Devolution is a game changer for women and girls

The seven women governors. Top from left: Cecily Mbarire (Embu), Fatuma Achani (Kwale) and Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay). Bottom from left: Wavinya Ndeti (Machakos), Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Anne Waiguru  (Kirinyaga) and Kawira Mwangaza (Meru).

Photo credit: Photos I Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Women face myriads of historical, political, economic and sociocultural barrier in their quest to participate in leadership.
  • Thanks to devolution, we now have women heading counties though their number remains dramatically lower than that of men – seven out of 47.

I am privileged to be associated with a county headed by a woman governor – Gladys Wanga. Ten years ago, this was just a dream for many Kenyan women and I can confirm - things are moving in Homa Bay.

Thanks to devolution, we now have women heading counties though their number remains dramatically lower than that of men – seven out of 47.

Women face myriads of what I refer to as historical injustices – historical, political, economic and sociocultural barriers – in their quest to participate in leadership.

Thirteen years after the promulgation of the Constitution (2010), I am not sure whether I should celebrate or not.  We have made strides, but some gains to women’s representation continue to be eroded. Worse still, the two-thirds gender rule remains a mirage.

In spite of the challenges, however, the decentralisation of power has created significant changes for the women and girls. It has provided men and women the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres. Women can now participate in county leadership and integrate gender-responsive policies.

An area where devolution has made a notable impact is healthcare. County governments have prioritised women’s health services by establishing and improving facilities within their jurisdictions. This has led to better maternal and child health outcomes, reduced maternal mortality rates, and increased access to family planning services.

Devolution has also fostered women’s economic empowerment. Several counties have initiated programmes that support women’s entrepreneurship, enabling women to establish and grow businesses, thus contributing to local economic development.

Education for girls has also received increased attention, with the devolved units tailoring education policies to address gender disparities, including issues like early marriage, female genital mutilation and school dropout rates among girls.

Women have gained opportunities to take up leadership positions within county administrations, enabling them to influence policies that directly impact their lives.
Indeed, devolution remains a driving force behind positive change for women and girls. There is a need for continued efforts to ensure the gains continue to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment.

As the annual Devolution Conference ongoing in Eldoret comes to a close tomorrow, I hope today’s session on affirmative action offers some direction on the two-thirds gender rule.

Thankfully, the journey to the gender principle got a boost this week after Public Service, Affirmative Action and Gender CS Aisha Jumwa gazetted a 17-member multiagency team to actualise it.

Congratulations to the power team, take care of our interests. This is a priority agenda for women; it is your chance to make it a reality. There seems to be political goodwill this time round. I have interacted with most of you and I know you are up to the task.  I look forward to a successful journey. I look forward to having a female governor in my home county of Siaya soon.

Meanwhile, beginning this week, we are running a series on the good, the bad and the ugly of devolution for Kenyan women and girls. Here is the first story.

Blessed week ahead.