What you need to know:
- At the Women Deliver conference in Vancouver, Canada, in 2019, President Kenyatta gave a commitment to advance gender equality.
- The Constitution champions the two-thirds gender rule under Article 27 and, in Article 10, accelerated equality, inclusiveness and non-discrimination.
The quest for gender parity in leadership positions in Kenya’s justice sector, from the police, lawyers, judges and magistrates, has suffered myriad barriers, but on Wednesday, a bright light shone at the end of the tunnel.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, in Gazette Notice 4705, appointed Martha Karambu Koome as the Chief Justice upon her approval by Parliament. That ended a long wait for a female CJ since April 27, when the Judicial Service Commission nominated the then judge of the Court of Appeal to the position.
At the Women Deliver conference in Vancouver, Canada, in 2019, President Kenyatta gave a commitment to advance gender equality. Kenya has greatly championed gender equality.
The Constitution champions the two-thirds gender rule under Article 27 and, in Article 10, accelerated equality, inclusiveness and non-discrimination. However, an International Development Law Organization report says our gains in inclusivity have not necessarily translated to meaningful equality. The report says no woman has ever been Chief Justice, President of the Supreme Court, President of the Court of Appeal or even a member of the Kadhi’s Court.
Justice Effie Owuor was the country’s first female counsel, magistrate, High Court judge and Court of Appeal judge. Come January 2021, lawyer and judge Philomena Mwilu became the Deputy Chief Justice. Justice Mwilu is Acting CJ and President of the Supreme Court, the first woman in the position.
These are historic and powerful moments in the history of women leadership that ought to be amplified for greater change and equality.
As we celebrate this great achievement, we should not forget the persistent barriers and limitations to gender justice in our country. Article 10 and 27 may be strong in the fight for gender equality but the lack of effective execution of these laws continues to derail the gender equality train.
Amid the ineffective implementation are unique obstacles such as gender stereotypes, sexual harassment, inadequate mentorship and support networks for women, unequal pay and poor maternity health, which slow down women’s participation and professional advancement in the justice sector.
Securing this historical moment requires intentional investment in the implementation of Articles 10 and 27 of the Constitution, provision of gender equality policies, elimination of the unique obstacles women face in the justice sector and increased participation of women in the recruitment and representation at high-level institutional positions, such as Chief Justice and Attorney General.
It will also take collaborative efforts, starting from the family level, education, gender-sensitive training and mentorship promoting women leadership. Let us confidently tell our girls that they can be whomever they choose with integrity to serve all Kenyans with a lens of equality and quality.
Ms Odhiambo is the youth coordinator at Reproductive Health Network Kenya. @Eve_Odhis