The power women shaping Kenya Kwanza government

The power women in Ruto’s State House

There are at least 17 women strategically positioned in the Executive and in key roles that the President says will shape his legacy.

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

President William Ruto has crafted his government with an eye on empowering women – a record seven are part of his Executive while others are in key state agencies – as he strives to push for the realisation of the elusive two-thirds gender rule in Parliament.

The Head of State seems to be reading from his Kenya Kwanza Women Charter signed at the height of election campaigns, which spelt out seven key pledges his administration would undertake to uplift women.

He pledged economic empowerment, inclusion of women in leadership, education, protection against sexual and gender-based violence, access to quality healthcare, use of environment-friendly fuel and enforcement of property ownership rights.

There are at least 17 women strategically positioned in the Executive and in key roles that the President says will shape his legacy.

The Cabinet has the highest number of women since independence. They are: Aisha Jumwa (Public Service, Gender and Affirmative Action), Alice Wahome (Water and Sanitation), Rebecca Miano (East Africa Community, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development), Soipan Tuya (Environment and Forestry), Susan Nakhumicha (Health), Peninah Malonza (Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage) and Florence Bore (Labour and Social protection).

Others in strategic positions are Mercy Wanjau (Secretary to the Cabinet), Monica Juma (National Security Advisor) and Harriet Chiggai (Women Rights Agency Advisor).

The spouses to the three top leaders in the Executive – President Ruto, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi – Ms Rachel Ruto, Ms Dorcas Rigathi and Ms Tessie Mudavadi respectively, have also taken up various duties to help improve the Kenya Kwanza administration’s service delivery.

President Ruto’s confidante – National Assembly Deputy Speaker Gladys Boss – is a key legislative affairs adviser to the Head of State, as is business woman Mary Wambui, whom the President appointed to chair the board of the Communications Authority.

UDA governors including the chairperson of the Council of Governors and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Cecily Mbarire (Embu) and Fatuma Achani (Kwale) are also said to be among the President’s inner circle of advisers on women affairs.

Ms Jumwa’s docket is a key cog in President Ruto’s government, being since it is the custodian of government human resource information and in charge of public sector reforms.

The docket is also in charge of formulation of government payroll policy and standards and gender mainstreaming in ministries, departments and agencies.

Ms Wahome’s ministry is in charge of water resources management policy and standards as well as water harvesting and storage for domestic and industrial use, land reclamation through construction of dams and dykes and flood control management, among other functions.

During his Jamhuri Day speech, President Ruto noted that time had come for the country to liberate its agricultural production from dependence on rainfall and vulnerability to drought.

“We must produce food throughout the year. We have identified 100 dams in various parts of the country to double the land under irrigation from the current 670,000 acres, and progressively increase it to three million acres,” the President said.

Ms Miano is tasked with the co-ordination of the government’s participation in regional affairs and co-ordination of planning, which could help improve Kenya’s relations with her neighbours. She is also in charge of development for arid and semi-arid lands, areas that have been long neglected by successive governments. Improving their lot will be a major credit to President Ruto’s government.

Ms Tuya leads the docket that President Ruto says will form part of his legacy, with a target of growing 15 billion trees on 11 million hectares in every part of Kenya by 2030 to combat effects of climate change.

“Our objective is to increase the national tree cover from the current 12 per cent to 30 per cent over that period. This programme will be implemented through the Ministry of Environment in collaboration with county governments and many other stakeholders, local and foreign,” the President said.

Ms Nakhumicha is steering President Ruto’s health agenda, including plans to ensure all Kenyans are covered by the National Health Insurance Fund.

Ms Malonza will drive the tourism agenda as she seeks to boost its contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) . The sector is on a recovery trajectory after the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Bore is tasked with driving the national labour and employment policy under President Ruto’s administration. She is also tasked with the role of national human resource planning and development.

By picking Ms Wanjau as the secretary to the Cabinet, President Ruto sought to end the recurrent appointment of men in the prestigious position.

On her part, Ms Juma, has a wealth of experience as a career civil servant and has headed various powerful dockets, including, Defence and Foreign Affairs ministries.

By virtue of her new role, she will be key in shaping the government’s policies and undertakings on security, helping to bolster the ministries of Interior and Defence functions.

Ms Chiggai, an advocate, will be instrumental in advancing the President’s women rights agenda and shaping the gender rule plan by the Kenya Kwanza administration.

For Ms Waiguru, the absence of the ministry of Devolution in Dr Ruto’s government makes her the link between the 47 county governments and the national government. She will therefore be critical in ensuring proper service delivery in the counties.

During the campaigns, President Ruto promised that a Kenya Kwanza government would give women equal opportunities in “mainstream politics, governance, leadership and entrepreneurship”.

After he picked Mr Gachagua as his running mate while Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga settled on Narc-Kenya’s Martha Karua, President Ruto went as far as promising that women would take half of the Cabinet slots to show his commitment to women’s inclusion in top leadership.

With the Executive now failry well off when it comes to women, the President is now focusing on Parliament to address the elusive two-thirds gender rule.

Last week, the President wrote to the two speakers of Parliament – Moses Wetang’ula (National Assembly) and Amason Kingi (Senate) – committing to, among other things, implement the gender rule in the two Houses.

Past attempts to enact the gender rule have hit a wall in Parliament. During the 12th Parliament, Chief Justice David Maraga issued an advisory to President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve the legislative arm of the government for going against the constitution.

“I propose that if Parliament concurs, a constitutional amendment be enacted establishing a formula to guide the computation of the gender ratio in the National Assembly based on the numbers of those members elected from constituencies and counties (Senate) per Article 97 and 98, respectively. The proposed amendment can be set out in article 97 (3),” the President wrote.

For Ms Rachel Ruto, Ms Rigathi and Ms Mudavadi, even though their roles are not defined in law, they have ventured into various activities not only to boost the image of the Kenya Kwanza government, but also helping women, youth and vulnerable persons in society through various programmes.

Ms Rigathi has launched an empowerment programme for boys while Ms Mudavadi has been distributing food to vulnerable groups.