The 2010 Constitution provides that not more than two thirds of members of any elective body shall be the same gender – read, at least one third must be women, since traditionally 100 per cent were already men.
Kenyan women cannot therefore claim that the country does not have a progressive Constitution. The same representation target is easier to implement for organisations that appoint office holders than for those that are filled through an election.
Nonetheless, the nation, especially women, seem to have forgotten why as a nation we chose to turn the tables and give women more access to political rights and participation in public offices.
Women are the keepers of culture, to be differentiated from memory and history, although historical events often help shape a people’s culture. As the keepers of culture, women are supposed to be compassionate, thoughtful and the upholders of sanity when the rest of society is losing its mind.
That is one of the reasons why in the cultural context when a woman strips, it is the end of an era or a sign of the times – both not very good omens. Women guard culture as the shared set of goals, values, experiences and aspirations that define a society or a community. Ever heard the expression “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion”?
It is therefore an abomination for a woman to dismiss atrocities committed against other women, real or imagined, as allegations without making an attempt to follow due process or establish the truth.
It is also for this very reason that a woman should not and cannot lie about matters such as rape. In this regard a woman is a keeper of the part of culture that constitutes shared values, goals and attitudes that both preserve and protect women as the givers of life and by extension the vein through which society gets its life.
NEW MOTHERS' PRIORITIES
In this regard, then, one would like to know from Ms Lily Koros, the chief executive officer of Kenyatta National Hospital, what she means when she says no reports have been filed through the suggestion boxes and how this qualifies or disqualifies an allegation as true or false?
Ms Koros, childbirth is a gift from the universe that cannot be equated to any other event in life. In spite of all of man’s scientific achievements, he has not been able to create artificial human life, yet – Samantha and Sophia are just robots – no matter what they are reputed to be capable of.
What then does Ms Koros envision a woman who has delivered at Kenyatta doing as part of her hospital stay programme in order of priority. Should she first breastfeed her child in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) three floors away? Should she wake fellow women as her life protection mechanism on the way to breastfeed? Should the women first heal the physical wounds of childbirth? Or should they take pen to paper and file an official complaint on rape, another life-threatening and altering event that is alleged to be part and parcel of hospital stay at Kenyatta for new mothers?
NO REGARD FOR NEW LIFE?
Who, anyway, keeps newborns in the NICU any number of floors away from their mothers? Why is the life of the vulnerable not given any regard?
Women, as keepers of culture, are also custodians of systems of behaviour and social learning that are bestowed on children outside the formal education system. So when Kiambu Woman Representative Gathoni Wa Muchomba posts pictures of an underage mother who is alleged to be a victim of rape and her newborn child, that is way too many misses on the goal-keeping role of women in society and in the first month of the year.
It is not even possible to repeat her question on the criminal that was alleged to have committed that atrocity. Some shame is best left unsaid.
So to those women who represent the rest of us in public office, both elective and appointive, remember that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give!
DON'T INVALIDATE STRUGGLE
Your public positions do not give you the right to sacrifice the dignity, security or freedom of other women and or their children, not even to maintain that one-third representation that looks very elusive right now. Do not make that struggle to achieve representation in public life to be in vain, by charting a bleak agenda in your positions.
It is also for the best interest of society if you let vulnerable women and children be, as, in spite of your position of privilege and responsibility, you seem incapable of making the desired change.
If you cannot do anything to alleviate their pain and suffering, desist and resist the attempts to make their pain worse. The ordeals that they have been through already make them weary and in doubt about humanity.
A cardinal rule for women, cherish your role as keepers of culture!