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Lip service wont deliver equal opportunities

By | March 13th 2010

Njoki Ndung’u

To celebrate the International Women’s day on Monday, I joined students of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa for an award ceremony for creative essays on gender-based violence. The ensuing debate ranged from the need to include men as key actors in prevention as well as the need for male and female role models who can lead by example by ensuring respect and partnership between the genders.

Wahu, the nationally renowned singer was present and clearly represented an ideal role model for young women. Not so, for Esther Arunga, (or is it Esther Adongo Timberlake?) A number of students felt the former TV anchor had fallen off the wagon and no longer represented a worthy example. I must confess I share this sentiment. I have been holding myself from commenting on Esther’s unfolding drama as reported in the media. But watching her on television last Sunday, I cannot contain myself anymore.

I am affronted by the casual manner the Finger of God leaders are treating entry into competitive politics. Esther and company say they have registered a party called Placenta. They claim to have determined who will fill the positions of President, Deputy President and Prime Minister should this party win the next General Election.

Political Party

Registration of a political party is serious business. One must apply to the Registrar of Political Parties at a fee of Sh1 million, having proved their intended party has representation in all districts. They must also register a name that is not frivolous, demeaning and that captures the intention to improve the lot of Kenyans.

Secondly, there must be policies captured in a manifesto that informs voters of how the party will improve a plethora of key national issues such as the economy, fiscal policy, tourism, agriculture, health, foreign policy etc. Thirdly, a registered party must have officials with names that are reflected on their national IDs (not pseudonyms copied from western pop stars), and must register the symbol that will appear on the ballot box. There are many other rules and regulations encapsulated by the Political Parties Act but these suffice to expose the frivolity of the Finger of God declaration.

I have checked and the Registrar of Political Parties has not registered any such party. But it is not even the naked lie from claimers of faith that is so reprehensible.

Voters normally vote for the symbol that corresponds with the name of the party. Can you imagine a placenta, on your ballot paper! There are many who have never seen a human placenta because decency normally restricts its view to the delivery room.

This placenta thing is empty of an agenda too. It has no vision but only self interest in declaring who will hold positions of power. Politicians worth their salt will tell you these positions are only filled at the very last minute as they juggle with different constituencies and vote blocks. A presidential campaign is clearly not a job for the fainthearted. Candidates must be prepared for all kinds of vitriol, defamatory statements, and intrusion.

Beaten And Abused

Back to the just past International Women’s Day celebration, I have two things to say to the Grand Coalition Government. For the women of Kenya, it is ‘Not yet Uhuru’. Discrimination still exists against women: at home, in the workplace, community and society at large. Lip service and filing reports to UN bodies will not deliver the equality or equal opportunities that women deserve. We pay taxes, we work hard, we struggle to contribute to the national economy and we campaign and vote for you and yet get little in return.

Secondly, we remain beaten and abused in the privacy of our homes; we are sexually assaulted at work and raped on the way to our homes. We are ambushed and impregnated by teachers at school. When we get pregnant from this, our parents bargain with our rapists and our priests and pastors tell us to forgive and give birth. We watch as male dominated enterprises benefit from our taxes in Government tenders. We plead for assistance in female dominated IDP camps. We are forcibly circumcised to protect us from the men who will still ravage us, whether in their opinion we are clean or not.

You make male condoms free and force us to purchase the female condom for an extraordinarily high fee. You do not give us access to contraception, which would make us able to plan our families and lives. You do not certify traditional marriages, which would protect us from exploitation from our spouse’s relatives. You have not legislated clear responsibilities to children by fathers, forcing us to single mother status and damning us to poverty. You can redeem yourselves by passing the proposed marriage bills but you have declined to do so. And you dare to say, you have celebrated the International Women’s Day?

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