Kenyan women and girls need more than promises

Society must appreciate the contributions of women and girls. [iStockphoto]

Today is International Women’s Day. Ideally, this day is set aside by the United Nations to specifically celebrate the remarkable achievements, contributions and resilience of women in various fields across the world. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’ with the main focus being on addressing economic disempowerment.

This year’s celebration lays emphasis on the need to ‘Inspire Inclusion’ for women. Inclusion, per se, is not just about ticking the right boxes or meeting quotas. It is more about recognising that every woman’s voice matters, regardless of her background, ethnicity, age, ability, or faith. It’s about creating spaces where women thrive, participate in leadership, and actively contribute to society.

While riding on the Constitution and political goodwill, a lot has been achieved over the years in terms of women empowerment and inclusion in leadership. Yet despite the gains made in recognising the important role that women continue to play in society, we are still lagging behind, or retrogressing in many other respects.

Women are still being killed and discriminated against based on some outdated cultural norms and repulsive misogyny. There is notable reluctance to actualise the two-thirds gender representation rule in leadership roles.

Gender-based violence and female genital mutilation remain pervasive is some communities. Moreover, most Kenyan woman still has no right to inherit land and lacks access to loan facilities. These things conspire to deny women their rights.

Yet amid these injustices, what we get from the government and other spheres are mostly promises to right the wrongs; to end FGM, to give women more leadership roles, to ensure gender equality.

Society must appreciate the contributions of women and girls. We must call out discrimination, retrogressive practices and take steps to ensure equitable treatment. To rectify this, there is a need to support women and girls in leadership roles, develop female talent and encourage women to participate in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses.