Echo Network Africa, previously known as Kenya Women Holdings, has launched the Democracy Trust Fund for women aspiring for leadership. The rebranding is a new dawn for women in Kenya as they will be able to save for their political dreams through the Democracy Trust Fund, said Dr Jennifer Riria, the Group CEO Echo Network Africa and the patron of Democracy Trust Fund.
“Competition in the political scene has spelt challenges for women to lead. There are so many hindrances, yet women are not serviced to take up leadership positions. Most of the women say that there is no even playing ground for women to compete for leadership positions as men,” Dr Riria observed as she opened the launch of Democracy Trust Fund at the Intercontinental Hotel on Wednesday morning.
Across the country, many women want to vie for political leadership positions, but they are unable to pay for the political processes, even political party membership. “Political parties have failed women aspirants and other groups that they purport to support,” Dr Riria said.
The Constitution of Kenya 2010 provides that a third of any leadership positions should be occupied by women. But this is not happening, until we provide women with what it takes to get there through the power fund, she added.
The Democracy Trust Fund is a game-changer in that it will change the conversation that women need to be supported. “Through the fund, women will work themselves to leadership positions,” she noted.
Women will participate in building and creating the fund through savings. “They know how much they require to vie for political positions. So they will save towards it,” said Dr Riria. On the pragmatic side, the fund will endear the women aspirants to the community that they would want to lead. “This will give them an edge,” she added.
The fund will be managed professionally by fund managers and custodians. “The money will go to a custodian bank to be invested by professionals as provided for in the law,” Dr Riria said. The fund will be invested prudently so that it grows and those who have saved will be able to monitor the progress, but they will not be allowed to touch it until in 2021.
“There is no minimum or maximum amount of savings. It is what one desires, according to the position that they would want to vie for,” commented Dr Riria. Those who want to get into the Democracy Trust Fund network can sign up by paying a membership fee of Sh5000. “Through this, they will own the fund and contribute to its management,” she added.
Echo Network Africa, she said, is looking for like-minded parties and corporates who would want to see inclusive, fair and just leadership to support the fund. Democracy Trust Fund is an innovative collaboration between Echo Network Africa, Global fund for Women, and the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs.
To create awareness on the Democracy Trust Fund, Echo Network Africa has divided the country into 12 zones where they will visit to encourage more women to save in the fund and vie for political leadership.
Democracy Trust Fund has also launched a coffee table book that details stories of outstanding women in leadership. “We need to celebrate this women who do service work with communities and no one seems to recognise them. This will give women visibility and a voice,” she noted.
Echo Network Africa has also launched the Democracy Trust Fund website to give information on how to participate or support the fund. “Those passionate about inclusive leadership can support a leader of their choice through the fund,” she added.
It is hoped that through the Democracy Trust Fund the numbers of women elected leaders will multiply in 2022. Currently Kenya has three women governors, three women senators, and 75 women MCAs. “We need to double these numbers by giving women the capabilities to vie and compete effectively for political offices,” Dr Riria shared.
Echo Network Africa will also offer advice and guidance to aspiring women leaders. “We will offer them the advice and expertise on how they can mobilise for resources. They have to demonstrate initiative and work for it,” she noted.