Who will carry on Uhuru's gender equality agenda?

President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi.

Photo credit: Photo | PSCU

What you need to know:

  • Between 2019 and 2021, President Kenyatta made landmark gender equality commitments.
  • Mr Kenyatta is the co-leader of Generation Equality’s Action Coalition on ending GBV alongside leaders of the UK, Iceland, and Uruguay.

Were there a ‘gender advocate of the decade award’ for a president who has dedicated herself or himself to that cause, President Uhuru Kenyatta would easily win it.

In his two terms a the helm of Kenya's government, Mr Kenyatta has steered numerous affirmative policies and schemes to help bridge the gender gap.

Soon after he took up the reins in 2013, he launched free maternity services, Uwezo Fund and Access to Government Procurement Opportunities with a policy that 30 per cent of the public tenders go to women, youth and persons with disabilities.

In his second term, his leadership has been anchored on the Big Four Agenda, that is, food security, affordable housing, manufacturing, and affordable healthcare for all. Women are at the core of achieving food security as they make up to 75 per cent of Kenya’s agricultural labour.

The real estate industry is also booming with female architects running their own firms and employing fellow women. Affordable housing, therefore, presents an economic opportunity for them to contribute to not only Kenya’s development but also grow their businesses.

Women in manufacturing

Further, by 2019, women accounted for 17 per cent of the formal manufacturing sector, an increase from one per cent in the previous year, according to a joint survey by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the International Centre for Research on Women.

Based on research, women spend more money on health than men do, especially those aged 45-64, hence affordable healthcare relieves women of the financial burden that often leads to impoverishment.

Between 2019 and 2021, President Kenyatta made landmark gender equality commitments. Unforgettable is the pledge to end female genital mutilation by this year and the 12 commitments to ending gender-based violence (GBV) under Generation Equality, a global campaign led by UN Women to accelerate gender equality.

In fact, Mr Kenyatta is the co-leader of Generation Equality’s Action Coalition on ending GBV alongside leaders of members state UK, Iceland, and Uruguay.

It can be remembered that in 2020, he stood in the gap and ordered the National Crime Research Centre to probe underlying issues leading to teenage pregnancies. At the time, there was a national uproar from civil society over huge numbers of adolescents being impregnated in the six months of school closure due to Covid-19.

In all, Mr Kenyatta has cut himself out to be a gender champion despite the fact that he has not lobbied legislators allied to Jubilee Party and his handshake partner Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga to pass the two-thirds gender law.

And even when former Chief Justice David Maraga recommended that he dissolve Parliament over the failed gender bill, Mr Kenyatta did not pronounce himself on the matter, even though the advisory was challenged in court.

End of an era

His term is coming to an end and Kenya will have a new president after the August 9 General Election.

And here comes the question from gender equality advocates: Will the new administration carry on his legacy or roll back the progress made in reducing gender inequalities in Kenya?

Of the proposals to keep the momentum beyond 2022 is committing the current presidential aspirants to protecting the gains made and building on them through an official and binding agreement.

“President Uhuru Kenyatta has been no doubt a champion on promotion of gender equality at the national, regional and global level,” noted Dr Ademola Olajide, United Nations Population Fund representative for Kenya, on Wednesday during a national gender sector working group meeting convened by the Ministry of Gender.

“As we move towards elections and change of guard, it might be a strategic intervention if we develop a charter and get the principals of all political parties who are vying for leadership to sign up and adopt,” he proposed.

His suggestion was backed up by Gender Cabinet Secretary Prof Margaret Kobia who promised to act on it.

“How do we ensure the commitments made by the President, especially the 12 on ending GBV [are fulfilled?] …. We must put strategies so that the commitments are entrenched in the public service or government,” she said.

None of the main presidential contenders - Deputy President William Ruto (UDA), Raila Odinga (ODM), Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress) and Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper party) - has been categorical on their gender equality agenda. In a roadside declaration, however, DP Ruto has promised to create a kitty for commercial sex workers to start other businesses away from the trade, and carry on with the Big Four Agenda.


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