As Nairobi+30 is marked, is it not just about time to end the Gender debate?
Thirty years ago, the world converged in Nairobi to take part in the Third World Women’s Conference. Then the questions of gender equality, development and peace remained key focus.
The Nairobi meeting preceded the Fourth World Women’s Conference that was held in Beijing China. Before the Nairobi meeting, there were the Mexico City and Copenhagen meetings in 1975 and 1980 respectively.
These are the meetings that laid foundation for women’s rights and a place for equal opportunities for both men and women in all areas including equality, development and peace.
On August 13, 2015, Nairobi played host to the four countries that have hosted the World women’s conferences that included Mexico, Denmark, China and Kenya.
The meeting that brought in development partners, women ministers from the continent and grassroots women from across the country reiterated the importance of women’s agency, especially the issue of increasing opportunities for women to be in leadership and political decision making positions.
The Nairobi +30 was also held at a time when Kenya is grappling with how to ensure that there is a mechanism to increase the numbers of women in Parliament.
The meeting was officially opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta who reiterated the need for women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Kenyatta observed that Kenya is committed to achieving gender equality.
“As a president I am obliged to protect the Constitution of Kenya and defend among other principles that of gender equality,” said Kenyatta.
He added: “Our work in the last four decades has been rewarded with major achievements.”
Kenyatta said: “Our progress is linked if we rise together or we will fall together. Any delay in the empowerment of women is a delay in the development of the nation.”
He observed: “We gather to celebrate our gains as more and more African women hold high positions. However, more needs to be done.”
“Gender equality is important for achieving a vision of a free and prosperous continent. If we don’t move towards achieving gender equality, we are not moving towards achieving our goals,” he emphasised.
Kenyatta noted that he was looking forward to a time when gender equality will no longer be a debate.
“Everybody has a role to play. The women have a role of changing attitudes and perceptions to ensure gender equality,” noted the President.
“Fifty per cent of our population are women who have the strength in numbers to change the way things are,” Kenyatta said in reference to the two thirds gender equality debate that has been going on in the country.
“I will work to persuade everybody because if we do not facilitate half of our population, then half of Kenyans are going to be left out of the development agenda,” Kenyatta reaffirmed.
During the same meeting Kenyatta also launched the campaign for the two thirds gender principle while encouraging qualified women to pursue leadership positions.
Lars Bradle, Charge d’Affairs at the Royal Danish Embassy in Nairobi lauded Kenya Government for hosting the Nairobi +30 conference.
“Kenya has been since 1985, when the Nairobi meeting was held, on the path to Gender equality and women’s empowerment,” observed Lars. He added: “Through the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies meeting 30 years ago, we are holding this meeting at a time when we are also marking 20 years since the Beijing Platform for Action.”
According to Lars, the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies and the Beijing Platform for Action will not be fulfilled if there is no political will.
“Political will is important for promoting change and ensuring gender equality,” stated Lars reiterating: “Gender equality must be strongly anchored in government policies.”
Lars observed: “There are new and old challenges for gender equality. To overcome this, Denmark wants a specific goal on gender equality as we move out of the Millennium Development Goals into the Post-2015 Development Agenda through the Sustainable Development Goals.”
He reiterated: “Beijing Platform for Action must be implemented and countries should reflect progress made since 1995 and find a way to ensuring gender equality.”
Roberto Martinez, Mexican Ambassador to Kenya reiterated the fact each of the four women’s meetings gave an opportunity for the world at large and specific countries to ensure gender equality.
“Although Kenya has made progress towards ensuring women’s empowerment through various strategies, it must be noted that women are no less capable of moving development forward,” said Martinez. He added: “Efforts carried out have not been enough to reduce discrimination against women and girls, and especially violence against women.”
Martinez identified that there is a unique opportunity to implement the Beijing Platform for Action.
According to Liu Xianfa, Chinese Ambassador to Kenya, the Nairobi conference in 1985 adopted the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies for the advancement of women. He noted that the meeting called for realisation of global empowerme
nt of women and gender equality.
Liu observed: “Women are major drivers of human development and the future. This is why women’s participation in decision making in China has increased.”
Addressing the meeting Cecily Mbarire, Member of Parliament for Runyenjes and chair Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) also noted that there are major gains to be celebrated since Kenya hosted the Nairobi meeting in 1985.
Mbarire lauded the fore mothers of women’s liberation such as Grace Onyango, Grace Ogot, Phoebe Asiyo, Eddah Gachukia, Julia Ojiambo, Wangari Maathai, Zipporah Kittony, Wanjiku Kabira, Tabitha Seii and Rose Waruhiu among others who worked hard to ensure that women are where they are today.
“For the 68 women in Parliament, we thank the new Constitution and the struggle by women to ensure that affirmative action and freedom from discrimination was entrenched in the new laws,” noted Mbarire. She reiterated that the Jubilee government had picked women to hold positions in areas that were previously male domains such as Foreign Affairs, Defence and Devolution in having women as cabinet and principal secretaries.
“Because of putting women forward, we have seen policies that ensure women are empowered,” said Mbarire.
However, Mbarire stressed that more still needs to be done as the rural woman, who contributes to 80 per cent of Kenya’s agriculture remains impoverished.
According to Anne Waiguru, Nairobi +30 epitomises Kenya’s commitment as well as calling for the need to learn on how to build gender equality and women’s empowerment.
“Women’s empowerment is no longer an alternative, it’s our mandate,” said Waiguru.