Women Urged To Seek Elective Posts

Women have been urged to actively seek for various elective posts and rise above retrogressive cultural beliefs that they are weak people who can only be nominated.

Members of the Nakuru County Assembly, top officials from the devolved unit’s Gender and Inclusivity Department and feminist Community Based Organizations (CBOs) who converged at Keringet grounds were unanimous that the two-thirds gender rule will not be achieved if women continue shying away from vying for political positions.

While noting that women form the backbone of the society, County Chief Officer in charge of Gender, Social Services Ms Gladys Kamuren encouraged women to actively seek elective and other positions of leadership at the national and county levels.

Ms Kamuren indicated that equal or increased representation of women will lead to a blending of visions, and paves the way for the adoption of more comprehensive and inclusive solutions than if they’re conceived from only one perspective.

According to the Chief Officer studies
show that when women find themselves in leadership, they tend to make people their priority. This she added is unlike men who tend to make power their priority.

She regretted that so far, the numbers do not look good with women elected to Parliament barely meeting the constitutional threshold of one-third representation.

There are several elective positions in Kenya. But save for the 47 county woman rep positions where women compete amongst themselves, their numbers are low in the other positions such as governor, member of the National Assembly or senator.

With about 20 percent women MPs, Kenya unfavourably compares with about 28 percent in the USA, 35 percent in the UK, 32 percent in EU and surprisingly about 60 percent in Rwanda.

Ms Kamuren indicated that Kenya political heavy weights in the league Charity Ngilu, Martha Karua, Anne Waiguru, Gladys Wanga, Esther Passaris and Sabina Chege among others exemplify the category of leaders, who should be emulated by aspiring women leaders

‘We have also witne
ssed extraordinary women around the world who through sheer tenacity stood their ground to become strong and effective national and global leaders. There was Golda Meir of Israel, Indira Gandhi of India, Margaret Thatcher of the UK, Angela Merkel of Germany, Nancy Pelosi of USA and currently in the making is the cool Ursula Leyen, the President of EU,’ she added

The Chief Officer pointed out that women and girls should be empowered socially, political and economically not just for gender equality but for overall national development and prosperity.

While applauding the over 20 per cent representation of women in the National Assembly, Ms Kamuren said more needed to be done to achieve the two-thirds gender rule.

The Chief Officer stated that investing in woman and girls was not only a matter of justice, but a smart investment generating significant returns for the entire community

She urged women to lend their voice to combating harmful cultural practices even as she expressed satisfaction that a lot of re
sources are being channeled by the devolved unit’s administration towards ensuring equity and justice.

‘We also, as women, must continue to raise our voices and protect ourselves against harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and early child marriage; these factors impede our pathway to reaching our gifted potential,’ Ms Kamuren said.

Young African Women Initiatives (YAWI) Programs Officer Ms Florence Mugure underscored the importance of investing in women as a fundamental human rights issue and emphasized the need for urgent action to address barriers to women’s economic empowerment and participation.

The YAWI official indicated that by ensuring safety, access to quality education, and empowerment of women and girls they will be liberated from fear and violence and unleash their full potential, thereby contributing significantly to the growth and advancement of the society.

County Director for Gender and Inclusivity Ms Selina Nkatha said the devolved unit had formed Gender Technical Wo
rking Groups (GTWG) that had been cascaded to Sub-County levels and were charged with holding monthly community engagements where women were provided with mentorship and networking opportunities.

The County, she disclosed was connecting women entrepreneurs with investors, financial institutions, Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies and industry leaders facilitating access to funding and resources to grow their ventures

Ms Nkatha said the election of the first woman Vice President in the US should serve as an inspiration for women worldwide to aspire for leadership positions.

She noted that while the journey of women in leadership has been long and bumpy, their determination and commitment has yielded fruits. ‘Therefore, we celebrate the gains made and also reflect on the social, economic, political and cultural context in which women and girls live and work,’ the Director pointed out.

Ms Nkatha noted that gender equality and women empowerment are essential components of human development and basic hum
an rights.

She called for protection of the girl child from sex pests who include some close relatives.

The Director lauded the collaboration and support they receive from donor partners and the civil society in ensuring a peaceful and free society.

A 2021 Report of the United Nations Secretary-General acknowledged that progress had been made in women’s representation at different levels, mainly through legislated gender quotas, and the impact of women’s participation in decision-making and civil society.

However, the report said these were being negated by systemic challenges, which included the increasing levels of violence perpetrated against women in public life and harmful practices. Not to mention specific challenges encountered by marginalized women who face several forms of discrimination.

Projects Coordinator of Groots Kenya Ms Dorcas Kigera affirmed that men must be allies in the fight for gender equality, using their privilege to amplify the voices of women and advocate for change. Likewise, s
he added women must support and uplift one another, forging networks of solidarity that transcend societal divides.

Ms Kigera noted that in most circumstances, teenage pregnancies are because of sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) and/or transactional sex, and not necessarily consensual sex adding that denying girls re-entry to school after pregnancy was setting them up for failure and leaving them revolving in the vicious cycle of poverty.

In 2023, a total of 110,821 pregnancies were recorded among adolescents aged between the ages of 10 to 19 in the first five months of the year.

Data from the Kenya Health Information Systems shows from the 110,821 pregnancies, a total of 6,110 were among adolescents aged between 10 to 14 years while another 104,711 were between the ages of 15 and 19.

Ms Kigera stated that while girls are judged harshly and punished for falling pregnant, their male counterparts, who are sometimes responsible for their pregnancies, get to move on with their lives uninterrupted.

Having a
ppreciated the increased rate of pregnancies, the Ministry of Education in Kenya developed National Guidelines for School Re-Entry in Early Learning and Basic Education 2020, to ensure that teenage mothers can attend school pre-delivery and post-delivery.

Despite the policies, she said it was saddening that girls are still denied the opportunity to get an education which is their right, and more so that such denial is perpetuated by leaders who should be protecting this right.

Further, Ms Kigera indicated that education for young mothers fosters a sense of empowerment, allowing young mothers to make informed decisions about their lives and those of their children.

‘As they gain financial stability through education, they are better positioned to provide a secure and nurturing environment for their families. As a society, we should celebrate and champion the transformative power of education, ensuring that every teenage mother is afforded the chance to build a better tomorrow,’ she added

Pastor Peter Kihan
ya from Stay Sober Initiative noted that drug and substance abuse were fueling Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) which he said was one of the most pressing challenges facing women in Kenya which remains prevalent despite years of advocacy.

Mr Kihanya observed that SGBV knows no boundaries, affecting women of all ages, backgrounds, and social statuses. He added from domestic violence and sexual assault to harmful traditional practices like female genital mutilation, women continue to bear the brunt of this pervasive human rights violation.

He observed that the alarming rise in cases of femicide and online and physical violence, underscores the urgent need for action. Kihanya said attaining the two-thirds gender principle is also crucial.

He emphasized the need for policy changes and institutional reforms at the local, national, and global levels to promote gender equality and women’s inclusion.

Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls by 2030 is goal number 5 of the 17 Sustainable Dev
elopment Goals. The reality, though, is that gender parity remains far off the mark.

According to the United Nations, representation of women in national parliaments across the world sits at 25.6 per cent, 36.3 per cent in local governments and 28.2 per cent in managerial positions.

Winstine Atieno from Hope in Life said girls face challenges in accessing education, such as cultural barriers and economic constraints and called for concerted efforts to eradicate the same and create an inclusive educational environment.

Ms Atieno said that girls need to have equal access to education, proper nutrition and health services while protecting them from Gender-Based Violence, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), unintended pregnancies and child marriage.

She pointed out that men and boys also have a role to play in denouncing harmful notions of masculinity and in promoting equal gender relations at home, in schools and other social spaces where the rights of girls might be threatened.

Ms Otieno stated that the impac
t and consequences of violence against women and girls are negative, life-long, and far-reaching as they affect their physical and mental well-being, and impact their professional development and economic empowerment, which extends to social and economic consequences for families, communities and societies.

Sadly, she stated challenges of limited investment and resources in prevention and survivor programmes continue to undermine any progress toward ending violence against women and girls by 2030.

Source: Kenya News Agency