Women applaud Ruto for effort towards gender parity

Harriette Chiggai, the President’s Advisor on Women’s Rights.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

Women drawn from different sectors in Kenya have lauded the good will by President William Ruto to ensure the two-third gender rule is implemented.

They called for broad consultations and consensus-building to make sure that the constitutional provision is enacted in Parliament.

Speaking during a meeting with the media in Nairobi, women leaders, lawyers and other stakeholders, led by Presidential Advisor on Women Rights Harriette Chiggai, said the greatest setback in achieving gender parity has been lack of political good will. 

Ms Chiggai pointed out that, under the current administration, the government is determined to ensure that the gender rule is passed and implemented.  

"The journey to gender parity in leadership and governance has remained subtle, but this puzzle must now be unmasked. The sweetener to all of us, I believe, is in the political goodwill by the Kenya Kwanza administration to unlock the impasse," she said. 

Since the Constitution was enacted in 2010, nine Bills on gender representation have been published and presented to the National Assembly, but they have all failed to get the necessary support.

Ms Chiggai said Dr Ruto’s regime had proved its commitment going by the number of women appointed to the Cabinet and other senior positions.

"Inclusion of women in leadership and governance is the greatest necessity that should be fulfilled," she said.

Noting that women and girls make extraordinary contributions in the economy, family and community, Ms Chiggai said they, however, continue to be denied opportunities for full participation both economically and politically. 

She urged the media to play its role in influencing the process of entrenching the gender representation constitutional provision.

"Everyone has to be brought on board. We require the media to put on its full armor and champion public awareness and participation. This way, you will be active shapers of cultural and social attitudes and thus impact on politics and public policy," she said. 

Ms Chiggai further challenged the media to host discussions, write columns and make documentaries that are gender-sensitive and gender-transformative in support of the proposed constitutional entrenchment. 

Last year, President Ruto sent his proposals to Parliament, including one on the implementation of the two-thirds gender principle. Other proposals by the President were on the National Government Constituency Development Fund, the Senate Oversight Fund, National Governmental Affirmative Action Fund, the creation of the position of the Leader of Official Opposition and parliamentary oversight of the Executive.  

On another matter, Ms Chiggai said the government had noted the effects of gender violence meted against women, rising teenage pregnancies, conflict and insecurity in some parts of the country and called for more resources and support to address the issues.

Further, she said the government has increased the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF) from Sh2.1 billion to Sh3 billion in the next financial year. 

The fund, which will run concurrently with other affirmative action initiatives in the counties will help address the needs of vulnerable members of society, including women. 

"This announcement comes one month after the launch of the Hustler Fund, which has helped many women and youth enterprises. I urge more women to borrow from this fund and expand their businesses," she said.

National Gender and Equality Commission Chairperson Joyce Mutinda said Dr Rut’s move to set up the Office of the Presidential Advisor on Women Rights was historic and the beginning of the journey to the achievement of the two-thirds gender rule.

She noted that lack of political goodwill and patriarchy were key to derailing the realization of the gender parity rule by excluding women from political and economic participation.

“We now need political consensus on the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule. The MP’s need to realise that this law  would be good for all Kenyans. However, there is need for more civic education so that Kenyans understand the importance of gender representation,” sh said. 

She added; “What we are asking is not new and it has been achieved in the 47 counties and can be replicated in the National Assembly and Senate. We ask the media for support.”

Daisy Amdany, the Executive Director at the Community Advocacy and Awareness (Crawn) Trust said cost implication should not be a hindrance to the realization of the two-third gender rule.

Ms Amdany said parliament had repeatedly failed women in the country by refusing to pass the gender rule while blaming it on the implementation cost and failing to adhere to court orders.

This would mean it would cost taxpayers Sh57 per year for the additional 35 women in the National Assembly and one in the Senate in order to comply with the gender top-up rule enshrined in the 2010 constitution.

“Cost should not be prohibitive… let us not put roadblocks on matters concerning gender rule,” she said, adding that the President’s letter is timely noting that the gender rule discussion has been there since time immemorial.

She said there was a bias on the part of the legislators saying there is a need to build capacity for them to understand their legislative role.

Jacob Otachi from the Kenya Law Reform Commission said the government was committed to ensure the gender rule is implemented this year, adding that they are engaging in civic education to ensure proposed amendments are realized.