Enhanced Service Delivery, Information Literacy, and Implementation of existing laws is what we need!
That Kenya has quite progressive laws on safeguarding and advancing the rights of women and girls, in an effort to achieve gender equity, is without a doubt! And therefore, the narrative of simply uttering “we need laws in place” has to shift!
What we need now is enhanced service delivery and information literacy to ensure that everyone has access to relevant information on legislation and rights and the full enforcement of existing laws to guarantee women and girls and all advocates of gender equity that these policies do not just exist on paper.
Constitutional, Legal and Policy Frameworks to Promote, Enforce and Monitor Equality
The country has over the years put in place various constitutional, legal and policy frameworks to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non-discrimination. These include Education policies, legislation on Sexual Offenses, Child labour and elimination of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
The 2010 constitution has created the legal framework for the state to put in place affirmative action to safeguard the basic, social, political and economic rights of youth, women, children and Persons with Disabilities and other marginalized population.
“The State shall put in place affirmative action programmes designed to ensure that minorities and marginalised groups–
(a) participate and are represented in governance and other spheres of life;
(b) are provided special opportunities in educational and economic fields;
(c) are provided special opportunities for access to employment;” Article 56 of the constitution reads in part.
The country’s development blueprint, Kenya Vision 2030, outlines flagship projects for the promotion of gender equality, Inclusive Economic Growth, Prevention and Response to Gender-Based Violence, Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other harmful practices, Gender Mainstreaming and empowerment of the girl child and again I ask “what more laws do we need? “.
On the global stage, Kenya is a signatory to various international and regional instruments namely: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, The African Union Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa.
Kenya is also an implementing partner of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), whose goals on Education and Gender Equality have been felt in Kenya.
Today women, youth and Persons with Disabilities in Kenya enjoy a special reserve of 30% of Government Procurement opportunities under the AGPO program, a framework that is founded on Article 227 of the Constitution on the fair equitable, transparent and cost-effective public procurement of goods and services, Article 55 on affirmative action and the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, 2015.
The Uwezo(empowerment) Fund and Youth Enterprise Funds, also fruits of affirmative Action have provided women, youth and PWDs with access to low-interest capital funding for their businesses.
Labour laws in formal employment have also been made favourable to women; we enjoy three months of paid maternity leave, and now a 2 weeks paternity leave that is ideally also aimed at easing the nursing burden on new mothers post-partum, equal access to job opportunities and pay as well.
Political Women Empowerment
Despite politics in Kenya being male-dominated, and female representation minimal, women have the constitutional backing for equal participation in politics.
The constitution has created the provision for the creation of special seats for women that resulted in the Women Representative elective position, which has seen 47 women elected in the National Assembly since the first election under the dispensation of the new constitution. Political parties are also expected to nominate women and the senate is also required to nominate one woman to represent the youth and persons with disabilities.
Article 81 (b) of the constitution prescribes that: “Not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender”. Even though the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule has remained elusive, we cannot say we lack the legal framework; the law is there.
Empowering Girls In Education
The country has also made efforts to make education more accessible to girls from lowering the pass mark for university, the introduction of the National Free Sanitary Towels Programme, bursaries and the 100% primary school Transition.
The free sanitary towels programme is still shrouded by controversies with reports indicating that the much-needed products are not reaching the beneficiaries but we can all agree that the lapse is on the project implementation and monitoring not lack of policy.
Enhance Information Literacy and Service Delivery
Information literacy will ensure that the citizenry regardless of their age, tribe, political affiliation or social status have access to relevant, accurate and timely information regarding their rights, existing legal frameworks and avenues to find recourse when these rights are infringed upon.
The government and Public officers have a responsibility to enhance service delivery both as a call of duty and in honour of the brave men and women, who have fought in blood and sweat to ensure that we enjoy the freedoms and rights we have today!