Ruto fails to deliver on election pledges he made to women

Kenya Kwanza Women Charter

Participants follow proceedings at the Nyayo National Stadium during the unveiling of the Kenya Kwanza Women Charter in mid June 2022. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Dr Ruto committed to a 50-50 gender representation in his cabinet. He reneged on this pledge.
  • Under healthcare, Dr Ruto had outlined his plan of launching a Hustler Health Care programme.

President William Ruto came into office full of promises to empower women. The elaborate pledges are contained in the Kenya Kwanza manifesto under the Women Charter.

Dr Ruto committed to a 50-50 gender representation in his cabinet. He reneged on this pledge. Of his 22-member cabinet, including the Prime CS, only seven are women.

He, however, appointed three women to other top positions; Monica Juma (National Security Advisor), Harriet Chiggai (Women Rights Agency Advisor), and Mercy Wanjau (Secretary to the Cabinet). 

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi said advisors are not “substantive members of the cabinet”and, as such, the President reneged on his promise.

During the launch of the Women Charter in June, Dr Ruto said: “Within three months of the Kenya Kwanza rule, we will put a mechanism to actualise the two-third gender rule and immediately operationalise that mechanism so that women don’t have to wait longer.”

A year on, the two-thirds gender bill is yet to be introduced in Parliament. However, in August 15, Public Service, Gender and Affirmative Action CS Aisha Jumwa gazetted a 23-member multi-sectoral working group to develop and recommend a framework for implementing the principle. Mr Osotsi noted that, although it is among the agendas of the bipartisan talks, it’s fate is uncertain.

Under healthcare, Dr Ruto had outlined his plan of launching a Hustler Health Care programme. And by December 2022, he had projected that every woman in Kenya would have been insured with the National Health Insurance Fund. The time elapsed before the promise became a reality.

In the workplace, he vowed to take measures to prevent sexual harassment. But his government is yet to adopt the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Violence and Harassment Convention, No.190 of 2019, popularly known as ILO C190.

The convention requires a country to create a “world of work” free from violence and harassment which comprise unacceptable behaviours and practices or threats aimed at causing physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm.

He has however fulfilled his promise of establishing a Women Rights Agency having appointed Ms Chiggai to the office.

Further, Mr Ruto committed to ensuring 50 per cent of the “proposed Sh50 billion Hustlers Fund earmarked for the promotion of micro and small enterprises is allocated to women owned enterprises.”

But the Financial Inclusion Fund has no specific guideline to this effect. Nevertheless it offers group and individual micro-enterprise loans.

Mr Jean Paul Murunga, a gender specialist, said the President’s understanding of women’s empowerment is limited to economic empowerment yet there are many aspects to it.

“Women's economic empowerment can be overridden by violence. They can be making a lot of money but all of it goes to the man,” he said.

He said even with the Hustler Fund, the accessibility is limited and more beneficial to women in urban and peri-urban areas.

He said the reality of the digital divide kicks out the rural and the most vulnerable women who ideally are the targeted groups. The loans are only accessible via mobile phones.

According to the Mobile Gender Gap Report 2023, only 39 per cent of Kenyan women have adopted mobile internet, which enables one to access e-information through multiple platforms. This leaves a huge population of 61 per cent at a disadvantage. 

“This government has also come out as a religious administration yet we know religion is used to perpetuate male supremacy. This is a silent conversation that no one is talking about but it’s time we use religion to promote gender equality,” said Mr Murunga.

Vihiga Woman Rep Beatrice Kahai Adagala lauded Dr Ruto for boosting the National Government Affirmative Action Fund by Sh1 billion.

She however said they are still pushing for distribution of sanitary towels to girls in secondary schools and diapers for mothers as promised.