What you need to know:
Kicker: Away from the political rhetoric, this is what the hopefuls say they will do for the women of Kenya.
There are nine days left until the 2022 General Elections which take place on 9th August. In the upcoming elections, Kenyans will get their chance to elect the fifth president of the Republic of Kenya from a pool of four men – Hon. William Ruto, Hon. Raila Odinga, Professor George Wajackoyah, and Mr. Mwaure Waihiga. As D-day inches closer, the four politicians and their political outfits have gone the breadth and length of this country searching for votes.
Away from the political rhetoric what do their plans have for the women of Kenya? Do they deal with the real issues affecting women today like; the high cost of living, gender-based violence, and lack of inclusion in governance positions and opportunities?
Today, as the election inches close, we examine what each of the four presidential candidates’ manifesto has for the women of Kenya.
William Ruto’s women’s agenda
The Kenya Kwanza manifesto was launched on Thursday, June 30, 2022, by Deputy President William Ruto who is the alliance’s presidential candidate. In its agenda for women, the Kenya Kwanza manifesto has prioritised healthcare for women and equity opportunities in leadership. “Participation of women in the key sectors of our economy is minimal, and a vast majority of women remain in low-income jobs or enterprises and endure poor working conditions,” cites the manifesto.
In the manifesto, Dr. Ruto has pledged to implement the two-thirds gender rule. It has also pledged to allocate half of all Cabinet positions to women. This implies that appointive positions in the public sector will adhere to the two-thirds gender. “The realization of the two-thirds gender rule will be done through the elective and appointive positions in the public sector within 12 months of the election,” he says in the manifesto.
His main opponent Raila Odinga has however proposed a progressive aim at gender parity in all appointments. At the very least, he proposes that the two-third gender rule be adhered with. He also proposes for the enforcement of the not more than one third gender rule in elective or appointive bodies. This proposal corresponds with the two-third requirement by the Constitution and is also aimed at attaining gender parity.
But the two proposals by Dr. Ruto and Mr. Odinga will be a Herculean task. Parliament has tried to enact it 10 times without success.
The outgoing parliament had 75 elected and nominated women MPs, translating to about 21.48 per cent of the 349-member House. This meant that about 42 women MPs would have to be nominated to comply with the gender principle.
In the upcoming General Elections, both Dr. Ruto and Raila’s political outfits have not met this rule.
In his manifesto, Dr. Ruto has also promised to provide financial and capacity-building support for women through the ‘Hustler’ fund for women-led co-operative societies, chamas, merry-go-rounds and table banking initiatives, as well as establish a social welfare fund for Kenyan women working abroad as a safety net.
“We shall provide financial and capacity-building support for women through the Hustler Fund for women-led co-operative societies, Chamas, merry-go-rounds, and table banking initiatives and protect them from predatory interest rates charged by unscrupulous money lenders,” he says.
According to economic analyst Ephraim Njega, the proposed Hustler Fund is a Sh50 billion annual kitty that is expected to dish out Sh250 billion within five years. “There is no mechanism on how this money will be disbursed or where it will come from. Spending Sh250 billion on the programme means that the fund will be running a bigger loan book than established lenders such as Absa Bank which have been in operation for decades,” says Njega.
Dr. Ruto has also pledged to lower the cost of living within 100 days. He says that he will do this through a reduction of taxes. During the presidential debate, he singled out VAT Tax on fuel as one of the taxes he will abolish. Kenya imposed 16 percent VAT on all petroleum products in 2015 as a cautionary pre-condition by the International Monetary Fund before getting a loan.
Other key pledges that Dr. Ruto has proposed include an increase in the number of personnel at gender desks at police stations and funding for the Anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Board and fully implementing the Anti FGM law. According to UNICEF, an estimated 574,000 girls are at risk of undergoing FGM by 2030.
Raila Odinga’s promise to women
The Azimio La Umoja Manifesto was launched on June 6, 2022, by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga who is the Azimio coalition party’s presidential candidate. This manifesto is centred on a 10-point agenda. One of these is the Azimio la Kina Mama agenda. This is a programme that will be aimed at unlocking access to financing for women-led businesses. This agenda is also aimed at providing support for women on other enabling factors such as access to assets for production, land tenure, and proportional representation at all levels of government. “Azimio la Kina Mama programme will unlock access to financing for women-led businesses and provide support for women on other enabling factors such as access to assets for production, land tenure and proportional representation at all levels of government,” the manifesto states.
In the manifesto, Raila and his prospective deputy Martha Karua have promised to support women and youth who form the bulk of 2 million poor households with a Sh6,000 monthly stipend. According to Ms. Karua the money to fund these payouts will be raised from the war on corruption. “It will cost roughly Sh120 to 150 billion in a year. But remember we are losing over Sh800 billion to corruption. There is money, and we will be able to do these things,” she said.
According to Njega, this proposal will translate to a bill of Sh144 billion annually, yet there is no actual plan on how this money will be raised. “This is pure fantasy as there is no plan on how these funds will actually be realised. Financing such a huge project under current economic circumstances risks increasing the budget deficit,” says Njega.
He adds that the proposed two million household beneficiaries translate to about 15 percent of all households in the country. “What would be more practical is a work-for-cash programme, with beneficiaries cut to 1 million and the amount increased to Sh12,000. For a 20-day work month, this would be Sh600 daily, which is a good start for someone in the rural area,” says Njega.
Raila has also pledged to safeguard the welfare of widows and single mothers. He states in his manifesto that he will establish financial literacy programs to help widows and single mothers in management of family resources. He will also work to reduce the cost of healthcare and education, and offer support services that will cushion these women from economical and emotional hardships. According to the World Bank, 4 out of 10 households, or 34.6 percent of all households in Kenya are headed by women. These women are classified as single mothers, divorcees, widows, and wives who take charge because their men are constantly away.
According to Agnes Obat, a single mother of one who runs a small hotel in Ziwani, a single mother has to play both roles. “It means the woman is the head of the family and she is on her own. When the cost of living is high like it is now, we are struggling to cater to our children singlehandedly,” Ms. Obat told the Nation.
According to the UN Women Country Representative Ms. Anna Mutavati, widows do not know their rights leading to many inheritance cases being thrown out. “There is a need for training on what to do to protect widows, especially on matters regarding inheritance,” she said.
On hygiene, Raila has proposed that all school-going girls in every public school will be provided with sanitary towels. To ensure this shall happen without mishaps, he has proposed for the facilitation of local manufacturing and distribution of the sanitary towels. Incidentally, this proposal is also shared by Dr. Ruto who has proposed for free sanitary towels to be distributed to all schools, and all washrooms located in low-income areas where women are most vulnerable.
In 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta assented to the Basic Education Amendment Act, which required the national government to provide free, quality, and sufficient sanitary pads to every puberty-aged girl in a public basic education school.
On cost of living, Raila has said that he will make budgetary adjustments for both recurrent and development expenditure. “We’ll reduce the price of essential commodities such as maize flour, cooking oil, and petrol by working with local and foreign companies supplying the products. This will develop a cut-plan that will see them subsidise some costs while ensuring they remain in business,” he said.
According to Njega, tackling the high cost of living can only succeed if you target the cost drivers rather than the symptoms of high prices. “If you subsidise fertilizer and farmers have no water, the money will just end up in the drain,” he says.
It might also be tough to sustain subsidies such as fuel subsidies. The IMF has asked for the abolishment of the subsidy by October 2022 while the Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury Ukur Yatani has admitted that the subsidy is unsustainable. The delayed payment of this subsidy in April 2022 resulted in Kenya’s worst fuel shortage. Njega singles out the ongoing maize subsidy. “Millers are owed Sh500 million for the 2017 subsidy they took part in. This has caused them to release the subsidised unga in small batches to ensure they don’t burn their fingers again,” he says.
In his manifesto, Raila has also pledged:
Financial empowerment: He proposes that there will be government-guaranteed funds that shall be run by women. “Women will be appointed to these funds to improve access to government-guaranteed funds and affordable credit to women,” he says in his manifesto. Some of the government-guaranteed funds include Women Enterprise Fund, Uwezo Fund, and National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF).
Young women entrepreneurs: He says that he shall seek to enhance the capacity of young women in entrepreneurship, credit management, financial management, digital skills, mentorship, marketing, and record keeping. In addition, there will be established incubation centers for businesses targeting women in rural areas.
TVET: More women will be enrolled in technical and vocational colleges. This increased enrolment will target young women from informal settlements and rural areas.
George Wajackoyah’s take on women’s issues
The 12-point manifesto that was launched by the Roots Party leader Professor George Wajackoyah on, Thursday June 30, 2022, did not contain a specific pledge to women. However, follow-up pledges have been announced by Professor Wajackoyah. One of the proposals that the duo have made is a 12-month maternity leave for all mothers. This is bound to be rejected by employers. In 2017, the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) said that businesses cannot afford to give women six months of paid maternity leave. “It is not that we do not understand that mothers need time with their children, but it is impractical. Our economy cannot sustain such time-offs,” said Jacqueline Mugo, executive director at FKE.
Currently, the Kenya Employment Act allows women employees to take three months’ paid maternity leave. Men are allowed to take a two-week paid paternity leave. This is the Act that Wajackoyah will amend. In the amendment, working women will be allowed to take a leave for nine months during the duration of the pregnancy. Upon delivery, they will be granted an additional three months.
In addition to this, Professor Wajackoyah’s Roots Party has proposed that all pregnant women who provide verifiable evidence that they are pregnant will be made state projects. As state projects, they will be offered a stipend that will support them through their nine-month journey to delivery. This stipend will be given across board, regardless of whether the expectant woman has a job or not. “We want to take care of mothers’ rights from the inception of the child and we want to give them enough money because we shall have enough of it from the business of marijuana,” he said.
Wajackoyah claims that a bag of marijuana can cost up to $3.4 million (an equivalent of about Sh387.5 million). However, this has been proven wrong. According to the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime, the street price of marijuana in Kenya was between Sh20,000 ($170) and Sh40,000 ($340) per kilogram in 2019. In addition, the African Cannabis Report from industry analysts Prohibition Partners the value of Africa’s legal cannabis market could be at least $7.1 billion (Sh. 841 billion) across nine key African countries by 2023. With Kenya’s debt currently at Sh9 trillion, data from the Prohibition Partners shows that Kenya’s Cannabis production and sales would need to be more than what the US and Africa are raising currently and 74 per cent of what the world is expected to earn in 2026 to clear the debt in 12 months. According to economic analyst Patrice Indiatsi, this then renders the idea of providing stipends to pregnant women across the country from the sale of marijuana impossible.
Wajackoyah has also proposed that he will establish special police stations to handle cases of domestic and sexual abuse towards women and penalise men who abuse women. To lower the cost of living, Justina Wamae who is Professor Wajackoyah’s deputy designate says they’ll introduce marijuana flour for cooking ugali and chapati, and convert marijuana seeds into cooking oil. “Marijuana also gives flour. If maize is expensive, we can look at alternatives such as marijuana flour for ugali and chapati,” she says.
Mwaure Waihiga’s promise to women
The Agano party manifesto was launched on Monday July 4, 2022, by the Agano Party presidential candidate Mwaure Waihiga. According to Waihiga, this manifesto is based on 12 pillars. These pillars include the Constitution, family, women, youth, persons with disability, county governments, workers, business owners, economy, religious institutions, environment, and the international community.
On the pillar about women, the manifesto pledges that it will implement the two-third gender rule in all appointive positions across the public sector. The manifesto pledges that Agano shall sponsor a legislative provision that will make it mandatory for holders of substantive offices to have deputies from the opposite gender. The manifesto has also pledged that should Agano emerge victorious, there shall be enhanced access to government procurement opportunities (AGPO) reservation to youth, women, and people living with disability quota to 40 percent. Businesses that employ youths and women will get significant tax breaks and will also be given priority when it comes to issuance of government tenders.
To believe or not to believe what they say
According to economic analyst Ephraim Njega, you should take political pledges and promises with a pinch of salt. Njega says that the majority of gender and youth issues that are patched into political manifestos are only meant to entice voters. “I have reviewed the Azimio and Kenya Kwanza manifestos. When they talk about economic policies targeted at women, it is more about politics and less about economics. It is just appealing to the voting bloc,” he says. Njega reckons that if the economy is doing well, everyone will benefit regardless of their gender or age. If the economy is not working, everyone will suffer. “We are in a deep economic crisis. Unless it is resolved, such sectarian promises as contained in the manifestos will amount to nothing,” he says.