What you need to know:
- Much more can and need to be done to advance the position of women and girls in Europe as in Kenya.
- Kenya lags behind other East African countries in women’s representation in Parliament.
In the past month, Kenyan women have leveraged International Women’s Day to showcase their strength and resilience while highlighting the barriers to their full and equal participation in the highest levels of life.
The vibrancy of their engagement is underpinned by one of the most progressive Constitutions, which guarantees women’s human rights as equal citizens, as in Article 27(3).
President Uhuru Kenyatta and the First Lady have taken the lead on ending female genital mutilation (FGM), setting an example for the respect of women’s rights in general.
One example was the “Roundtable on Women in Society, Women in Politics” event on March 7, at which leading Kenyan women and the EU Ambassador and women ambassadors from the members states discussed the progress and obstacles.
Discriminatory workplace practices that favour men remain a challenge in Kenya — as in Europe, where, despite four decades of legislation on equal pay, there remains a yawning pay gap in many sectors. To tackle these issues, the European Commission has adopted an EU Gender Equality Strategy and an EU’s Gender Action Plan (GAP), welcomed through EU Presidency Conclusions by 24 member states. The strategy is in its third iteration.
But much more can and need to be done to advance the position of women and girls in Europe as in Kenya. The Covid-19 pandemic is a salient reminder of the particular vulnerabilities of women and girls, as reflected in the increased cases of gender-based violence, school dropout rates, teenage pregnancies and job losses amongst women.
Correct the anomaly
But there are also signs of progress: Kenya women occupy leading positions in business, media, civil society and the NGO sector, where they are torchbearers for the generations of Kenyan women to follow.
The county assemblies are an outstanding example, by global comparison, of women’s participation in politics at a local level. There are many notable high-achieving Cabinet secretaries, some in portfolios traditionally the preserve of men. Women MPs hugely contribute to Kenya’s political life.
It is, therefore, surprising that, with all the provisions in the Constitution, including the two-thirds gender rule, and the prominence of women in other sectors, Kenya lags behind other East African countries in women’s representation in Parliament.
With the upcoming August 9 general election, Kenya’s (mainly male) political leaders can correct the anomaly. They can ensure inclusivity in the ongoing party primaries; parties giving financial support to women aspirants for registration and campaigns; and enforcing security arrangements to eliminate the abuse, harassment and violence — offline and online — that many women in general still face.
It is one thing to apply the two-thirds rule in the nominations and another to ensure women are nominated to seats they can actually win. The party that is fastest in ensuring women compete in winnable seats will be the first to reap the biggest rewards for promoting women candidates.
That would be a great step forward for equality.
European Union (EU) ambassadors in Kenya. @EUinKenya