Celebrating major strides in addressing gender challenges

Thursday March 9 2017

Eunice Akoth and Jackline Awuor harvest sand at Sondu River in Nyakwere, Homa Bay County, on March 8, 2017. Sand harvesting is a tough job that is often associated with men.  PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Eunice Akoth and Jackline Awuor harvest sand at Sondu River in Nyakwere, Homa Bay County, on March 8, 2017. Sand harvesting is a tough job that is often associated with men. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

By SICLIY KARIUKI
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“The woman is a powerhouse of creativity, development and peace. Conflict between men and women is, therefore, unnecessary because a woman brings an equal and powerful complementarity to the common human condition,” the late award-winning author, medical doctor, and world-renowned pro-life advocate, Dr Margaret Ogola

International Women’s Day, globally celebrated on March 8, commemorates struggles and accomplishments of women, while seeking untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations.

Women truly are the backbone of any given society. As one of Kenya’s greatest women champions, the late Dr Margaret Ogola, rightly puts it: “The woman is the heart of the family, and the family is the cornerstone of society. Women have been entrusted with the capacity to transmit life, which is the most precious gift that anybody can give or receive. Without life no other good is possible.”

As women constitute over 50 per cent of the population, they must be involved in achieving Vision 2030 goals. The key goal is to reduce gender disparities.

Coming from a male-dominated culture, Kenya is fast bridging the gap and allowing women to excel. The 2016 African Human Development Index ranked Kenya 18 in Africa and 145 globally in advancing gender equality.

PRIORITISING EDUCATION

During the 2016 Assembly for Women Conference, Kenya was awarded for doing well in giving priority to education for the girl child and recognising women in politics.

Education was identified as key to their participation in national development.

Today, more girls are completing the full education cycle and progressing beyond secondary education.

The government has also created finance institutions to provide women access to funds for business ventures. Under this category fall affirmative funds, with the core being the Women’s Enterprise Fund.

The fund provides business support services such as capacity building, local and international marketing, promoting linkages between micro, small and medium enterprises, and investment infrastructure. It provides affordable credit to start and expand businesses.

About 1.3 million women have benefited in the past four years from a disbursement of Sh6.7 billion from the total national allocation at inception of Sh9.6 billion. Women have proved trustworthiness as their repayment rate stands at 92 per cent. Another platform is the 30 per cent public procurement set aside for women and youth.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

This translates to about $2.2 billion a year worth of business. Since June 2013, some 54,000 businesses have been registered and more than 6,000 firms have already got business from the government. The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 2015, Prohibition of FGM Act 2011, the Sexual Offences Act 2006 as well as the National Policy on Prevention and Response to Gender-Based Violence 2014 have provided frameworks for the protection of women.

Kenya has demonstrated appreciation of the significance of having women in leadership. A testament of this was the support for Foreign Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed’s run for the African Union Commission chair. Other areas where gender inequality has been narrowed are the Legislature, where women make up 25 per cent of members.

In the Cabinet, women hold 25.5 per cent of the positions, 37 per cent hold high-level positions in the Judiciary, 34 per cent Principal Secretary positions and 50 per cent of all MCAs are women. The two-third gender rule allows for more women to get into political leadership.

As we celebrate these achievements, let us not forget this journey that cannot be walked alone. Men are lead proponents. Therefore, let us work together for a better and more gender-inclusive Kenya.

Ms Kariuki is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs. [email protected]