Leaders urge women to take up leadership on International Women's Day

Tuesday March 8 2016

Kenya's First Lady Margaret Kenyatta addresses participants during the International Women's Day celebrations at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Nairobi on March 8, 2016. PHOTO | PSCU

Kenya's First Lady Margaret Kenyatta addresses participants during the International Women's Day celebrations at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Nairobi on March 8, 2016. PHOTO | PSCU 

By SAMUEL KARANJA
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By JACQUELINE KUBANIA
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Even though the country has made significant gains in empowering women, female genital mutilation (FGM), rape and domestic violence remain some of the biggest threats that girls and women face daily.

Speaking during the International Women’s Day celebrations at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, women leaders were in agreement that more still needs to be done to safeguard women's rights.

The leaders also urged women to take up leadership positions so that they can protect their voice in society and become active participants in driving the nation’s agenda.

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, the chief guest, called on stakeholders to continue investing more in peace building in communities to reduce the number of girls and women suffering as a result of conflict.

“Excluding women from any societal process especially peace building process is saying no to progress and no to true peace,” the First Lady said.

The Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Sicily Kariuki said that the government’s agenda on gender equality and women’s empowerment was guided by the Constitution, and was aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals and other continental and global frameworks.

The CS added that Sh22 billion has been disbursed so far to women and youth through the Uwezo fund, Youth Enterprise Development Fund and the Women Enterprise Fund.

“Uwezo Fund has disbursed Sh5.35 billion to all the 290 constituencies in the country while the Women Enterprise Fund has disbursed Sh7.5 billion to 1,167,317 women,” said Ms Kariuki.

The national FGM prevalence rate had also dropped from 27 per cent in 2009 to 21 per cent in 2014 while the application of the affirmative action principle in the Constitution had seen the number of women in Parliament rise by 21.5 per cent up from 9.9 per cent in 2007, the CS noted.

On her part, the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association chairperson Ms Cecily Mbarire said at least 50 more women should be elected to the National Assembly if women are to have a voice in this country.

"If we want to make real change in the society, we must seek political power" said the Runyenjes MP.

"It is not enough to call yourself a woman politician if you cannot have an equal chance with men at the political table", she added.

Ms Mbarire also urged male MPs to support the one third gender rule Bill once it comes up for voting in the National Assembly.

WOMEN GAINS IN KENYA

According to article 14 (1), a woman is able to pass on citizenship to her child regardless of whether she is married to a Kenyan man or not. 

Under article 45, both parties in a marriage are deemed as equal, at the time they get married, during the marriage and at the dissolution of marriage as well.

This ensures that property acquired during marriage must be shared equally between both parties, regardless of whomever bought it.

One of the most progressive of these constitutional provisions is that women now have the same property and land rights as men.

In the old Constitution, women were locked out from inheriting land once their parents or spouses died.

But the law now stipulates that everyone including women has the right to inheritance and access to land and property, according to article 60 (1).

Women’s parental privileges are also protected in the 2010 Constitution with Article 53(1) stipulating that parental responsibility be shared equally between both parents whether or not they are married.

This ensures that a woman is well within her rights to sue her children’s father for child maintenance even though she might not be married to him.

Perhaps the most contentious of these constitutional provisions and one that is yet to be actualized remains 81 (b) which demands that not more than two thirds of elective positions should be held by people of the same gender.

Parliament, which currently only has 21.5 per cent women, has postponed the actualisation of this two-third gender rule due to disagreements about how it should be implemented.