Road to equality remains in the long haul for Kenyan women

Former President Mwai Kibaki, displays the constitution after it was  promulgated  in 2010. The document gives rights for equal participation in politics. AWC Library
Former President Mwai Kibaki, displays the constitution after it was promulgated in 2010. The document gives rights for equal participation in politics. AWC Library

The World Economic Forum has ruled out the possibility of bridging the gender gap any time soon.

According to the Forum, gender equality can only be realised in 2186 which is about 169 years from now. Indeed this is a long time to wait and things can only be fast tracked if women, and those who support gender equality, are bold to ensure that the change happens faster than has been predicted.

The 2017 International Women’s Day theme — Be Bold for Change — aptly speaks to the Kenyan situation where women have been discriminated against and denied opportunities in spaces for equity and equality especially in elective and appointive decision making positions.

This has left Kenya’s reputation tainted as the male dominated Parliament refuses to enact laws that would have seen women occupy prime positions of power on equal or almost 30 percentage point.

General Elections

With only five months to the General Elections in Kenya, Siddharth Chatterjee, ‎United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, in a speech read on his behalf by UNDP Acting Country Director Wilmond Reeves, could not help to mention the need to reflect on the situation of women not only in Kenya but globally.

He noted the sad state that women are faced with at an event to launch the Elections Reporting Guidelines in Kenya on the eve of International Women’s Day.

“As the International Women’s Day is marked, we need to reflect on the role of women worldwide in shaping the development agenda of their countries,” Chatterjee pointed out.

“There are challenges limiting the full participation of women in elective and appointive positions, including Sexual and Gender Based Violence, early childhood marriages as well as intimidation and discrimination of women in political processes,” he noted.

Sustainable Development Goals

He reiterated that finding the political space for women’s participation in electoral and development processes remains an important Sustainable Development Goal agenda.

In 2015 world leaders gathered in New York signed onto to the new development framework, the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal number Five speaks to gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.

Although the United Nations recognises progress towards achieving gender equality, it still remains a challenge in countries where there are no legal frameworks to support it. United Nations identifies 143 countries which had guaranteed equality of women in their constitutions as at 2014. Kenya is notably among these countries having promulgated its new constitution, which has been recognised as the most progressive in the region in 2010. Equality

One of the key chapters in the Kenyan Constitution is Chapter Four which is on the Bill of Rights.

It speaks to freedom from inequality and discrimination in article 27 (3) noting in effect: “Women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.”

To give full realisation to these rights, the Constitution indicates that the “State is obligated to take legislative and other measures including affirmative action policies and programmes designed to address the disadvantages suffered by individuals and groups because of past discrimination”. This then has been where the hurdle lies for Kenya because lack of political will has made it a difficult to achieve gender parity.

All the bills pushing for affirmative action have been brushed off in the National Assembly where men have decided monopolise power without a care, leaving the road to equality in political and appointive position in the long haul.

In the UN Secretary General’s report of progress towards gender equality it notes: “Globally, women’s participation in parliament rose to 23 per cent in 2016, representing an increase by 6 percentage points over a decade. Slow progress in this area is in contrast with more women in parliamentary leadership positions.”