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Gender equality is about power relations and dynamics, CS Aisha Jumwa says

 Aisha Jumwa addresses the 3rd Annual Women's Rights Convention in Nairobi. [Jayne Rose Gacheri, Standard]

Cabinet Secretary, Aisha Jumwa, said that gender equality is about power dynamics. She made the remarks on Wednesday during the third annual edition of the Women’s Rights Convention at the Panari Hotel, Nairobi, where she was the chief guest. 

While making her opening remarks, the CS lauded the organisers of the convention that was hosted by Crawn Trust, Care Kenya, University of Nairobi Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) Hub, and Echo-Network Africa for planning the event when Kenyan women are rising in leadership nationally and across the globe. The theme for this year’s two-day convention is 'Inclusive Governance: Sote Pamoja'. 

Addressing the more than 1,000 participants who attended the convention, the CS said it was important to understand the status of the rights of women through reflection on where they were coming from, where they were, the gains, the challenges, and opportunities that they faced. 

By doing so, she said, women would be better informed on innovative strategies that they can employ to advance the women's cause further, which calls for greater solidarity among women’s networks that share women’s vision of transforming the political, social, and economic landscape across generations. 

“This forum provides space for gender advocates across the country to converge with the sole purpose of supporting and sustaining transformative women’s leadership movements,” said the CS. 

She said that due to the support and guidance of the new constitution, today women are shattering many glass ceilings. “I am proud to share some remarkable statistics that showcase our progress in reducing gender inequalities in Kenya”, said the CS.

She said according to the World Economic Forum Gender Data, Kenya has made a significant leap in the Gender Development Index, moving from position 118 in 2018 to an impressive position 56 in 2022. 

“Sound progress has been made in promoting positive social norms, attitudes, and behaviours that prevent Gender Based Violence as evidenced in the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2023, which indicated some decrease for women and girls age 15- 49. From 20% to 16% for physical violence, 7.6% to 6.42% for sexual violence, 21% to 15 % for FGM, just to mention but a few” said the CS. 

She said significant positive changes in a number of areas, such as for elected women in the National Assembly (29 from 23, from three Governors to now seven, from 97 to 115 at the County Assemblies) have been recorded. However, she said challenges remain and our work is not over. 

According to the CS, 13 years after the promulgation of the new Constitution, other notable gains, which must be protected and advanced for prosperity, have been made. Some of these, she said include the repealing of discriminatory laws and new ones that complement the Constitution. 

“For example, the Marriage Act of 2014, and the Matrimonial Properties Act 2013 are now being implemented in Courts of law, while The Succession law is increasingly being used to enforce the right of women and girls to inherit property,” said the CS.

The CS further told the women that they had support from President William Ruto who through the Kenya Kwanza Manifesto of 2022, committed his government to the implementation of not more than two-thirds gender principle within one and half years. She said the commitment was further summarised in the president’s 9-point agenda for employment of women. 

She also recognised Raila Odinga for his support of women's empowerment and leadership and urged him to give women direct tickets to vie for various political seats, which she said would raise the numbers closer to the two-thirds gender realisation. 

She said that it was in this spirit of the president’s support that her ministry played her role as prescribed in Executive Order Number 1 of 2023, through the inauguration and gazetting of a Multi-Agency Working Group on the two-thirds gender rule. 

“This is the beginning of a process to build consensus on compliance to the not more than two-third gender principle legislative instruments, meaning that women now have another opportunity to realize the not more than two-third gender rule. 

The key deliverable of the multi-agency working group, she said, was a proposed framework that will be taken to parliament through the appropriate committees, which calls for a commitment to an inclusive process leaving no one behind – sote pamoja. 

The CS said her Ministry was currently implementing the 9-point agenda that covers critical areas that include economic empowerment, gender equality in leadership, combating gender-based violence, and safeguarding women’s land rights. 

However, Jumwa said that although Constitution 2010 was a game changer in the journey of gender equality, the strong movements that delivered the Constitution are no longer active.

She directed the convention to find out what qualities of leadership led to the realisation of the Constitution 2010,  why the grassroots women trusted the movements and their leaders, and then connect the dots to come up with a framework on how women can work together to achieve inclusive leadership. 

She urged the participants to also address issues of violence, funding, negative cultural norms, stereotypes, and prejudices, which she said remained impediments and barriers towards women elected leadership, and come up with solutions. 

“Equality is about power relations and dynamics, a journey of change management that follows the theory of change. The big question is how do we empower a critical mass of women who can champion equal treatment of women and men in institutions and challenge that status quo of lived traditions and practices,” said Jumwa as she declared the Convention officially opened. 

Other speakers included Daisy Amdany of CRAWN Trust, Leah Kaguaraa of CARE Kenya, Anne Nderitu, Registrar of Political Parties, Janine Cocker, Canadian High Commission, Leah Sankaire Chairperson KEWOPA, and Rahab Muiu, MYWO.

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