By Lilian Juma
It has been acknowledged time and again that women are seriously underrepresented in decision making in Kenya. This calls for the need for strategies to encourage women into leadership, particularly in view of the new Constitution of Kenya (2010) and the forthcoming general elections in December 2012.
AMWIK is thus privileged to play a role towards increasing the participation of women in leadership in Kenya through the Gender and Governance Programme (GGP). AMWIK is one of the 26 civil society organizations implementing GGP in Kenya, now in its third phase. The goal of GGP III is to ensure that Kenyan women and men are able to access services and opportunities and exercise their rights equally.
AMWIK in Nyando and Tharaka
AMWIK is particularly implementing the programme in Nyando, Nyakach and Tharaka districts through community radio listening groups, geared towards encouraging women to participate in governance and decision-making processes at national and local levels.
AMWIK is working with ten community groups in total. These include Kwe Women Group, Better Living Women Group, Sigoti Namteta Youth Group (SINATEP), Chap Chap Women Group and Nyakach Women League in Nyando and Mwanganza Self Help Group, Kamwara Women Group, Amkeni Gikingo Ladies Reformers Group, Matakiri Folk Media Group and Wendo-Ini Women Group in Tharaka.
During the official launch of the programme in August 2012, local administration officials in the target districts pledged their support for AMWIK and the goal of ensuring that women access leadership positions in Kenya. Among the officials were District Commissioners, Mr. Isaiah K. Tonui (Nyando), Mr. Chaunga wa Chaunga (Nyakach), Mr. Charles Monari (Tharaka South), District Officer, Mr. Patrick Ombogo (Lower Nyakach) Chiefs. David Onyisi (South Nyakach), Mrs, Judith Omune (South East Nyakach) and Jacob Musee Mukuria (Tharaka North).
Mr Chaunga welcomed the project noting that Nyakach was among areas lagging behind in women leadership, with no woman having ever been appointed in the councils of elders. He further urged AMWIK to collaborate with District Development Committee so as to empower women collectively.
Mr. Tonui on his part noted that women in Nyando were shying off leadership positions, with only one out of 16 chiefs being a woman and few women participating in departmental heads meetings at the Nyando district’s administration office. Further, he said it was crucial to empower women at this earliest stage ahead of the next general election.
Various strategies have been employed by AMWIK towards ensuring women’s effective participation in governance which include production of pre-recorded programmes on gender and governance issues, in the context of the current constitution (The Constitution of Kenya 2010) which are aired during community radio listening sessions. The aim is to create awareness among targeted communities to encourage women to go for governance positions as well as encourage Kenyans in general to embrace women leadership.
Radio spots will also be aired aimed at educating Kenyans in general on GGP and rally their support in encouraging women leadership. Other strategies include training for media practitioners on gender responsive reporting, with the overall goal of encouraging the media to play a role in setting the agenda for Kenyans to support women aspiring for leadership positions. So far AMWIK has held two major regional trainings for journalists in which over 70 journalists participated.
AMWIK will also conduct training for women aspirants in early 2012 to equip them with skills to present themselves as parliamentary/civic candidates as well as maximizing use of available media (electronic, print and social media) to gain visibility in the society. The training will involve instructing them on how to contact the media when they require coverage, drafting press releases and press statements.
AMWIK has conducted similar activities in past GGP programmes, which have enabled women to open up, with several of them managing to attract coverage in both local print and electronic media. AMWIK believes that the media can effectively be used to promote the status of women by demystifying taboos and stereotypes on women as well as equipping women with skills that will make them as competitive as their male counterparts in leadership and enable them participate in governance.
Need for critical mass
UN Women’s Country Program Manager- Kenya, Ms. Zebib Kavuma further notes: “Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspectives at all levels of decision making, national development cannot be achieved. Towards this there is need to consciously cultivate, support and build women’s leadership at all levels of decision-making.”
Ms. Kavuma further emphasizes the need for a critical mass of knowledgeable and effective women leaders in decision-making in the current phase of the implementation of the 2010 Constitution and the impending general and presidential elections.
The programme is managed by UN Women and is supported by a consortium of 8 donors led by the Government of Finland through a basket fund. Other donors are the Swedish International Development Agency, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, the Royal Norwegian Embassy and DFID.
GGP (III) evolved from three preceding gender programmes implemented in Kenya namely: (a) the Engendering Political Participation Process (EPPP) programme in 2002; (b) the Gender and Governance Programme Phase one (2004-2006) and; (c) Gender and Governance Programme Phase Two (2007-2008).
For more on GGP visit http://www.gendergovernancekenya.org