Women praise proposed law’s provisions on gender equality - Daily Nation

Women praise proposed law’s provisions on gender equality

Friday November 27 2009

By ROSEMARY OKELLO

Women political, regional and professional leaders on Friday gathered in Nairobi to audit each chapter and article of the harmonised draft constitution.

They had a consensus on each one of them, which they will present to the Committee of Experts as their official stand.

The meeting came against a backdrop of fears that most women across the country were not engaging in the discussions and debates around the draft constitution, yet they were some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups.

Provisions in the draft constitution, as captured by their audit, are expected to reverse past gender injustices and biases, hence the importance of women of all races and classes to own the process, the meeting said.

Speaker after speaker said that, this time around, the process should not fail, and that she would make it a win-win situation for every Kenyan.

The draft recognises gender issues and the marginalisation that women have encountered for many years in political, economic and social spheres, and spells out the steps to be taken to right the wrongs.

During the meeting, organised by the Kenya Women’s Political Alliance and attended by Fida-Kenya, Caucus for Women Leadership, CREAW, AWC, Maendeleo ya Wanawake, National Council of Women in Kenya (NCWK), the participants agreed that, generally, the draft captured some of their concerns, even though there were articles that contradicted the spirit of affirmative action shrined as a principle in the draft.

Taking the women through the draft, Prof Wanjiku Kabira, who teaches at the University of Nairobi, and also a former member of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission, reminded them of the long journey they had made to make sure affirmative action was enshrined in the constitution.

“For the women, it has been a long struggle to see the issues they have advocated being reflected in the harmonised draft constitution,” she said.

Commenting on the hardline positions taken by some politicians on some chapters in the draft, Ms Deborah Okumu, the Caucus for Women’s Leadership executive director, said women this time hoped that a middle ground would be arrived at to give the country a new constitution.

Ms Wambui Kanyi analysed the draft clause by clause and article by article, bringing out the salient features of each. Under the national values and principles, the women expressed happiness that Article 2(1) guarantees women full participation in the nation’s political, social and economic activity.

Article 2 (j) provides that the government will use the principle that stipulates that not more than two thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.

In Kenya, where getting into political leadership is sometimes next to impossible for women, this is a positive step to realising the 30 per cent representation in all political and other decision-making organs.

On the section on citizenship, article 17 sections 1, 2 and 3 gives a woman the right to confer citizenship to her children, something women have been advocating for a long time.

There are cases in which women have found it difficult to get vital documents for their children if the father is not there, or if they present applications for such documents as single parents.

What will also change is the situation in which only men can have citizenship for their non-Kenyan spouses. Article 18 gives women the right to do do this, meaning that this right will be enjoyed by both genders.

On Chapter 5 on culture, the women singled out Article 7 (f), which focuses on the protection of intellectual property. This is likely to boost women’s economic well-being as they are the custodians of culture.

The meeting was happy with the Bill of Rights, Chapter 6, which they say had contextualised well women’s rights within the human rights framework.

Article 38 states that women and men have the right of equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social activities.

The women were pleased with how the draft tackled the emotive issue of land. In Chapter 7 on land and property, Article 77 (2)f states that the elimination of gender discrimination in laws, regulations, customs and practices related to land and property will ensure women are entitled to inheritance.

Equally pleasing to the women is Chapter 10 on representation. Of particular interest to them is Article 102(b), which directs the electoral system to also satisfy gender equity in elected bodies, as provided in Article 13(2)(j) on implementing the principle that not more than two thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.

On the Legislature, Article 15(b) states that two women shall be elected from each county assembly, acting as an electoral college, and on the National Assembly membership, with sections in Article 126 providing how women and people with disability are elected.

On Chapter 14, women noted that devolution was one of the major sections that would have a direct positive implication on women’s participation in decision-making. First and foremost, it ill bring power closer to where most women are, and second, the implantation of affirmative action principle of one third representation of either gender will greatly contribute to nurturing women for leadership at all levels.

Article 214(c), for instance, states that no more than two thirds of members of representative bodies in each devolved government shall be of the same gender. And within the regional assemblies, Article 216 (3) notes that in electing delegates, county assembly shall take into account ethnic and other diversities, including gender representation.

But women at yesterday’s meeting were aware that unless there was consensus on the Executive, devolution and the kadhi’s courts, all these good provisions would not come to fruition.

They therefore pledged to work hard to ensure there was a compromise on all the issues.

An AWC Feature

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