Gender, Affirmative Action and Quotas

She wrote an article that appeared in Today’s Nation entitled: “Women’s March to Power is Painfully Slow”

The gist of the piece is in the third last paragraph which reads:

“It is indeed preposterous that the Cabinet would contemplate a constitutional amendment Bill seeking to annul a fundamental constitutional gain for women that is entrenched in the Bill of Rights under Article 27.”

In the piece itself she cites the case of the proposed merger of the Gender and Equality Commission with the National Commission for Human Rights as another clear case of clear lack of political will to give full effect to, and translate the constitutional gains secured for both men and women into a substantive reality through informed legislation and concerted implementation.

In my discussion with her over this particular article and other related topics, I found myself drawing many parallels with South Africa. If you ask me, the issue of gender equality in this country has taken centre-stage in much the same way that racial equality did in post-1996 South Africa. Blacks in SuidAfrika, much like the women of Kenya, saw the enactment of their progressive new Constitution as an opportunity to push for full promotion of their rights and full access to opportunities. Their Bill of Rights much like ours is both horizontal and vertical applicability which means that every citizen can enforce any right or freedom against either the State or another individual or both. To cut a long story short, black South Africans using the Affirmative Action strategies that women in Kenya have started to adopt, succeed in getting quotas put in place in both public and private entities. The (in)famous Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) programme comes to mind.

So my words to her was that women of Kenya should take heart and know that the battle for promotion and protection of their rights under the Constitution could not be left in anyone’s hands but their own. When MPs use words like “not realistic” “largely aspirational” to describe rights you’ve spent decades for their inclusion in the supreme document, you must know that they’re trying to water down your achievements, stirring doubts and spreading falsehoods to break your momentum. Women of Kenya must not relax. The formula proposed in the Elections Bill, to me, made a lot of sense and it shouldn’t be discarded simply because some male MPs somewhere are afraid that the axe will fall on them.

The push of reform starts with the Supreme Court which must be properly constituted and continues with vigilance that all key subsidiary laws touching on gender are scrutinised and checked to ensure strict compliance. The elephant in the room remains implementation. The Executive must no longer be allowed to drag its feet.

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