It’s a big win for Kenyan women

Saturday August 7 2010

Cabinet ministers Charity Ngilu (left) and Sally Kosgey follow proceedings during a meeting of the members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution at the Great Rift Valley Lodge in Naivasha. The new constitution gives a boost to the number of women representatives in decision making bodies.  Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE

Cabinet ministers Charity Ngilu (left) and Sally Kosgey follow proceedings during a meeting of the members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution at the Great Rift Valley Lodge in Naivasha. The new constitution gives a boost to the number of women representatives in decision making bodies. Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE 

By LUCAS BARASA

Women are awaiting emancipation and empowerment when the new constitution takes effect.

“It is as if it was written for us,” said Kathiani MP Wavinya Ndeti. “We will now be recognised. We will now have equal treatment of men and women, including job opportunities. Women whose husbands die will no longer be disinherited,” said Ms Ndeti.

She said women were the greatest beneficiaries of new constitution adding that children were also properly protected.

Article 68 protects dependants of the deceased which, the MP said, “will bring to an end cases where women are thrown out of their matrimonial homes when their husbands die”.

Nominated MP Millie Odhiambo celebrates the fact that the new law also protects matrimonial homes and widows’ rights to land, and the two provisions will provide greater security for women.

Article 45 (3) also entitles to married people equal rights.

Victims of sexual and gender violence have received special attention. The new constitution further protects children, minority and marginalised groups.

Discrimination of women at the workplace because of pregnancy and marriage will now be a thing of the past.

On citizenship, women have been conferred the same rights as men, which means if a woman gets pregnant by non-Kenyan, the child could get Kenyan citizenship.

Article 14(1) says a person is a citizen if, at birth, either the mother or father is a citizen.

Article 15 further states that a person who has been married to a citizen for at least seven years is entitled on application to be registered as a citizen.

Women further stand to benefit from representation, as each county is required to elect a woman representative to the National Assembly.

In addition, at least six of the 12 members nominated to the National Assembly shall be women. There will be 18 women in the Senate under reserved seats.

Women will be free to contest the remaining seats in the Senate and National Assembly.

“Kenyan women will therefore have true and strong representation in the legislative arms of government. They will direct and influence laws. They will determine development priorities and the application of resources,” said Water Minister Charity Ngilu added.

Through the Kenya Women Parliamentarians Association secretary Cecily Mbarire said the new constitution would render void customary or religious laws that are in contradiction with its provisions.

“This is important to women because the current Constitution has legitimised subordination of women as it embraces legal pluralism, which embodies customary and religious laws that are discriminatory to women,” she said.