Deputy President William Ruto yesterday June 10 promised to distribute free sanitary towels, fully implement the two thirds gender rule, allocate a half of his cabinet to women and promote access to better healthcare for all women should Kenya Kwanza win the August election.
Dr Ruto faces a major political headache in his bid to win over the crucial women voting bloc and to counter his main rival Raila Odinga, who picked Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as his running mate.
He has since launched an aggressive campaign targeting women in the face of a political backlash that he has sidelined them in apportioning key government positions.
All the four presidential candidates cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) have picked women running mates except Dr Ruto, who settled on Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua.
Under the Kenya Kwanza Alliance agreement, Dr Ruto has nominated Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi as Chief Cabinet Secretary. Ford-K leader Moses Wetang’ula and Pamoja African Alliance’s (PAA) Amason Kingi have been proposed to take up National Assembly and Senate Speakers slots, respectively.
Azimio head of campaign team and Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi and ODM chairman John Mbadi said Kenya Kwanza was engaging in firefighting after losing out on the women agenda.
On Friday, Dr Ruto convened a Women Charter conference in Nairobi in a deliberate attempt to regain the confidence of women ahead of the polls.
Opinion polls conducted after the naming of the running mates suggest that the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition party has overtaken Dr Ruto in women’s backing.
The DP said his government will increase the number of women in leadership positions, create a Sh50 billion fund for women and the youth, provide new mothers with free diapers for three months and give free sanitary pads to schoolgirls.
He said his administration will place women at the centre of every decision-making process and prioritise them in planning and the execution of those decisions.
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Dr Ruto said women have for long been sidelined in the running of government, saying that his administration will also promote education of girls through bursaries and creation of training institutions focussed on courses geared towards their empowerment.
The DP spoke at the Nyayo National Stadium during the signing of an agreement between Kenya Kwanza and women groups drawn from various parts of the country under the Kenya Kwanza Women Caucus.
“I commit to actualising the two thirds gender principle and to put in place mechanisms within the first three months of the Kenya Kwanza Alliance government and ensure that this principle is actualised immediately the mechanism is in place and that it does not have to wait until the next general election,” he said.
“I also commit to allocating 50 per cent of all Cabinet positions to the women of Kenya. Additionally, I commit that we will ensure that the public service commission in all its advertisement and recruitment and all government agencies, commissions, and parastatals shall strictly observe the two thirds gender rule.”
Dr Ruto said the signing of the charter was a testament to Kenya Kwanza’s commitment to placing women at the centre of decision-making processes.
“Today marks a turning point in the governance of the republic of Kenya, where women can sit on an equal basis with men. Women will become equal partners, will have equal voice and will occupy equal positions in the highest decision-making organ. We will get rid of tokenism and piecemeal [measures] and ensure women are right at the table with other Kenyans.”
He said the agreement is will help increase the participation of women in leadership and governance.
“This is a special moment for the women of Kenya where we have come to put pen to paper on a document...so that we can change the destiny of our nation by making sure another half the population of Kenya is mainstreamed into the politics, governance, business and the economy of Kenya,” he added.
The Kenya Kwanza Alliance will also put in place legislative, policy and budgetary measures to help eliminate discrimination against women in the labour market and enterprise, he added.
The DP said his government will also ensure the security, safety and dignity of all women and girls, eradicate sexual and gender-based violence, increase the number of personnel at gender desks and increase funding for the Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Board.
“I also commit that we will support young women transitioning to our TVETs, especially to undertake science, technology, engineering and mathematic courses. And they will be automatic beneficiaries of government bursary.
“We will also create in the Kenya School of Government an institute to train women and build their capacity in leadership and entrepreneurship,” Dr Ruto said.
Other promises included ending the use of firewood and charcoal for cooking, ensuring full enforcement of the spousal consent provisions of the law in land transactions and introducing an affordable ‘hustler’ healthcare plan for women and children.