In Summary
  • Although utterly illogical, our society continues to make leadership decisions based more on personal abilities rather gender.
  • The need to level the field for election of more women to Parliament, county assemblies and other decision-making bodies cannot be gainsaid.

Last week, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Natalia Kanem was in Kenya.

But what stood out was that she chose to celebrate the International Women’s Day in the country.

In her various presentations, Dr Kanem, one of the highest-ranking women in the topmost global body, made it clear that, indeed, the world respects and trusts Kenya to lead in gender equality and women empowerment.

These, she noted, are critical not only for the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals but also the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development’s (ICPD) vision.

Kenya will host the next summit in November this year. The objective of the summit is to renew undertakings to attain ICPD’s goal of sexual and reproductive health for women, 25 years later.

BILL FLOPS

In a one-on-one chat with Dr Kanem, I began reflecting on the attitude of the Kenyan Parliament, and public, towards the very serious matter of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2018: The ‘Gender bill’.

The latest attempt at passing the bill — which seeks to legislate on the constitutional requirement that neither gender should have more than two-thirds in elective positions — failed, for the fourth time.

Only 174 of the 349 MPs were in the House on this last Wednesday of February; 175 public employees chose to miss work when most needed.

That was sad. But it got sadder when some began advancing cock-and-bull stories to justify the flopping of the bill.

One was that women MPs failed to lobby their male colleagues to support the bill, with the blame being heaped on the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (Kewopa).

MERIT

But this is wrong buck passing. First, the Gender Bill is not just about women but all Kenyans. Secondly, an MP should not miss debate or fail to vote on a matter just because they have not been lobbied.

It is their duty. Who lobbies teachers or doctors to do their work? Thirdly, the bill is not a Kewopa or women’s thing; it is a government-sponsored motion whose mover is the Leader of Majority in the House — a man.

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