part of the political process at national and county level. With this, radical change in governance structures in the country can only be achieved with the massive participation of women whose absence has led to the systematic destruction of the structures and principles over the years. A convention on women’s leadership that was held in Nairobi reiterated that women are the leading stars and vehicles for change in society across the world.
These sentiments were echoed by Maurice Makoloo, Ford Foundation Regional Representative who noted that Kenyans highly desire change and that is why they invested heavily in the formulation of a new constitution. “To achieve that desire women must be the drivers if the country is to go far, otherwise we cannot go far without women,” he noted. Makoloo stressed that women’s rights and gender equality must be entrenched in laws for sustaining good governance. He reiterated that women must be involved from the grassroots to the national level in decision making activities. Radical changes with a positive impact will be achieved if only the spirit of the constitution is implemented to the letter.
According to Ursula Bahati, an official with the United Nations Women in Kenya, women’s leadership was ready for the general elections this year, a date that is still a subject of debate. Bahati noted that women’s readiness to go to the polls any time this year was a clear manifestation of their determination to bring about radical changes not only in the country’s leadership, but also in governance structures that had been abused and eroded under the old constitutional order. She said that the UN agency is already galvanising resources globally to ensure that women’s issues are on top of not only international but also at national and regional levels, especially when it comes to leadership and decision making parameters. “Through the gender and governance programme, the United Nations endeavours to support women for effective participation in political leadership from a basket fund that is supported by a wide number of international development partners,” noted Bahati. She said that the fund would ensure women are enabled to position themselves in leadership positions across the board right from the grassroots to the national levels.
“It is very important that women remain at the forefront in protecting opportunities offered to this nation in the constitution,” Bahati observed. She noted that women play a central role in governance as well as efficient and effective leadership. Bahati urged the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission
(IEBC) to develop gender guidelines to spearhead an extremely essential civic education exercise to sensitise voters about the Constitution and the electioneering structures established under the devolved governance dispensation. “It is also very important to establish data bases and open opportunities to build capacities of women into leadership positions at all levels of the country,” observed Bahati. She added: “The IEBC should also foster peace and protection of women against election violence which is mostly perpetuated by men.” The constitution was an opportunity for women to entrench themselves in key decision making positions that will determine the direction and future of the country.
“Women must be prepared to put pressure on the government and the legislature to ensure that the constitution is implemented to the letter without altering anything,” noted Barbara Unmuessig, President Heinrich Boll Foundation (HBF) in Kenya. Unmuessig noted that Kenyan women are now ready to take over leadership and give the country high quality governance after all these decades they have been struggling for that without gaining recognition despite their enormous contribution to the economy and well being of the nation. She pointed out that discrimination, prejudice, violence and male dominance are tools that have been used to subjugate women all over the world but time has come for women to rise up and be counted since leadership is never handed down on a silver platter.
Women aspirants are keen to change political dynamics. Picture: Kenyan Woman correspondent
Unmuessig noted that exclusion of women from political, economic and governance organs entrenched skewered prioritising of the country’s development programmes which led to situations like lack of access to essential services like health, energy, food, shelter and water supplies. “I am aware that it is a struggle to position women in this country to get gender parity, but is a bumpy road that we must all take. It is also clear that for equal rights we must take the struggle a notch higher to ensure that bad legislation are completely repealed and bad practices destroyed and the right ones as stipulated by the constitution entrenched and properly executed,” said Unmuessig. She urged women to unite at all levels and speak with one voice to overcome any social, political, religious, colour, ethnic, clan, gender, groups and
other discriminative practices, especially at the next general elections since it will be the beginning of a journey that will transform the country into something it has never been before. Although male politicians have over the years been notorious for organising and un-leashing violence on female rivals, this time round they will not get away with it. Terror tactics intimidate and scare women aspirants away from leadership positions and in the process kill democracy. These acts have denied the country quality leadership as they have instead entrenched corruption and impunity. Women have agreed to mobilise themselves and the youth, particularly young men who are usually hired to execute these schemes to completely reject them and demand for their rightful share of leadership.
Issue Number 28 • July 2012
Africa’s First Ladies make women’s rights their agenda …By Rosemary Okello
uring the 1st Dialogue meeting for Action Africa which took place on June 11th 2012 in Libreville, Gabon, seven African First ladies, who on many occasions avoid publicity, came out to express their strong support for women’s rights in Africa. Sylvia Bongo Ondima, the first lady of Gabon, told the delegates that when her Husband, His Excellency Ali Bongo Omar was elected, she told herself one thing; that she would have to listen to the citizen and more so women who are usually vulnerable.
Consequently, when the country hosted the Africa Football tournament in 2000, she started the Slyvia Bongo Foundation to create awareness about HIV/AIDS and football. “I saw the opportunity on how we could use an event such as football to educate the public on the impact of AIDS in our community,” she said. She has never looked back since then. Her Foundation is now in the forefront in articulating women’s rights issues and empowering women through education and income generating activities, among many other things.
The Dialogue meeting was hosted by Ondima in conjunction with Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women. In attendance were the First Ladies of Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Namibia and Gabon. Jeannette Nyiramongi Kagame the First lady of Rwanda told the audience that she has learnt what it means to support her husband to achieve all the international Declarations and conventions that relate to women empowerment. Rwanda stands tall among the African countries with the highest number of women in Parliament and the highest economic growth. “I always will tell him to listen to the citizens and to deliver on his promises,” she says. Kagame said she believes that women can be agents of peace and drivers of the economy as happened in her country. “An empowered woman can transform her family. That is why I have been working with the women to ensure their economic rights,” she says. Burkina Faso First Lady Chantal Compaoré has been in the forefront in fighting traditional practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early marriages, and other injustices that affect the women’s rights.
Cooperation “I have been committed to the fight against FGM, managing to reduce it by 25 percent,” adds Compaoré. The First Lady of Nigeria Dame Patience Goodluck told the delegates that since her husband assumed the presidency, she has been working with him to make the Beijing Platform for Action a reality to the majority of
women in Nigeria. Goodluck, who runs an NGO called Women for Change, has been consistently advocating for the implementation of affirmative action in Nigerian political structure. Thanks to her, the number of women appointed to Ministerial positions now stands at 35 percent. “It is the first time in Nigeria that women are holding powerful ministries like Finance, water resources and lands and housing,” she says. According to her, President Goodluck has made sure that in all the appointments, 35 percent of the slots go to women. Her advocacy and lobbying has also seen the number of women elected in local authorities and at the national assembly increase tremendously. “When women are empowered, the man automatically becomes happy at home and there can be peace,” Mrs Goodluck says.
…By Ben Oroko
The Namibian Frist Lady Penehupifo Pohamba, who has over the years learnt to compliment her husband, said achieving women’s rights is her passion. To this end she started an organisation which empowers the widows in Namibia and also works with women and girls in the rural areas. A professional nurse by training, Pohamba, works closely with the Ministry of Health to address issues affecting women’s health. She has also been working in the area of Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and set up a fund to help such children born to HIV positive mothers. As a new comer within the First Lady’s circle, Marieme Faye Sall, the First Lady of Senegal, plans to deal with access to water and health care for all the women in Senegal.
The same applies to Allasane Ouattara, First Lady of the Ivory Coast who is also well aware of the huge expectations people have on her and the husband. According to her, they are expecting a number of things, a major one being the revitalisation of the health sector. But she is also ready to advise her husband that achievement of women’s rights is critical to the development of the country.
Women start initiative, calling for peaceful co-existence
Asked what kind of advise she will give her husband, she was quick to note; “To continue showing the way of what he believed when he was still in opposition and to ensure that he delivers on his mandate to the people of Ivory Coast.”
From top: Mrs. Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, wife to Gabon President and Mrs. Chantal Compaore, wife to Burkina Faso President also attended and addressed the meeting. Pictures: Courtesy pictures
s the Country gears up for the forthcoming transitional General Election, women from the Kipsigis and Gusii communities along the Borabu-Sotik common border have embarked on a cross-border peace promotion initiative to ensure residents from the two communities live in harmony and avert a repeat of ethnic clashes that was witnessed during the 2007/08 post-election violence. The women from Borabu and Sotik districts working under Sotik- Borabu Women Peace Drive, recently opened a resource centre at Chepilat market along the two districts' common border - the epicenter of the 2007/08 ethnic violence and mounted a peace caravan crisscrossing the towns of Kaplong, Sotik, Nyansiongo and Chepilat appealing to residents in the region to maintain peace as the Country prepares for the forthcoming elections. Ms. Sally Kirui, the initiative's Chairlady, said women will reject political aspirants to elective positions who incited the two communities through public utterances as such leaders' utterances led to the post-election violence that heavily affected people from the two neighbouring communities. Kirui stressed that the women from the two communities are committed to promote peace under the motto, “Women beyond borders, amani milele" since they were the ones who bore the brunt of the politically instigated 2007/2008 violence that rocked the Country after the disputed presidential election results. She said a rehabilitation center for drug abuse among the youth is needed in the area to discourage young people from being misused by some selfish politicians who give them drugs to enable them cause mayhem, especially during election campaigns. “It is an open fact that, young people are perpetually misused by selfish politicians who dish out cash handouts to the youth for illicit drinks and drugs, to influence the vulnerable young people to execute political revenge missions against their opponents much to the detriment of the unsuspecting young people,”observed Kirui. “The resource centre will go along way towards providing necessary information on conflict resolution by the women and youths residing along the common border,” Mrs. Rebecca Nyaanga, an official of the initiative said. Nyaanga said that, beyond the coming General Elections, they wanted to leave a generation devoid of conflict by preaching a message of sustainable peaceful coexistence among members from the two communities. The inter-communities conflicts occasioned by cross border cattle rustling and land disputes involving members of the two communities, had been on and off but heightened during the last general elections with Internally Displaced Persons(IDPs) yet to be resettled to date. Kirui thanked the government through the District Commissioners from the two districts who attended the occasion, USAID and Kenya Transitional Initiative NGOs for supporting the women's peace initiative along the Borabu-Sotik common border.
Issue Number 28 • July 2012
Older women return to class for adult education …By Joseph Mukubwa
he thirst for education has never been greater than it is now for the women of Mukurwe-ini District of Nyeri County. They have now realised the importance of education even in old age as most of the men in the region continue getting drunk daily. Most of the women in the area have joined adult education classes and are doing well with some now harbouring political ambitions should they finish and be in possession of the relevant certificates.
Others want to boost their production in their farm after education. Martha Wanjiku, 77 years old, returned to class in order to be able to improve her agricultural farming and now is happy that she will improve in production of food crops. Initially, she only knew how to speak Kikuyu and a bit of English but now she has also been able to improve her knowledge of Swahili language as well. She can now speak and write some English. The same applies for 60 year old Agnes Maina who also wants to improve her dairy farming so that she can be the best farmer in Kiawaita village. Due to the size of the farm, Maina would like to continue practicing zero grazing. Some extension government officers and other teachers have been teaching them in school free of charge. Wanjiku and Maina were among the 24 adult learners who recently graduated in Mukurwe-ini District after attaining an adult basic education.
In the recent graduation ceremony, out of 24 granduants only two were men which typifies that the male gender are not interested. The 24 adult learners graduated recently at their centre based in Kiawaita Primary School where they have been undergoing training recently.
Assistant Minister Kabando Wa Kabando giving certificates to adult education graduand after the training. Below: The oldest graduand also receives her certificate. Pictures: Joseph Mukubwa They have passed the proficiency test and were awarded certificates by Youth Assistant Minister MP Kabando wa Kabando. The learners started their free training in May, this year, and some have vowed to continue to another level of learning. “They attained basic literacy in reading, writing and mathematics. Most of them are women since they are more interested in education,” said Lawrence Muriu, District Adult Education Officer. Wanjiku who is a mother of five says she was happy that despite her age she has been able to take home a certificate.
Most of them are drawn from Kiawaita, Kiuu, Thangathi and Kaharo areas with an age bracket of between over 40-80 years of age. Muriu said the willing group will continue to the next stage where they can go up to university level. The group is being supported by the local Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and the office of their MP.
The education officer said they have started a campaign which will recruit men who will enrol in evening classes instead of them being engaged in taking of alcohol.
Mukurwe-ini District has the highest number of adult learners in Nyeri County who have enrolled secondary education commonly know as post literacy. More than 600 adult learners are also expected to report for the education soon. Kabando said the Government is also supporting the learners as teachers are paid by Government. The graduands are also planning to start income generating projects like dairy goat keeping and a social group for entertaining people. The group is also looking for land for demonstration of their agricultural work.
It is woman power that keeps communities going …By Ogada Muo
t is necessary to broaden the horizon for girls and women beyond the domestic and nurturing spheres to enable them embrace the concept of gender equity. The idea of women empowerment is very important as the country moves towards embracing democratic ideals. Women account for a greater percentage in the labour force and thus keep communities going. However, men are determined to hang on to the power bestowed upon them by a patriarchal society. Although there may be a vocal minority among fellow men; the power and appeal of their stance when it comes to the question of woman empowerment cannot underestimated.
It is true in human history that there is no occasion when a major social power shift has taken place without a struggle by the underprivileged or oppressed, and the question of women empowerment may turn out to be no exception. Everyone agrees that gender equality and woman empowerment are possible and desirable, but this is an assumption which in African society may be totally misplaced. One can change a persons’ behaviour through education if the undesirable behaviour is based on ignorance. Male gender bias based on ignorance can be eliminated through education, but not all male gender bias is based
on ignorance. Certain male discriminative behaviour towards women are more of a cultural obsession than a product of ignorance. No amount of information on how gender equity would be beneficial to economic and other forms of social warfare will change male chauvinist behaviour. A man who believes that women are by nature inferior will not change his views no matter what. Such a person may certainly not even own up to his fellow men or woman that an idea in his disposal exists to the effect of woman empowerment. To such a person the idea to consider one third gender representation in elective posts is but a mirage. A man who believes that rights belong to communities and families and not to individuals has no place in his moral universe for female rights. Such a man would pay more attention to the duties and responsibilities rather than the rights of a woman. The duties and responsibilities to be a faithful wife, to bring forth children to tend for her husband and his extended relatives, the duty to age while young and die early in the process of carrying out all this duties in silent submission. Traditional Africans have a doctrine of natural laws. Certain roles are assigned to women because it is natural for them to be assigned. Convincing most men, to share power with women or give up their privileged positions in life is not going to be easily amenable to a mere increase in resources or information and education.
The same views are becoming evident among the modern educated African men who have the advantage of the Bible or the Koran to buttress their biases. Nations like Kenya have been basically a male chauvinist in which women have their place somewhere very low on the totem pole. The cost of neglecting female education can best be understood when set against the benefits that accrue from educating the girl child. The economic cost of limited access of girls to education at the national level are manifested in economic stagnation; increased expenditure in food imports arising from low agricultural productivity; lack of infrastructural development and capital formation as a result of poor health and high fertility roles; increased malnutrition in poor families due to low domestic food production and unaffordability of imported foods, among others.
Keeping girls in schools is one way of breaking into the vicious cycle of underdevelopment, and conforms to the national development goals of creating educated, healthy, economically active and secure population. It also helps to check unplanned population growth. Education is a powerful tool for self realisation, social advancement and economic development which enables individuals to fully realise their potential. Primary education is a minimum requirement for improved female status, empowerment and productivity. So education for
women is a factor which has a bearing on the quality of human life as well as economic and political productivity. Regarding the economic dimension of education the training of manpower is the prop on which national advancement and development can be successfully initiated. Professionalism is a vital requirement for the economic development in almost any field. However, in the political front, academic qualifications may be a necessity but not a prerequisite. Some of the past good politicians, social workers and right activists who have held positions in the country only had basic education. They served their electorate and ran their organisations with decorum and left legacies worthy of emulation. According to Rosemary Atieno, a school teacher, for any County to prosper economically and politically any man or woman seeking electoral post should be informed and knowledgeable. This can only be achieved through education. “However, the set standards should be left for the elections for national offices. However, for counties, they should go by their available resources fully aware that apportioning of positions for the sake of achieving gender equity may compromise their development and service delivery plans,” Atieno notes. There are always two sides to a coin. The minimum qualification requirement in the constitutional dispensation for people seeking electoral positions has given many people the urge to better their education while others have resigned to fate.
Issue Number 28 • July 2012
Where only numbers count
Women urged to take voter registration seriously …By Odhiambo Orlale According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commissions’ records on the eve of the 2010 referendum, 12,656,451 Kenyans (12.6 million) were registered to vote in contrast to the 14.2 million who were registered in 2007 in the country’s most violent and closely contested presidential elections. For a country with a population of 40 million, an impressive 49 per cent of the newly registered voters were women with North Rift recording the highest number of female voters and Wajir had the lowest number of women registered. The notably low number of women registered as voters in Wajir is inarguably a reflection of the status of women in the region, as they have continued to be marginalized.
Nonetheless, the glaring aspect reflected in these figures is that they go against the general belief that women voters are more than their male counterparts and they have not used that advantage in the past to vote in more of their gender in civic and parliamentary elections. Consequently, Phoebe Asiyo, former Karachuonyo MP, is urging more women to not only register as voters when the IEBC launches the exercise, but to ensure that they vote in the polls. “That imbalance is not good and women must ensure that they all register and vote as a block this time around in line with the two third affirmative action principle as entrenched in the Constitution,” explains Asiyo who is a Constitution of Kenya Review Commissioner. Asiyo, who was the first chairman of Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation, blames the lower numbers of women voters to the bureaucracy and frustrations by Ministry of Immigration and Registration of persons to issue them with national identity cards, which are mandatory before one gets an a voter’s card. “It is important that women in
general get IDs and know how to use it,” notes Asiyo who is also a former UN goodwill ambassador. The same sentiments are shared by Jenpher Masis, who maintains that more men vote than women at polls because of some culturally repressive practices by her Sabaot community. Other than facing the challenges of acquiring an ID, a Sabaot woman’s other hurdle is to be allowed by the husband to suspend all domestic chores on the polling day to go and exercise her constitutional right. “The lifestyle of women from pastoralist communities affects them because they have to get time off from herding to go and vote among other duties,” says Masis, who is eyeing the newly created seat of Endebess Constituency. According to the 2009 census by the Ministry of Planning and Vision 2030, there were 38,610,097 people in Kenya, out of whom men and women seemed to have struck a balance. The men were 19,192,458 and 19,417,639 were female. The previous census in 1999 showed the number of Kenyans at 28.7 million, representing a growth of 10 million people within a decade. At the same time, IEBC had also recorded that 59 percent of newly registered voters were under the age of 40. These facts and figures are what the thousands of politicians eying any of the six elective posts in the forthcoming General Elections must be scrutinising and burning the midnight oil trying to come up with strategies to woo voters.
Six seats will up for grabs; they are the county representative, women’s representative, parliamentary, governors, senators and the presidential. It will not be the winner takes all system under the old Constitution where numbers did not count much as was in the past. This time around under the new Constitution states that the presidential candidate — so far over 15 politicians have declared an interest will have to be nominated by a registered
An elderly woman being helped to vote in a previous election. Women have been told to register as voters in large numbers. File photo political party which must have 1,000 members in each of the 47 counties. Independent candidates will be allowed, but no politician has so far shown an interest. The number of registered political parties stands at 47 as per Lucy Ndung’u Registrar of Political Parties, and many more are said to be awaiting vetting that will culminate in registration or rejection. The presidential candidates would then be expected to campaign in all the 47 counties in the country and woo voters to allow them to bag over 50 per cent of votes cast to show they are nationalists. The new Constitution further dictates that the eventual victor of the historic polls, the first under the new dispensation, will also be required by law to garner 50 per cent of all the votes cast in the country plus one. However, in case none of the hope-
fuls attains the constitutional requirements, the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission will call for a re-run of the top contenders to contest in a second round. For women politicians, they will have two options, either go for the 47 women seats reserved exclusively for them in the counties and fight it out among themselves.
However, for the daring women, they will battle it out with their male rivals for the 290 Parliamentary seats, 47 Senate seats and 47 Governor seats to be contested. According to the Constitution of Kenya 2010, Article 97 (1), the National Assembly shall consist of 290 members elected by registered voters from each constituency; 47 women members each elected by registered voters in each county consisting of a
single member constituency and 12 members will be nominated by parliamentary political parties according to their proportion of members of the National Assembly in accordance with Article 90, to represent special interests including the youth, persons with disabilities and workers. The Senate shall consist of 47 members each elected by the registered voters each constituency; 16 members who will be nominated by political parties according to their proportion of members of the Senate elected; two members being one man and one woman, representing the youth; and two members, being a man and woman representing persons with disabilities. With a significantly gender sensitive Constitution already in place, this might just be the historic election that will give Kenyans the desired gender balance in public office.
Media in Tanzania gender blind
…By Ntibashima Edward
If there is one thing that has made it difficult for women to shine in Tanzania media circles, it is the culture and stereotypes perpetuated within the newsroom, especially by male journalists. Majority of male employees perceive women as being weak and unable to handle certain tasks. This influences their decision when it comes to allocation of stories and management positions. Influential positions are given to men, thanks to the stereotype that men have better abilities in managing people than women. Some even argue that women are emotional and unable to handle people in stressful environment like the media.
When it comes to assignment of stories, the practice is to ask them to follow soft stories such as lifestyle with their male counterparts covering hard news such as crime and business. The underlying thinking in such actions is women are weak and their role is to deal with soft issues. Several studies confirm this. The Gender and Media Progress Study (GMPS) 2010 con-
ducted by Gender Links, based in South Africa found that about 72 per cent of reporters in Tanzania media were male compared to 28 per cent female. This dominance of men in newsrooms varied from one media to another. Such dominance had another negative effect: fewer women being quoted in the media. The study established that media houses with high number of women in top and senior management had more women as sources of stories than those with fewer women in top management levels. Women in Tanzania are three times more likely to be quoted by a female reporter than being quoted by a male reporter, the study found. It is, however, encouraging that the number of women covering various beats in the Tanzanian media has increased in the past seven years, with those reporting human rights increasing eightfold from five per cent in 2003 (Gender and Media Baseline Study) to 43 per cent in 2010 (GMPS) and politics more than threefold from eight per cent in 2003 to 29 per cent in 2010; and those reporting disaster from eight per cent to 35 per cent. On women in media structures, another study, Glass Ceiling 2010 found an equally dis-
turbing scenario. Only 21 per cent of the media companies in Tanzania indicated they had specific targets for achieving gender equality, compared to the SADC average of 54 per cent. Women, the study indicated, constituted only 22 per cent of those on boards of directors in media houses in Tanzania, compared to 28 per cent at the level. Only 21 per cent were in top management positions, slightly less than the regional average of 23 per cent. Overall, women constitute 30 per cent of those in senior management in media houses in Tanzania, slightly above the regional average of 28 per cent.
These scenarios can be blamed on the stereotypes and perceptions that men are the only ones capable of doing certain jobs. The other problem is male journalist are not encouraging their women counterparts to cover stories or beats that have traditionally been dominated by men. One of the reasons is that male reporters fear that they might be outshined by their female counterparts. The other reason is the male media managers and reporters who perceive female reporters
as too weak to handle assignments related to reporting crime or economics. What is happening in the Tanzania media today goes against the need for media to consider all the voices in its decisions and coverage? While women are performing extremely well in other spheres, media seems to be blind to this. In government, the Minister of Housing, Prof Anna Tibaijuka, Gaudencia Kabaka (Labour and Employment), Sophia Simba (Community Development, Gender and Children) and Celina Kombani (Constitution and Legal Affairs) have shown outstanding performance in their work. The same applies to the United Nation Deputy Secretary General, Dr Asha Rose Migiro, who has succeeded not only in Tanzania but the East African region at large. She has brought honour to Tanzania and the region by holding a very senior position in an influential world body. Still, men and women who immersed in culture and stereotypes seem to be blind to all these astounding contributions by women. There is need for stakeholders to advocate to equality in the media, and make the media accountable first before it holds other people accountable.
Issue Number 28 • July 2012
Police stations unfriendly to women
…By Noor Shija
f there is one thing that made Tanzania women not to report the violations they were facing, it is because of the unfriendly environment in police stations.
This realisation led to a strong campaign to have the police stations be made more welcoming to women who have been abused. The culmination of the campaign was the establishment of the gender desk in various police stations. The move received great praise from many people especially those working around gender and human rights issues. What is disheartening, however, is a couple of years since their establishment the gender desks seems not be performing the task they expected to.
Majority of the women do not have information related to their presence and the work that the desks are supposed to do. In addition, those who man the desks do not offer appropriate assistance to survivors of violence. According to a cross section that was interviewed in Dar es Salaam, most women said that they were not aware of the existence of special desks for women and children in police stations. According to Hajra Ulanga, a resident of Temeke District despite being an enlightened person, she was not aware of the desk. She called on the police force and other stakeholders to ensure women, especially those in rural areas and from informal settlements where there are a lot of violations, are aware of these desks.
“Knowledge of such desks will help minimise the number of gender violence cases being experienced in the country, especially the rural areas. What needs to be done is for the police officers to conduct seminars in rural areas to educate the women about the desks and their relevance,” noted Ulanga. However, Mkaije Omari, a resident of Sinza Uzuri in Kinondoni District, complained that the desk dedicated to sexual violence still did not help beneficiaries as intended, due to the lack of commitment and awareness among police officers. She noted that majority of those who man the desks lack knowledge of gender issues, and as result are not offering the required support to the violated women. This is buttressed by statistics which show that very few women are enjoying the services of these desks. Those who have tried to access assistance have disappointing tales. Omari, for instance, got this response from a police officer when she sought assistance at the desk in one of the police stations.
“When I got to the station I met a woman police officer, and after telling her my problem she advised me to hire a lawyer, because the desk will waste my time,” she says. Another incident that happened at Chang’ombe Police Station recently confirmed the desk might not work in favour of women and children.
Most police stations still do not have gender desks despite promises that they will be opened. Picture: Kenyan Woman correspondent
A police officer manning the desk destroyed the rape evidence when she received a bribe from the accused. She attempted to delete messages that were
crucial as exhibits for the case. Such incidents are killing the confidence the public is expected to have in these desks.
Women urged to go for Naivasha women launch peace campaign top slots in politics …By Andanje Wakhungu
…By David Kimani
aivasha town is widely associated with bad news in the country. This is mainly because screaming tags such as Pastor caught with stolen cattle: Man defiles a minor or Man caught slaughtering dogs have dominated media coverage. Naivasha was listed among hotspot areas during the 20072008 post election violence. This prompted a group of 21 women who were directly or indirectly affected by the violence to come together and form the Naivasha District Women for Peace.
“Peace is the hub of the society and therefore controls all aspects of the society,” notes Pauline Wambua, the movement’s chairlady. According to Wambua, the movement was formed two years ago with the aim of restoring peace in Naivasha and also reclaiming its reputation. “Naivasha has had a bad name for quite a long time prompting us to act quickly in giving reclaiming its lost glory through peace campaigns,” explains Wambua. The movement also envisages fighting and eradicating tribalism in Naivasha regardless of the hurdles they might face.
“The prime cause of the eruption of post election violence in Naivasha was tribalism,” reiterates Purity Wanjira, the movement’s coordinator. She notes that the members of the society who received the heaviest blow from the 20072008 turn of events were women
and children. “That is why we came up with the idea of bringing women together in the peace initiative,” explains Wanjira adding that whenever there is conflict in the society, women and children are the hardest hit. To lay a stronger foundation in their endeavours to restore peace, the women have composed a number of peace songs to facilitate their peace campaigns. “The theme of all of our songs is peace,” said Wanjira. She also said that they reach out to the society whenever there are public gatherings like political rallies, crusades and during celebrations of public holidays. “At such gatherings, we get the opportunity to preach peace through addressing members of the public and presentation of songs,” observes Wanjira.
The women have achieved this through the support they have received from the provincial administration through Naivasha OCPD Paul Oponyo. The movement liaises with the provincial administration to reconcile warring groups. Apart from restoring peace in Naivasha, the movement that has brought together women from all tribes. They also help in ensuring that households are peaceful by resolving marital conflict. The movement is proud of having successfully managed to resolve several marital wrangles. “Whenever we receive reports of conflict at the family level, we send some of our members to reconcile them,” explains Wambua. She adds: “Some wrangles get too sensitive for us to handle
alone and it is at this point that we liaise with an administrator such as a chief or the District Commissioner.” The women are calling for the retention of the provincial administration as it plays an important role in addressing conflicts at the grassroots. The women’s movement has won support from the community and has been able to intervene to forestall conflict at all levels.
The movement has also incorporated the youth in their peace campaigns in Naivasha Constituency. According to the Wanjira, they have managed to bring together matatu drivers and conductors whose vehicles ply the Naivasha and Maela route. “These young men have consequently formed Matatu Drivers and Conductors for Peace movement and we urge more in the matatu industry to join in the initiative,” advices Wanjira.
“We urged them to exercise discipline at work and most of them have reformed,” recounts Wambua with a smile adding that most of them have stopped taking alcoholic drinks during working hours. The members of the women’s movement are drawn from various divisions of Naivasha constituency like Maela, Mai Mahiu, Naivasha Central and Naivasha East. The movement’s vision is to restore peace not only in Naivasha but also nationally in the years to come. “We call on all women to join us as we endeavour to restore peace to our country at large,” reiterates Wanjira.
he fact that the political space has been widened to include marginalised groups of women youth and the disabled, any attempts to block them is being fought in all ways. The Constitution says nobody should be discriminated on the basis of age, sex or gender. This is why the Young Christian Women Association (YWCA) Mombasa branch recently held a demonstration within Mombasa town to call upon the all women who are interested in vying for the women seats to stand up and be counted.
The women who later held a public forum in Bombolulu said despite the new constitution allocating one third of the seats to them, the society continued to look down upon them as unfit to run for public office. Led by Hellen Anayo, chairperson of the YWCA Mombasa, they noted that women’s input in decision making should be respected by all the communities as they played an important role in passing of the new constitution. Anayo pointed out that different cultures within communities were judging women who have leadership visions harshly portraying a picture that leadership and politics were strictly a man’s affair.
“We have conglomerated here today to tell off those who claim that a woman’s place is in the kitchen and we are telling them that the new constitution has empowered them with allocating for them various seats besides allowing them to own property contrary to the old one,” she said. The chairperson pointed out that one woman’s leadership was a success to all the women as she represented all their demands and needs. She said as much as education was vital, some leadership qualities did not need education as proof but only practicalities, defending women against the ongoing debate of degrees as part of the qualifications one should have to vie for the political seat. Anayo encouraged all the women to gun
for top positions in leadership saying time to play second fiddle in leadership aspects was long overdue. “We want women to come out and speak their minds out as we not only able to clinch the one third slot but we are also eyeing many more positions in the national government,” Anayo said. He added: “I know we have the numbers and generally women are better managers than men.”
Anayo also called for the support of the girl child from the foundation level saying it was from the grassroots that they could nurture strong willed and intelligent women who would be the leaders of tomorrow. She said it was through a good education foundation that the girl child would know and embrace her rights as a citizen of this nation and be able to untangle herself from the cultural norms that have since time immemorial infringed on the rights of the girl child and women as a whole. She said the organisation had taken the initiative to bring together those women who had interest in politics to drum up support and encourage them to forge ahead especially this time when the country was going into devolved government as it was time for them to stamp their authority and demand for their rights in the society in which they have contributed so much. At the same time the YWCA Mombasa branch Manager Phydiliah Walegwa called for peace during the election period noting that it would be painful for the Country to undergo what it went through in 2007-2008 post elections period. “The main mandate of the procession was to make the society aware that women are serious and were going for the slots hence needed backup and support,” noted Walegwa. She hailed the earlier forums which they have held with the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to educate women on their rights and understand the requirements needed before elections. She said they would also engage youths in peace forums to educate them to shun being used by politicians to cause havoc during electioneering period.
Issue Number 28 • July 2012
Shylocks disempowering unsuspecting women …By Ben Oroko
hat shylocks (loan sharks) continue disempowering unsuspecting rural women cannot be gainsaid. The situation has been aggravated by the leading financial institutions and commercial banks, strict lending restrictions which have denied women seeking economic empowerment access to credits and loans due to lack of collateral which is a condition for one to access a loan from a bank. The situation is so adverse, that unsuspecting and desperate rural women seeking credits go for unsecured credits from shylocks at punitive interest rates whose repayments become difficult prompting the same shylocks to auction the borrower’s property and whatever investment they have made out of the credits to recover their loans.
Agnes Gisiora, a member of a local self-help group in Sameta District laments at how the shylocks have brought down investments of poor women and properties auctioned on the basis of recovering their loans which they advanced to them at prohibitive interest rates. "It is a pity when you see poor rural women struggling to make ends meet, losing their property and investments through auctions on the basis that they have defaulted repaying loans they borrowed from shylocks at exorbitant interest rates," laments Gisiora. Gisiora regrets that, credits and loans from such credit schemes have impoverished unsuspecting rural women, with some and their families
being rendered homeless after the shylocks rip off roofs of their houses and auction all their property to recover their loans. She says, it is unfortunate that many unsuspecting rural women who are hooked to the quick credit schemes hardly pay attention to the prohibitive interest rates charged by the shylocks, making it difficult for some women borrowers to repay the credits and unfortunately lead to the shylocks auctioning their property and investments they have made out of the credits. She observes that, unlike financial institutions which charge relatively low interest rates, shylocks charge extremely higher rates subjecting borrowers to loan repayment difficulties.
"Though they offer convenient financial solutions to the borrowers, the shylocks more often than not have frustrated women's efforts to empower themselves economically, since they offer their credits at high interest rates which overburden women investors and lead to auctioning of their property for failure to service their loans, “observes Gisiora. She cautions rural women who are in need of financial assistance against seeking such assistance from shylocks; instead they should embrace the concept of table banking commonly known as merry-go-round to avert falling prey to the shylocks. Women, especially those in the rural-based households, Gisiora says, have not only used the table banking concept to address their financial needs, but also used it to address challenges they face while seeking credits
Women counting money after a merry – go – round meeting. Such contributions are important for rural women compared top shylocks. Picture: Ben Oroko and loans from either financial institutions or commercial banks. Hellen Kwamboka, a member of Ebigeri Self-Help Group in Boigesa Village, Giasaiga Sub-location, Sameta District, concurs that shylocks have impoverished unsuspecting rural women and only merry-go-round cash contribution activities will rescue women seeking economic empowerment.
Singling out her group of 20 members who meet every Sunday and contribute Ksh 200 each, amount which is pooled together and shared between two members according to the order of receiving the cash contributions in a cluster of two members per week. Kwamboka discloses that, the order
of receiving the merry-go-round cash contributions is determined through picking of numbered and folded pieces of paper by each member. The number on the piece of paper a member picks, Kwamboka discloses, will be paired by the immediate follower to constitute a cluster of two members and have their order of receiving and sharing the merry-goround cash contributions determined on the ascending order according the clusters. "I am happy to be associated with my self-help group, since the merrygo-round cash contributions KSh 4,000 per week is shared between two members in a cluster and the cycle goes round until we close the 12-month business cycle. The contributions have not only
transformed my life, but have also addressed my financial challenges at household level," reveals Kwamboka. Kwamboka says, besides her group's merry-go-round cash contributions, members meet twice a month to pay their savings in terms of share contributions, amount which is pooled together and given to members as loans at 5 percent per interest rate a month for a period of three months," discloses Kwamboka. She says, her group operates within a 12-month business cycle, after which the books are closed at the end of the business cycle, during which members are paid their total annual share contributions and interest on their annual savings, adding, after this has been done, members register afresh for a new business cycle.
Coffin making is no longer just a man’s business …By David Kimani
he sight of a coffin sends a chill down the spine of many people, especially women, regardless of whether or not it bears a corpse. The case is no different with a hearse, whether on the usual business or just parked somewhere. This is African, bearing in mind that anything to do with the dead is feared and revered. On the busy Kenyatta Avenue in Naivasha town, opposite Naivasha District Hospital, is a busy coffin workshop with an ‘unusual’ carpenter at work, doing final touches before displaying at the showroom. There is also a hearse parked several metres from the workshop. It is awaiting the next coffin to the showroom or to give someone a final send off. This ‘unusual’ carpenter is Mary Njoroge, or Masanduku, as she is popularly known by many. She is the proprietor of the business in conjunction with her husband.
She admits to having had fear for the dead like many people but this is no longer the case after she joined her husband in the business in 2001. “My husband started the business in 1999,” says Njoroge. “We lived in Kisumu then and he was inspired by coffins on display at a showroom in Kisumu while on a stroll and decided to give it a try. It was at this point that he moved to Naivasha and he established a coffin workshop, where it stands to date. “I had made it clear to him that I would never set foot in Naivasha if that was the business activity he was to establish since my fear for the dead was untold,” she recalls. Almost true to her word, she never visited her husband in the five consecutive months after he established the business. However, in 2001 she moved with her family to Naivasha to settle there. That was the turning point, as far as her fear for the dead was concerned. How did she finally accept what her husband was doing? “My dream career was lift engi-
neering, but my education journey was cut short too early to scale to such heights,” she explains. “During our time there was no emphasis on girl child education, so class seven marked the end of the road for me.” With such education she could have made nothing better than a housewife. Settling in Naivasha meant she had to look for something to do. Being the type that frowns upon waiting for the husband to do everything, she decided to oversee the work of the carpenters at the workshop. It was while overseeing the operations of the workshop, having acclimatised to the environment, that she started doing minor touches on the coffins, such as smoothing them and applying varnish. It was through the little she did that she came to learn more, even coming up with a complete coffin from pieces of wood and hard boards. “No work is designated for men or women and as long one is healthy
and determined one can do any kind of work,” she advises, adding that men should allow their wives to do something as well, especially those who insist on just staying at home. Njoroge perceives it improper for those who ask their wives to stay idle at home and even employ house girls for them. Apart from making coffins, Njoroge transports bodies from the mortuary to funeral venues as the hearse driver. She also farms to augment the family’s income. “I remember of a woman who once declined to sell me some vegetables at her stall, saying that she couldn’t accept money ‘obtained from working with the dead’,” recounts Njoroge. However, she notes that most people have come to accept what she does. Njoroge says her children are proud of what she does, and cites a case where they travelled in the hearse to visit their daughter, who was in secondary school, and she proudly introduced them to her
friends, not leaving out the business they do. Njoroge has joined in breaking the invisible demarcation that defines what a man’s work is and what a woman’s work should entail. Her advice to the public is to get rid of the idea that there is work meant for men and work meant for women. To the youth she says: “No matter your level of education, though jobless, do anything that comes your way first while awaiting for doors to open.” this is in reference to a case whereby a cleaner in a certain school was redeployed as an administrator when the principal of the school discovered he was learned. Njoroge is quick to put it clear that being in this business does not mean that her wish is to have people die the so she can remain in business, like the way a matatu operator would wish people to keep moving from place to place to keep him or her in business. She says that it is natural for people to die of one reason or another, necessitating making of coffins.
Issue Number 28 • July 2012
The days when Aids virus were seen as a curse
…By Henry Kahara
iriam Wambaire, 50 will live to remember 1997, for as this is the time she learnt of her
HIV status. According to Wambaire it was not easy, for at that time the disease was not common and people had not come into terms with it. “At that time people who suffered from Aids were seen as outcast. The stigma was high worldwide. No one really cared about the survivors well being,” she says. Wambaire says she was hesitant to accept her status as at that time, it was perceived as a city disease. Furthermore the blood would be tested in Nairobi so she thought somebody may have confused her sample with another one.
“At that time there were no testing machines at the grassroots so the blood had to be brought all the way from Nyeri to Nairobi for testing. I thought may be doctors had confused the samples and the results I got were not mine,” she says. In 2000, her situation got severe. At this time she had no option apart from accepting the bitter truth for her symptoms were similar to that of HIV/Aids patients. “I was admitted at the Nyeri Provincial General Hospital for six months and here the health workers would avoid me to an extent that they never gave me drugs nor did they wash my wound as I had developed herpes zooster,” explains Wambaire. “My family used to buy bandage and medicines for me but even at this time no one among those health workers who was willing to help me,”
she says bitterly. “It is at this time when my affected flesh (where herpy sausters were) started rotting; it was until 17 July 2000 when I was washed and the reason was because the Health Minister at that time was visiting the Hospital,” she says adding that she felt like she has been born again. “When the Minister came, he was taken a round and finally they came where I was, they explained to him about my condition and more so about a whole which had developed on my neck because some of my flesh had rotten, they further promised to do grafting on that whole,” she explains, adding that they never did the grafting as there were no one who was ready to take her to the theatre.
“According to the Doctors I was a dead case, they even told the minister that they never had hope with me as my situation was pathetic. I remember one of them telling the minister that there is nothing we can do, but we are waiting for her to…” she says adding that the statement was not complete but everybody who was there filled for him/ herself. It was during this period when she was released from Hospital and by the time she reached home the news was all over, that she is suffering from the deadly/ killer disease as the people used to call it at that time. Despite the stigma she faced from the health workers Wambaire praises her family for it shown her love and treated her. “Although I was bedridden for a year, it is at home when my health started improving gradually and even the whole I heard recovered,” she
says. “My family shown me love, my mum cooked good food (balance diet) for me. Actually they used to carry me outside on daily basis. I am happy they never gave up on me,” she says. It is after recovering fully when Wambaire decided to go back to her occupation as before the sickness struck her was working in Nyeri Municipality. “I was received well by my colleagues but immediately I went on the stage no one wanted to see me. The conductors used to shamelessly shun me away telling me not to touch their money as I will infect them with AIDS,” she narrates. “It became too much for me to absorb, my boss decided to send me in the market but the same scenario occurred at this time I was fed up and I decided to quit my job,” she says. It is during this time when I attended a conference of Kenya Society of Women in Kenya SWAK in collaboration with the ambassadors for hope, this changed my life for I have reached to an end,” she reveals. This is where wambaire and other people who were suffering from AIDS were given hope and trained on how to go to the public and eliminate stigma.
“Before this I even never new of any other person who was suffering from AIDS but this opened my eyes and I came to realize that I was not alone,” she adds. This is the time she started going to the public and telling out her story. Through this Wambaire has given many hope and today she has found herself as friend to
Picture: Henry Kahara
"I was admitted at the Nyeri Provincial Hospital for six months and here the health workers would avoid me to an extent that they never gave me drugs nor did they wash my wound as I had developed herpes zosters." — Miriam Wambaire countless. “Today some people when they learn that they are positive, they first approach me for advise,” this has made Wambaire to be in love with so many people. Wambaire a mother of three says that he trust in God saved her from death. “I always believed that I had not completed my job for my children were young at that time.” “Whenever I looked at my children something used to tell me I
have to fight on for I was not done,” says a mother of three. Currently Wambaire has gone back to her former employer Nyeri Municipality where she mostly works as peer educator in the HIV programme. “I always feel good whenever I gave hope to a person. I feel like I have breathed hope in them. I sometimes use my money whenever I am referred to a person who is facing denial,” she says.
Women challenged to compete for political seats …By Ben Oroko
omen from the Gusii community have been challenged to lift the yoke of conservative customary laws and practices which hinder them while seeking political leadership. “Exploit the gains brought by the new constitution and come out in large numbers to contest for various leadership positions provided for in the new constitutional dispensation,” says Nominated Councilor Ms. Josephine Ombati. Ombati described the Gusii community’s customary laws as having been overtaken by events and called on women from the community to come out and compete for the political seats. Speaking at Matieko Secondary School,
Mosocho Division in Kitutu Chache South constituency, Ombati who is eyeing one of the elective seats warned fellow women against crowding themselves in the women representative seat instead of declaring to challenge men in other elective positions that are provided for by the constitution. “With the promulgation of the new constitution, many women have a right to tap gains made through the new constitutional order in the Country and no woman should shy from seeking and competing with men for any elective political position in the country,” she warns. He says that the opportunities for women are well captured in the Bill of Rights and it is a new dawn for Kenyan women to use the opportunity to take the Country to the next level,” states Ombati. Ombati observes that, though there are
special seats for women as provided for in the new constitution, women should not focus only on such seats but instead cast their political nets wider and contest for the other seats perceived to be traditionally reserved for men. For women in the Country to achieve the required one third repMs. Josephine Ombati, Nominated Councillor resentation constitution threshold, Ombati says, they must be given a fair participate in the Country’s electoral and pochance and opportunity to articulate their visions for the electoral areas they in- litical process, “observes Ombati. She argues that, women, particularly tend to represent. “The issue of security for women dur- those from the Gusii community will never ing electioneering campaigns should be ad- make a meaningful political leadership imequately addressed by the government to pact in the male-dominated political field if assure women of their security and safety they are not allowed free access to the target during campaigns as part of the efforts to electorate and sell their policies to them as open up the democratic space for women to their male competitors.
Issue Number 28 • July 2012
FGM eradication proves to Women be a challenge in Tanzania get help over fistula
…By Fred Okoth
bout 100 women suffering from fistula in Migori County now have a reason to smile after benefiting from a free medical clinic. The clinic, which was held at Migori Municipal Stadium under the campaign of ‘Women Smile Again’, also involved sensitising locals about the condition, screening, counselling and treatment.
Speaking during the clinic, “We had decided to settle on the fistula after noticing that most women who suffered from it did not come out in the open to talk about it,” says Henry Ogolla, Migori County coordinator of One by One, a local non-governmental organisation. He reveals that those whose conditions were serious were referred for specialised treatment adding that the patients would get free transport and treatment to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret. The organisation will also pay for boarding in the town during the treatment. During the event women were taken through the various stages of the disease and warned against stigmatisation of the patients suffering from it.
…By Bestina Magutu
ducating the Tanzania women who circumcise on the far reaching implication on female genital mutilation has been the easier part; but getting them to give up the practice has remained the most challenging for human rights advocates. Recent investigations in Tanzania have found that the privileges and payments that accrue to female circumcisers might the main reason why they are reluctant to abandon the practice.
Testimonies from some of the circumcisers confirm this. Take Chunguza Wankyo, a former female circumciser for example, she remembers fondly of how, because of the profession she used to practice, special food and treatment were accorded to her. By the time she was abandoning the profession, she had circumcised close to 2,000 girls in Rorya District in Mara region, one of the leading regions in FGM prevalence in Tanzania. Chunguza decided to abandon the practice after a sensitization campaign on negative impacts of FGM by Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT), the religious affiliation of protestant churches in Tanzania. The campaign targeted some
of the regions with high FGM prevalence such as Arusha, Dodoma, Mara, Kilimanjaro, Singida, Iringa and Morogoro. So powerful was the campaign that traditional elders of Wasimbiti community from Rorya denounced the practice and joined forces to fight FGM. Their participation was critical because it is these elders who foresee FGM by setting the date, appointing the circumciser and place where the circumcision will take place. Speaking on national television, one circumciser, TBC Matutu said he would never forget how he was forced to dumb in the bush the body of a girl who bled to death after undergoing FGM. This is one of the most horrifying aspects FGM, that shows human rights violation even in the death women. According to culture, Kuria and other communities that carry out FGM do not allow the burial of girls or boys who die while undergoing initiation, which known as abasamba in the local language.
The Kuria believe that such burial would bring calamities to the family and community as a whole if the woman is given a dignified burial within the community. Similarly, such dead bodies are supposed to be dumped on land of a rival clan, which will in turn
Women walking back to their homes. Communities practiced FGM for long find it hard to abandon it. Picture: Kenya Woman Correspondent
dump it on land of another rival clan. This goes on until the body completely decomposes. It is these shocking and disturbing revelations and the negative implications of FGM that forced Wankyo and Matutu to denounce FGM. But all this happened after the powerful intervention of religious leaders, an indication of the role they can play in helping end FGM. What is more encouraging is that the campaign by the religious leaders came at a time when the communities that circumcise were preparing to start the initiation ceremonies. The effect of this was reduction in the number of those willing to be circumcised.
What is equally disturbing is while that while FGM is illegal, the prohibition seems not to have a significant effect in reducing the practice. The Sexual Offences Special Provision Act (SOSPA) of 1998 criminalised the practice when done on girls under 18 years. Under the Act, anyone found carrying out the practice is liable to fine not exceeding TSh300,000 ($200) or imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than 15 years. However, it is has not been
easy to convince communities that have practiced FGM for many years to stop it overnight. The privileges and incentives that come with the practice makes the circumcisers not want to give up the practice. It is their source of income and livelihood. During recent interviews, religious leaders said they have done their part and would like other anti-FGM campaigners to intensify the campaign. There calls on the government to ensure enforcement SOSPA Act to its fullest, and this has been seen as a warning to parents and circumcisers. It is also believed that awareness creation by non-government organisations on the adverse effects of FGM as well as the existence of the laws that prohibit FGM is required now than ever before. Past experiences have shown these campaigns and advocacy to have an impact. Recently, several girls from various regions including Dar es Salaam and Mara regions fled from their homes to avoid being circumcised. According to the Human Rights Report of 2008 by Tanzania Legal and Human Rights Centre, the campaigns have led to a drop in FGM prevalence from 18 to 15 per cent between 1995 and 2005.
“We are asking anybody who is a survivor of the condition to report to any hospital since it can be treated,” noted Ogolla. He said that most of the time women shy away and avoid sharing their problem which causes divorce and marital problems since they are not sexually active due to low self esteem. Fistula is a condition in women and often happens during and after birth when a woman can’t control her bowel movement making it harder to manage passing of urine and stool. The offensive smell often forces the survivor to clean herself many times in a day. According to Sarah Omega, a survivor of fistula it is important for women to come out and talk about their condition.
“Let all women know that this disease can be treated,” noted Omega adding that it only requires a normal surgical process to cure and women should not shy away from it and feel inferior. Omega, who is a programmes manager with One by One, explained that she had suffered for over a decade after giving birth to her child. She blamed lack of information on the disease as the major factor which causes more women to hide and not to come out and talk about it. She said the organisation was now working with the women to tell them that fistula has a cure and they should report the disease to reduce cases of divorce and low self esteem. The exercise is funded by a US sponsor Sarah Heidi-Breeze.
Issue Number 28 • July 2012
Meredith Preston McGhie;
A woman on the frontline of peace …By Rosemary Okello
n Africa, stories on how women have been affected by conflict and war are many. But over the years concerns have been raised that women are missing on the negotiations table and that they are not part of the solutions to the very war that they are victims of. And that many African countries and notably the Africa Union is not putting into practice the United Nations Resolution 1325 which was developed to address the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women. And also recognised the under-valued and under-utilized contributions women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building. It also stressed the importance of women’s equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security.
But one woman despite all the barriers women face on peace negotiating table has gone against the grain and made a mark in various peace negotiations throughout the world. Meredith Preston McGhie, the Regional Director of HD- Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue is convinced that women bring into the negotiation table different dynamics. “This can be used to the advantage of the process as you build trust and confidence in a different way,” she says. McGhie says that she got involved on the front line of peace as a result of her years of experience in working in the human rights in various countries. Her first experience is when she was working with indigenous communities in Asia and worked with Naga leadership from North East India who were in the process of talks with the Indian Government.
And from there McGhie was sold into why it is important for women to be in the frontline of peace. From there she became involved in Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegra-
tion (DDR) elements of peace processes, particularly issues relating to gender and disability. When she joined the HD- Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue as its Regional Director, McGhie again found herself involved within another conflict negotiation in Kenya. She remembers how she was part of the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation process under H.E Kofi Annan. “I think this was my most significant experiences as it was both a unique process and also an incredible opportunity to learn from such strategic and experienced mediator,” she notes. This experience pushed her to other fronts of mediation tables and since then McGhie has found herself being involved in various mediation processes and at times as a leader.
For example she was leading a mediation process which had a largely security focus and this for her as a woman was challenging however her years of experience in the area worked in her favour. Even though at that time she was pregnant and has to juggle pregnancy and child birth in the midst of the process, McGhie says; “I don’t believe that my being a woman necessarily hindered my ability to lead the process.” Anchoring the importance of mainstreaming the Resolution 1325 in every negotiation, McGhie says that gender has an influence on how one is able to develop relationships and how one is perceived. “I found this manifested itself in part in how I was able to speak to the parties, there is a different dynamic with a woman and this can be used to the advantage of the process as you can build trust and confidence in a different way,” she explains.
But she is also aware that one of the greatest challenges to improving gender aspects of peace processes is working to identify bespoke advice for mediation; so that gendered advice is directly and specifically relevant to the issue of the table.
Meredith has got involved on the front line of peace as a result of her years of experience in working in the human rights in various countries. Picture: Rosemary Okello Like any other fields, gender advice is always viewed as too general and women are also not privy to the full range of the issues and dynamics on the table in the room. She says that for this to change, mediators themselves need to take a lead in bringing women to the table. She gave example of the Graca Machel’s role in the Kenyan negotiations where as a woman that had a voice of moral authority in the process which was hugely important to the people of Kenya and also to the world. But also recognise that for one to be taken seriously there is need for knowledge of play-
ers, of the politics and of the situations and this cannot be undervalued since they are also important in getting women especially to be accepted by both parties to a negotiation process. She acknowledges that so often the prejudices come not just from the parties but from other actors around the process and also not only towards women participating in different forms as mediators, advisers but primarily towards inclusion of gender issues that will have longer impact on the ground. “This is where we must focus so much of our efforts for change to happen. Women must be part of the dialogues,” she observes.
Inter-religious peace is crucial in ensuring peace in Africa …By Carolyne Oyugi
ectarian violence has reached crisis levels in the Federal Republic of Nigeria hence forcing the government, the Boko Haram and religious leaders to help resolve the conflicts that are dividing Nigerians along the religious lines. Muslims have been destroying churches and killing Christians at churches and their homes at odd hours.
Nigeria is one of the Countries in the world that is considered to be very religious. There are die hard Muslims who will not allow anything that they think contradicts the Quran. The Country equally has Christians who perform miracles and also has devil worshipers who have so much power. The Christians and Muslims in this Country however cannot coexist in peace and this has attracted the attention of the religious leaders. Archbishop Dr. John Onaiyekan, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, and Co-Chair of the African Council of Religious Leaders pleaded with
Nigerians to appreciate each others as brothers and sisters and not judge the neighbours by how, where and what they worship. “To the best of my knowledge both the Quran and the Bible talks of peace, love for the neighbour and forgiveness, adding that all those who claim they are religious should follow what the two good books say,” he told a religious leaders meeting in Nairobi. The catholic leader urged the religious leaders to ensure that the faithful understands what is required of them as per their religion. Nigeria is not the only country with conflicts that are considered to be misinterpretation of the Quran. In Somalia, Al Shabab an organised militant group controls large swathes of the country and is killing and maiming people besides undermining security in the Horn of Africa. Significant parts of South Sudan are intermittently engulfed in lethal ethnic fighting between the two governments of Sudan and South Sudan, compromising the future of this new Nation. The Democratic Republic of Congo too is in a mess. Kenyan is in an election mood and the poli-
ticians are sharpening their skills to convince their supporters and possibly sway voters on their side in order to win the coveted electoral seats. The politics surrounding these campaigns are however causing security concerns given that in 2007 elections many people were killed and others injured following the disputed election results. The politicians are using strategies that promote ethnicity and some are dividing people along the regions and feeling that they do not belong because they are inhabitants of a certain part of Kenya.
Members of some religious groups in the continent feel that they are better than others and so they should be treated better while others feel that they have been oppressed for long and so it is their time to enjoy. Kenya's Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga stated in parliament recently what many expected and predicted that the current trend of tribal politics is leading Kenya to an uncertain elections-perhaps a violent one. Security agencies confirmed, and sounded
the warning delivered in Parliament. This has also been followed by attacks in Kenya not sparing the churches. Many are wondering and asking what can be done to prevent or contain ethno-religious violence in these countries, and others. Prof Patrick Lumumba, the former Director of Kenya Anti –Corruption Commission (KACC) urged Kenyans and other African countries to learn from what is happening in Nigeria and act very first. “We claim to be religious but when we experience conflicts and differences we do not seek solutions from our religion but ethnic groups,” said Lumumba. Lumumba urged Africans to use their diversity positively and not to create war adding that Christians and Muslims are like two eyes on the same head and so they must work together. The Chairman of National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) Dr. Mzalendo Kibunjia asked Kenyans to live together and peacefully. “We should live like there is nothing to separate us. There is freedom of worship but that should not be used to oppress others,’ he said
Issue Number 28 • July 2012
Caroline Kemunto, is out to empower sex workers …By Michael Oongo
eeting her for the first time, Caroline Kemunto may pass just as your ordinary young woman but here is a person whose work has touched the lives of many people living with HIV/Aids in Busia County. I met Kemunto after nearly one year’s search. This is because, although her organisation, Survivors Group is well known in town, one would hardly notice that she is the one behind this initiative because of her unassuming nature. I nearly gave up all attempts to trace her by her second name, for, as I realised belatedly, she is, simply known to her group members as “Aunty Caro”. Save for one Saturday evening, when I finally got her number from a friend who happened to know her. She was nursing her two month-old baby Eliakim Wanga when I arrived at their offices along the Busia-Kisumu highway at around 4.30 pm. I wondered if indeed the young woman in front of me was the adored Caroline Kemunto.
She saved me from more anxious moments when she offered that she was expecting me in her office, after my call earlier that day and beckoned me into a seat next to her before three women and a man walked in. “Excuse me, I think they have come to see my baby just give me a few moments and I’ll be through with them.” Through her organisation, a self-help group founded in 2005, more than 400 commercial sex workers in the area have found a sanctuary through its various activities that include educating members on how to negotiate for condom use with their clients. “While working as a peer educator with Impact, a non-governmental organisation, I came face to face with the stark reality of commercial sex workers’ risky ways of life and decided that I must do something to, at least, lessen their suffering,” explains Kemunto. The group has brought together commercial sex workers in Busia town and its environs with the sole mission of supporting and empowering the members to make informed choices regarding their sexuality.
The organisation has also been actively involved in empowering its members economically by assisting them to establish income generating activities as well as providing legal aid to those who have been exploited or assaulted by their clients. “We are doing all this because we have realised that majority of our members have been forced into this risky undertaking by circumstances beyond their control and like any human being, their basic rights need to be protected,” observes Kemunto. She notes that some embarked on the business because they are total orphans who are now heads of family and have to support their younger siblings through any means possible including selling their bodies. Some clients, she observes, would approach a sex worker with the promise of more money if they are allowed to have sex without a condom, while others, would discard the gadgets at the last minute without any warning, exposing the helpless women to dangers of contracting HIV. “However here at Survivors we engage our members in sex reproductive health policy forums to ensure they understand the importance of safe sex and how to negotiate for it with their customers to avoid contracting the virus and other sexually transmitted illnesses,” explains Kemunto. She tells of a commercial sex worker in the town who lost all her money and a mobile phone the next morning to a customer who
disappeared from a lodging house in the wee hours of the morning only to leave his victim distraught and broke. “The woman was so devastated that she contemplated committing suicide but when we got wind of her predicament, we rushed to counsel her and after much persuasion, we brought her to our office and gave her some cash for her upkeep,” Kemunto says pensively. Still, there is the case of yet a another commercial sex worker who was beaten senseless in the dead of the night by a client who refused to pay for ‘services’ and decided to leave the lodging house for another, without even settling the room charges….the woeful tales of commercial sex workers are endless. It is because of incidences such as the ones mentioned that the organisation has decided to aid the victims in getting legal services to trace such clients and have them charged in a court of law. “In order to achieve this, we have encouraged our members to form networks to help track down such clients by passing information about their movements to the victims who will in turn inform the police,” she explains. To worsen the situation, Kemunto laments those sex workers who work as barmaids are the most exploited category of employees because of the meagre salaries they are paid by bar owners. “In Busia, for instance, the highest paid bar maid earns KSh2000 per month while others are made to take home a paltry KSh1,500,” say Kemunto. She poses: “Just what one can do with this kind of money in the harsh economic times.”
She notes that some bar owners dismiss bar maids who fall ill because they don’t want to take responsibility. This is why she is promoting human rights advocacy to teach the members about their basic rights so as to enable them take appropriate action against wayward clients and also to insist on condom use while executing their trade. Besides the above services, Survivors Group has also initiated emergency support scheme for its members to assist them buy anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs when they become ill as well as paying school fees for their siblings. Through the scheme, some members have been assisted to start income generating projects such as salons, farming and poultry keeping. There are those who have been provided with shelter as a way of giving them an alternative way to earning a living. “You see, these people are human beings just like you and me, and therefore, they deserve to be treated with some decorum because it is not by choice that they are engaged in this trade,” she explains adding that dehumanising them would only worsen their already vulnerable situation. “These people are our sisters, neighbours hence we need to protect them from both physical abuse and exploitation. Our organisation is committed to hiring legal services for them to ensure they are fairly treated in society because they need protection,” notes Kemunto . She adds: “We should not condemn them but should instead find ways and means of making change their behaviours.”
How has the organisation reached out to so large number of sex workers? “Well, we have a policy of reaching out to them through our network and encouraging them to join our support scheme where they are asked to become members for their own well-being and the effort has paid off,” she avers. Through support group meetings, the members have been able live as a close-knit family because they learn how to pull themselves together. They encourage each other and they are
Caroline Kemunto is out to ensure that sex workers rights are protected. Picture: Michael Oongo taught how to live positively through good feeding and healthy lifestyles. “When I tested HIV positive, I thought my world had crumbled and thought of ending my life but after I visited the Survivors Group offices on a friend’s advice, my outlook towards life changed for the better”, says a member of the group who requested not to be named because of the nature of her trade. Through the group, she and five others have been able to engage in cassava farming at Bwamani in the outskirts of Busia town which they process and sell to supplement their incomes. Most of the Survivors’ meetings are conducted at night to encourage those who fear to be seen associating with the group to participate freely without the fear of being stigmatised. Born 32 years ago, in a family of seven girls, Kemunto who is now a total orphan began her education at Mundika Girls Primary School in Busia where she went to from Standard One to Three before moving to Ogengo Primary School in Kisumu for her class four to six. She later joined Iranda Primary School for Standard Seven and Eight where she sat for her KCPE and scored 507 marks out of the then possible 700.
She joined Moi Girls’ High school Eldoret in 1994 and left in 1997 after sitting for her KSCE exams which she passed with a B minus. It was after high school that she says her life took a new turn after failing to get sponsorship to university. “I joined a bad company of girls who made me lead a regrettable life but this changed when a group of HIV Aids researchers from the University of Nairobi and that of Manitoba teamed
up to form the Impact Organisation,” she says. In 2003 Kemunto joined Impact as a peer educator and her job entailed reaching out to commercial sex workers and other vulnerable groups to teach them about condom use and other safe sex measures. The group wound up its activities in 2005 but Kemunto carried on with their activities and founded the Survivors Organisation. “We have been able to run the organisation through networking with other stakeholders and with donations from organisations such as the Open Society Institute of East Africa (OSIEA), Amref Maanisha, LVCT Care and Treatment as well as APHIA Plus,” she explains.
What are the challenges facing the Survivors Group? “There are times when we ask for condoms from government agencies and are unable to get any as we are told they are out of supply and this has encouraged some men to use polythene materials when some sex workers insist that they use of condoms”, Kemunto recalls adding that this was the lowest moment in sex workers lives. The other challenges, she says, is the high rate of mobility among sex workers. “Some of them don’t stay in a town for long especially when they discover that their status had become known in the area”, she says resignedly. Because of this high mobility, it proves difficult for most of them to continue with their ARV treatment hence affecting their immune system due to opportunistic infections. Still others frequently change their identities as they move from town to town and when they are bed-ridden, it becomes difficult to trace their original homes.
Issue Number 23 • November 2011
Dialogue of action on Africa
Focus to young women’s access to business and entrepreneurship
Ms. Vickie Remoe addressing participants during the first dialogue meeting in Libreville, Gabon. Picture: Rosemary Okello
…By Rosemary Okello
ver the years, women in Africa have been grappling with access to business and entrepreneurship opportunities. Narratives have solely focused on the fact that women lack access to credit facilities that could help empower them economically. However, as the young women await commitments from their respective governments, there are differences in the work pattern between men and women as gender roles continue to change and merge. As more young women continue to pursue academic excellence to facilitate their move up the corporate ladder, and attain economic stability and empowerment, majority are penetrating and leaving a mark in the real estate. These young women in their 20s have refused to wait for marriage, and for their respective husbands to build them houses and or buy them property.
They have launched an initiative dubbed ‘Women Won’t Wait’ which is causing ripples within the real estate, as they buy and develop land. Their testimonies became evident during the first dialogue which took place in Libreville, Gabon, where the subject of women’s access to business and entrepreneurship was given a new meaning. Hosted by Sade Baderinwa, Emmy Award winning WABC-TV Anchor/Reporter, the panel which was composed of young women who have made a mark in business and are owning international brand were cognizant of the fact that even though young women want
to break the barriers that have bedevilled African women over the years, it is not that easy as it requires support and guts. Fatime Christiane Ndiaye, Senior Gender Specialist with International Labour Organisation (ILO) told the delegates that investing on women and giving them equal opportunity was not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do.
According to Vickie Remoe, Creative Director, How4Do Productions even though she has learnt the power of branding and has used her skills to break the glass ceiling in business, young African women need to be empowered with education in business and technology if they are going to be key players in the continent’s advancement. Remoe in her early 30s is a multimedia journalist who was recently selected as one of the 20 women from Africa to Follow on Social Media by Concept Link. She said she had a vision of creating a brand outside Senegal and Africa and this has seen her become a Creative Director of How4Do Productions, a company she founded in 2008. “What has made me make a mark in the global word is building of partnership with other brands in Africa,” she says. However, Remoe was concerned that entrepreneurship for young people is not an area where even NGOs would like to invest on. On many occasions, there are projects on microfinance which never elevate women to be major players at the global level. “There is need for NGOs to start promot-
ing entrepreneurship in Africa among young people and help the youth to use it to solve a myriad of problems that face this continent,” she said. Yomi Abiola, an activist journalist and Stand-Up Fashion for Nigeria said that even though women in Africa’s entrepreneurship have been confined into the market place, young people can use such experience to penetrate the global markets. Abiola who has re-defined fashion modelling by creating a beauty that goes deeper than the surface and was the first African face to represent Maybelline worldwide. She noted that it is important to make African women believe that they can also play in the global arena.
According to Magatte Wade, CEO Tiossan, Africa needs to create hundreds of millions of jobs in order to create a better future for the next generation. “Entrepreneurship is the only way that we can create those jobs.” Wade, in her early 30s, launched her entrepreneurship career in San Francisco and now owns Adina World Beverages. She told the delegates that at present the West finances 500,000 aid workers and each is costing more than $100,000 annually each. “If instead the West were able to channel that financing to 500,000 African entrepreneurs, Africans themselves could create the prosperity they desire, while also earning the dignity and self-respect,” said Wade. Coming out as someone who always thinks outside the box, Wade noted that nor-
mally young people are never taken seriously especially when they want to venture into business. She said: “This did not stop me. I kind of took a detour and launched my business outside Senegal before I came back.” Her bravery saw her come back to Senegal where she started Adina World Beverages, after visiting Senegal and discovering that Bissap, her country drink was being replaced by Coke and Fanta. In order to supply Adina with organic hibiscus from Senegal, Magatte partnered with Agribusiness in Sustainable African Natural Plant Products (ASNAPP) and the First Lady of Senegal and since then there has been a major revival of the Senegalese hibiscus industry resulting in thousands of jobs for women hibiscus growers.
Reiterated Wade: “Young women are the greatest investment, but also the future for Africa and governments need to plan with them in mind.” For Keith Casey Cobell, executive Vice President and Rwanda Country Director for Indego Africa products, there is need to ensure a sustainable economic empowerment for women in Africa. He noted four things that should inform key elements within the Plan of Action for Africa. These include long term skill acquisition in business functionality; market access assistance at both local and international levels; mentoring and training in good governance as well as leveraging the strength of community to expand opportunity.
Executive Director: Rosemary Okello Editorial Director: Arthur Okwemba Managing Editor: Jane Godia Sub-Editors:
The Kenyan Woman is a publication of African Woman and Child Feature Service E-mail: email@example.com www.awcfs.org
Contributors: Faith Murirui, David Kiarie, Jane Cherotich, Martin Murithi, Martha Nyambura, Ben Oroko, Henry Owino, Waikwa Maina, Musa Radoli, Joseph Mukubwa, Ogada Muo, Ntibashima Edward, Odhiambo Orlale, David Kimani, Noor Shija, Henry Kihara, Bestina Magutu, Fred Okoth, Michael Oongo. Design & layout: Noel Lumbama (Noel Creative Media Ltd)
This paper is produced with support from HIVOS