What you need to know:
- A spot check on websites of different companies shows widespread noncompliance.
- The situation is more concerning in the agriculture industry where most women work.
Parliament has over the years faced criticism for failing to legislate the two thirds gender rule. However, contrary to public perception, public institutions are not the only bodies required to apply the principle.
While the government continues to flout the rule even in President William Ruto’s National Security Council, which is now a men-only affair, private sector institutions have also gone unscrutinised in their appointments.
Recently, the Kenya Union of Savings & Credit Cooperatives (Kuscco), an umbrella group for savings and credit cooperative societies (Saccos), announced its 50th anniversary, with an advertisement in the Daily Nation. The institution shared information of its all-male board of directors under an ironic title: ‘The Sacco Family Union’.
The advert sparked public outrage due to the composition, while women rights’ groups, such as the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (Kewopa), asked Kuscco to revoke the appointments.
In a press release, Kewopa chairperson Leah Sankaire expressed the organisation's distaste over the discriminatory appointments that clearly went against the gender principle.
“We are appalled that a body in the cooperative sector – which is full of women members, including women Saccos and women-led Saccos – can present such an image to this nation. It is a clear indication that Kuscco Ltd has no recognition of the importance of women's voices and perspectives in decision-making processes and governance,” reads the statement.
Dr Agnes Mutua-Meroka, a senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi School of Law, makes reference to Article 27 (8) of the Constitution on equality and non-discrimination to explain why the private sector is also bound by the gender rule.
“The principle does not only apply to the three arms of government. It binds all institutions, including public and private ones, because the Constitution, which is the supreme law, applies to all Kenyans,” she says.
Commenting on Kuscco, she terms it “hypocritical for Saccos whose major clients are women to not have women at the decision-making table”.
In an interview with Nation.Africa, Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya executive director Anne Ireri shared that their follow-up on the Kuscco board composition revealed that all the positions were elective.
“However, we still question whether they (Kuscco) had attempted or deliberately made an effort to ensure that women were in a position to vie for the seats. There is already a pool of competent women in the private sector, but these organisations do not place them in strategic positions so that they are able to vie for office free from discrimination and intimidation,” Ms Ireri said.
Regrettably, a spot check on websites of some publicly listed companies shows that Kuscco is not alone. The situation is more concerning in the agriculture industry where most women work.
Kakuzi PLC, a company that trades in avocados, blueberries, macadamia and tea, has an all-male board of executive and non-executive directors. The only woman featured on their website is Pamella Ager, who is an independent director.
REA Vipingo, a sisal company, also has an all-male board of directors, while Eaagads Ltd has only one woman on its five-member board.
Sasini PLC is the only agricultural company that satisfies the gender rule, with three women on its eight-member-board.
The sad state of affairs also grips the construction industry, where Bamburi Cement and Crown Paints only have one woman each on their boards.
In the airline industry, national carrier Kenya Airways has only one woman on its 12-member board.
The banking industry is relatively better, with most companies complying with the gender principle and some like KCB Group, HF Group, Standard Chartered and Equity Bank even achieving parity. However, NCBA has only one woman on its 11-member board, while Cooperative Bank has three women on its 25-member board.