By Ally Jamah
African gender experts gathering in Nairobi for the African Women’s Decade conference programmes that empower women in the grassroots to be allocated more money.
Executive Director of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (Femnet) Norah Matovu Winyi lamented that key institutions driving gender issues suffer under-funding and understaffing, making their impact limited.
"The Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission should be strengthened with more money and staff to bring real difference in empowering women. Ministry of Gender should be given priority in budgetary allocations," she said.
Ms Winyi said women must push for mainstreaming of gender programmes, especially in budget allocations to different ministries, which will make it possible for funding to be expanded.
"The Education and Health budget is doing well in this regards, but other ministries are yet to catch up and it is up to women leaders and gender institutions to push for mainstreaming," she said. Councillor Nancy Imali from Trans Nzioa said the Women Enterprise Fund set up to help women finance small and medium size businesses was not reaching women in the grassroots, many who are not aware of its existence but are unable to apply for it due to literacy challenges.
"If the Government wants to economically empower women in the grassroots, they should ensure the money from the fund reaches the ground where millions of women are languishing in poverty. They should also expand the allocations of the fund to have bigger impact," she advised. Joyce Nyaruiru, a delegate from Kabete, said many women in her area have good business ideas but lack financing.
"The financing from banks and micro-enterprise institutions is still expensive. That is why the women enterprise fund needs to be strengthen to allow rural women access cheap money," she said.
Gender Minister Naomi Shaban promised to lobby leaders in the Government to increase funding to gender issues if the 10 thematic areas under the African Women Decade are to be realised.
The thematic areas include fighting poverty and promoting economic empowerment of women and entrepreneurship in agriculture and food security, health, maternal mortality and HIV/Aids, education, science and technology; environment and climate change.
Others are peace and security, violence against women, governance and legal protection; finance and gender budgets; women in decision-making positions and young women’s movements.