Cabinet approves new Bill to enhance human rights

President William Ruto chairs a Cabinet meeting at State House, Nairobi. [PCS]

The government has introduced a Bill to protect Kenyans' right to basic education, nutrition, food security, healthcare, and employment.

The Bill which was approved by the Cabinet seeks to enhance and implement the right to social protection for citizens through the Social Protection Department.

According to the Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Florence Bore, the Bill seeks to address the existing gaps in the social protection sector including disjointed legislation and interventions of social protection, lack of a coordinated governance framework on social protection, lack of a registry of all social protection interventions and beneficiaries, the lack of coordination and coherence in the delivery of social protection and inadequate funding.

The proposed law also details the eligibility criteria for social protection as well as the rights and obligations of the existing and potential beneficiaries of social protection.

“Despite efforts to address poverty, a substantial population remains exposed to poverty owing to various vulnerabilities. Evidence shows that the poor cannot cope with economic, social, and natural risks, contingencies and shocks without support,” said the CS.

Among the areas the proposed Bill seeks to address is the expansive meaning of social protection beyond the limited scope provided for in the Social Assistance Act 2013.

Some of the areas targeted for expansion include income security, social health protection, social assistance, shock responsive social protection, fair labour market practices and complementary programmes.

“This proposed Bill will go a long way in enhancing the capacity and opportunities for the poor and vulnerable to improve and sustain their livelihoods and welfare,” Bore added.

For instance, in bid to expand the scope of income security, the Bill provides that the government and non-state actors shall introduce social security benefits for persons whose income streams are interrupted by work injury, sickness, injury, maternity, and unemployment as well as extending social security insurance for migrant Kenyan workers.

One of the provisions of the proposed expanded social health protection include establishing a maternity benefit to cushion mothers from maternity- or pregnancy-related income loss, with a particular focus on informal economy workers.

If the proposed Bill is enacted into law, migrant Kenyan workers will have access to social and health insurance.

According to the Cabinet memo, Social Assistance Act 2013 focuses on the provision of social protection only through social assistance but the new proposal will expand the coverage of social protection to include income security to all persons in Kenya throughout their lifecycle, access to social health protection and shock responsiveness.

Further, CS Bore said there are numerous interventions in the social assistance area by state and non-state actors, but their effectiveness has been undermined by a lack of coherence and coordination, a gap she said is addressed in the Bill.

Other proposed provisions include installing legislation and an institutional framework to standardise shock-responsive social protection in Kenya as well as establishing a radical paradigm shift that will protect Kenyans who are not in formal employment.

“Kenya’s social protection frameworks have focused on protecting those in formal employment, there is a need for a radical paradigm shift that includes men and women working outside of the formal process,” reads the Memo in part.

The Bill also seeks to establish a governance framework which includes establishing a National Board for Social Protection, detailing its functions, composition and powers, along with provisions for county governments, civic education and multi-agency committees.

The membership will comprise Principal Secretaries from relevant ministries, representatives from special groups, Council of Governors and the National Drought Management Authority.

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