Agenda 2063 renews hope for addressing gender inequalities

Courtesy Image
Courtesy Image

Africa’s development framework, also known as Agenda 2063 will play a critical role in addressing gender inequalities across the continent.

While some countries have made significant progress in bridging the gender inequality gap over the years, Kenya remains the least responsive to gender issues in East Africa despite being rich in gender-related policy and legislative framework including the 1974-1978 Development Plan, National Food Policy (1984); and the National Policy on Gender and Development (2000).

Kenya lags behind at 19.4 percent in sharp contrast to Rwanda which leads at 56.3 per cent of women representation in the National Assembly, followed by Tanzania (36%), Uganda (35%) and Burundi (30.5%).

In an official Government paper tabled at the just-concluded 60th Commission on the Status of Women Report (CSW), Sicily Kariuki, Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs states that the Constitution of Kenya has created a legal framework that clearly addresses gender inequality with women-specific interventions such as affirmative action and numerical quotas in public institutions thus recognising the insufficiency of bare formal equality.

Article 10 (2) of the Constitution sets out national values and principles of governance which include participation of the people, human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and sustainable development.

Assurance

These national values and principles of governance are an assurance especially to women that empowerment and gender equity will be achieved.

The national values and principles of governance bind all state organs and officers as well as public officers among other persons. The Constitution of Kenya has also made a major step towards ensuring gender equity in major decision making organs.

This is an important step because historically in Kenya, women have always been underrepresented in decision making on issues of governance.

The Constitution does not, however, make provisions that give a 50-50 gender balance but a two thirds balance which has been captured in Article 27 (8) for those seeking elective or appointive posts.

The reservation of seats for women both in the National Assembly and Senate is still far below the 117 seats needed to fulfil the one third gender rule.

The dearth of Kenyan women in the top echelons is noticeably mirrored at different levels of leadership.
At both senate and gubernatorial positions, all the elected representatives are male. Women serve as deputy governors and their numbers translate to a paltry 19 per cent in the 47 counties while at the Senate, women account for 90 per cent of the nominees and cannot vote.

According to Winnie Lichuma chairperson National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC), elected women account for a mere six per cent at the National Assembly while their nominated counterparts stand at 33 per cent.

Gaps

The same picture is replicated at the county assemblies where the number of elected women translates to six per cent. Further, women account for 33 per cent of cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries (27%), chairpersons of independent offices (50%); chairpersons of constitutional commissions (42%) and six percent of parastatal heads. In the counties they account for 13 per cent of county secretaries and 21 per cent of county assembly clerks.

Agenda 2063 notes that gender inequality remains a big challenge in Africa and has resulted in women facing disproportionate incidences of poverty and disease.

“Weak representation of women in political and decision making environments remains a challenge to many of the African States.”

The Agenda aims to improve participation, opportunity and access of women in all spheres of development in the entire continent in terms of harnessing the critical role of women in Africa’s transformation, elimination of all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls.

These include elimination of harmful social practices, improving access to quality health and education for women and girls.

Agenda 2063 envisions full empowerment of women through equal access and opportunity in all aspects of life, transcending equal economic rights such as right to own and inherit paternal and marital property and the right to sign, contract and register and run a business.

Proposals

The Agenda further seeks to eliminate all forms of gender based violence as well as discrimination against women and girls including in social, economic and political violence.

Other proposals include the elimination of harmful social practices especially FGM and child marriages which have undermined women’s access to quality health and education.

Among measures listed in the Kenyan report in regard to this include the adoption of the National Policy on the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation and the development of the National Action Plan for the implementation of policy; the Prohibition of FGM Act and the Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Board established to spearhead programmes aimed at addressing FGM.

According to Agenda 2063, Africa will have full gender parity, with women occupying at least 50 per cent of elected public offices at all levels and half of managerial positions in the public and private sectors by 2063.