New Gender CS has work cut out as ills stalk women, girls

Aisha Jumwa who is President William Ruto's nominee for Cabinet Secretary Gender.

In the countdown to the August 9 polls, Kenya Kwanza leaders led by William Ruto signed an MoU with the women of Kenya to address pertinent gender issues.

On sexual and gender violence, they promised to establish a women rights agency at the Office of the President to address sexual and gender violence, early marriages, genital mutilation and to coordinate activities of county rescue centers for victims of abuse.

They also undertook to increase the number of, and personnel at gender desks at police stations countrywide.

The leaders pledged to put in place legislative and policy measures to prevent and eradicate the brutality and degrading treatment of domestic workers locally and abroad. Ruto’s government says it is keen on enforcing a 100 per cent return to school policy for teen mothers and ensure they benefit from bursaries. The new administration also wants to design a policy to ensure more women pursue careers in sciences.

These would be key strides in addressing ills stuck against women, restoring their dignity and empowering them to contribute positively to the Kenyan society. Progressive societies recognize the importance of women, and the Kenya Kwanza should be supported to actualize these bold plans. 

At the centre of these empowerment efforts will be the Ministry of Gender, mandated to promote equity, equality and empowerment. It is a ministry that requires not only theoretical knowledge of the problems faced by the girl child and women but also the leadership of a CS who can translate policies into high-impact outcomes.

Ruto’s choice of Aisha Jumwa for this docket in spot on. Having dropped out of school and forced into an early marriage that exposed her to gender violence, Jumwa understands the odds women face.

Even when faced with great life challenges, she took charge and changed the trajectory of her life, becoming a survivor of GBV and early marriages. Her decision to go back to school despite her age and new responsibilities of motherhood gives hope to many young girls who face such situations.

She has braved her way through a patriarchal society, pushed through the political storms that are often characterised by violence and managed to come out on the other side as a councillor for Takaungu Ward, Women Rep for Kilifi, MP for Malindi constituency and most recently, the first woman to vie for the Kilifi County governor seat.

As the CS nominees’ vetting begins, MPs should see the signs of hope and the silver lining in Jumwa’s nomination. She stands a good chance to deal with issues that hitherto kill the dreams of millions of Kenyan women.

She is not only a survivor of the injustices above but has been an advocate for women empowerment under the umbrella of Aisha Jumwa Foundation since 1997.

The negative public backlash that has been demonstrated by sections of society towards women leaders is an indication that the Gender ministry has a lot of work to do. It should roll its sleeves ready to sensitise the public on matters women empowerment.  

The writer is Nominated Senator. Twitter :@gloria_orwoba