Learn from Finland, enhance participation of women in politics and other spheres of life

Although over 50 per cent of the population is made up of women and girls, the number of female governors in the 47 counties is only seven. The Constitution enshrines the principle of gender equality in all spheres of life. However, there are still conspicuous inequalities in the country, and the two-thirds gender has not been fully implemented since it came into force over a decade ago.

In the last election, Kenyans elected 30 female MPs compared to 270 male MPs. At the current rate of progress, it might take more than 15 election cycles-more than 75 years to have at least 145 female elected MPs. Kenya must up the tempo, and create an enabling environment for women to be equally represented in leadership positions in politics and at all levels.

Kenya is lagging behind Rwanda and Uganda where women occupy 56 per cent and 30 per cent of House seats, respectively. Statistics from other spheres, such as the public service, echo this imbalance and indicate that the quest for gender equality is still far from being realised. It is unfair that women continue to be under-represented. Moreover, it is a well-documented fact that women are important actors in development and should proportionately benefit from its outcomes.

Kenya can learn from Finland, the first country in the world to grant women full political rights, both the right to vote and the right to run for office. Finland promotes gender equality because the country sees it as a cornerstone of its success as a society. Finnish maternity and child health clinics, paid parental leave and publicly funded quality childcare continue to play a significant role in advancing gender equality. Such a simple thing as a free school lunch was introduced as early as 1948. It makes everyday life easier for families with working parents and children in school.

As former Prime Minister, Sanna Marin once pointed out, policies like these were introduced by Finnish female legislators. She argued that the best way to get gender transformative policies was to have more women in high-level political decision-making positions. Indeed, gender equality profits the whole society - all genders and all generations. Realising gender equality and inclusion will free women and girls from the stereotypes that restrict them and set limits on what they can achieve.

Lack of support for the full and effective implementation of gender equality and women's rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, is an alarming trend. Women need to be present in government chambers and boardrooms and have a say in decisions that concern their lives.

Letter from Raphael Obonyo, Nairobi.