Gender equality goal far from being met
Efforts to improve women and girls lives have come a long way following global and regional development frameworks that have been the architect of gender agenda in Kenya.
The country has distinguished itself globally by implementing affirmative action in recruitment and promotion of women in public offices, and this has contributed to women’s increased representation in decision making. It has also implemented affirmative action in the Government procurement process, with the 30 percent procurement provision which is currently being rolled out to ensure that women, youth and persons with disabilities have access to government tenders.
The 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women meeting in New York in 2014 noted that unless all dimensions of gender inequality are addressed, gender equality, empowerment of women and realization of women’s and girls’ human rights cannot be achieved and as such there can be no sustainable development.
The Commission on the Status of Women expressed deep concern that overall progress for women and girls across all the MDGs remains slow and uneven, including on MDG 3, both within and between countries and that lack of progress on gender equality has hindered progress towards all of the MDGs.
The Commission noted that progress has been slow with regards to MDG 3 due to persistent gender disparities in some regions in secondary and tertiary education enrolment. It noted that the lack of economic empowerment, autonomy, and independence of women including lack of integration into the formal economy, unequal access to full and productive employment and decent work, under-representation in non-agricultural wage employment, over-represention in low paid jobs were some of the factors that hindered achievement of gender equality. It also expressed concerns the low proportion and unequal participation and representation of women at all levels of decision making, including in national parliaments and other governance structures.
Millennium Development Goal number three seeks to promote gender equality and empower women. One of its targets is to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015. It is noted that while the world has achieved equality in primary education between girls and boys, only two out of 130 countries have achieved that target at all levels of education.
Despite the small steps made, many challenges have posed a barrier towards achieving gender equality.
While gender parity has been met at primary level of education, things are not so good at the tertiary. Many girls who are admitted at primary level do not complete school either due to early or forced marriages as well as unwanted pregnancies.
While the combination of leadership positioning, political leverage and institutional capacity should result in making the mission of gender equality critical, accountability processes at all levels of decision making and distribution of resources has made it a challenge. Inequality between men and women in sharing of power and decision making at all levels remains critical.
The UN Women Country director in Kenya, Zebib Kavuma says: “We must be cognisance of the new and old challenges that hinder meeting the MDGs. Exclusion of women from decision making remains the greatest barrier to achieving gender equality.”
According to Agnes Odhiambo, Comptroller of Budget, “Although we have made great strides much still needs to be done, because girls are not in school and mothers are not accessing skilled health care.”
Her sentiments are echoed by Cecily Mbarire, chair Kenya women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) and MP for Runyenjes who notes: “Lack of reliable resources to make a difference in gender equality agenda have been the biggest challenge.”
Mbarire notes that a multi-sectoral approach must be maintained in the realisation of gender equality goals.
Gender equality is critical to reducing poverty as well as ensuring that all the other goals of the Millennium are met.
According to Sara Muui, of the MDG Unit at the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, though substantial resources have been put in place towards addressing the development framework, progress has been mixed with others doing well and others not so well.
Muui notes: “the challenge has been in translating global goals into national applicable targets.” She adds: “The challenge has also been lack of availability of properly disaggregated data for tracking.”
According to Peter Mangiti, Principal Secretary Planning, in the Ministry of Planning and Devolution: “Efforts to improve lives of women and girls have come a long way following regional and global frameworks that have been the architect of gender agenda in Kenya.”
He adds: “The noble cause of empowering women and girls must be achieved at all costs.”
Poverty has been recognised as an impediment to gender equality and women’s empowerment. Gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls and enjoyment of their human rights and the eradication of poverty are essential to economic and social development, including the achievement of all the Millennium Development Goals.
Anne Waiguru, Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning observes that women’s economic empowerment is vital for the achievements of MDGs.
Waiguru notes: “We must encourage female participation in maths, science and technology if we are to improve the status of women.”
She adds: “Kenya stands with the rest of the world in rooting for a stand-alone goal on gender equality. For this we must safeguard the gains the women’s movement fought so hard to achieve.”
Odhiambo reiterates: “It is important that interventions in the gender sectors are well coordinated for maximum impact. The two thirds principle must be protected.”
The Commission on the Status of Women, in giving a voice to the post-2015 development agenda called for a stand-alone goal on gender equality.
Increasing women’s economic empowerment is central to the achievement of the MDGs. Investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity, efficiency and sustained economic growth and that women’s economic independence is vital to their role as full and equal partners for development and essential to the achievement of the MDGs including to the eradication of poverty..