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Creation of proper secular society key to gender parity

OPINION
By John Harrington Ndeta | December 1st 2018
John Harrington Ndeta

The most stylish thing in today’s world as championed by civilised communities is gender equality. The Scandinavian countries have the most progressive gender equality measure with nearly half of the elected legislators being women. We applaud Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden for leading the way in having the most gender equal societies across the globe. This can be attributed to long-standing equality in education and health; and deliberate passing of laws that allowed for the large proportion of women into the labour force, with small salary gaps and strong representation in high-skilled jobs.

Kenya, on the other hand, is trying and some of the efforts falling flat like the postponed Gender Bill in Parliament due to lack of quorum. This led me to ask several questions about gender equality and what informs a society’s move towards it.

First is culture which is defined as a people’s way of life. This is the shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs and understanding that are learned by socialisation. That is why it is difficult just to take the Western culture with their constructs of gender equality and impose them on Africans who are largely patriarchal. The US, which is one of the most celebrated democracies is yet to get a woman president in over 200 years and when the greatest opportunity of the two centuries presented itself when Hillary Clinton vied against Donald Trump, she lost; underscoring the fact that Americans are not yet ready for a woman president. While culture is riddled by conflicts associated with religion, ethnicity, ethical beliefs, and, essentially, the elements which make up culture, change is inevitable but the past should also be respected.

The second major factor when it comes to gender parity is religion. The status of women in society is an outcome of the interpretation of religious texts and of the cultural and institutional set-up of religious communities. We can deduce trends in relation to gender and worlds major religions and I am proud to observe that Christianity presents perhaps the most equal of the gender societies.

And last but not least is what I have called modernity; “post-Christian” standpoint, a predominantly secular perspective. In these types of societies, majority of inhabitants are without religious affiliation and they display the lowest levels of gender inequality. These are the likes of the Scandinavian countries but the truth is UK and USA who were the lead champions of Christianity in yesteryears too are going down that path of secularism. In these societies, people have freedom to choose and do as they want regardless of what religion or culture says. Women and men do don’t just demand for gender parity but its little wonder that women are today marrying women and men likewise in the name of gender rights. This in the long run is not sustainable and these kinds of societies are first hurtling into oblivion. When we defy what sustains a society; culture and religion and promote individualism and selfishness in the name of rights, we will end up with no society!

What is desirable is a balance, a state that recognises that men and women complement each other and have different roles and duties to play for the good of the society. Kenya can learn a lot not just by what is happening globally but by going back to the roots. What does African culture say and what about the dominate religion(s), in this case Christianity?

We cannot have a Scandinavian experience in the midst of a predominantly African tradition and religious communities. The gender parity champions should create a secular society before they can realise their goals of gender parity. I bet it won’t be easy nor a walk in the park just like they are yet to release the same in the US 200 plus years.

The writer is a communications practitioner

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