New Strategies to Push for Adoption of the Two-Thirds Gender Principle

As the August deadline draws nearer for the Two-Thirds Gender Principle to be implemented by The House, women parliamentarians are putting up spirited efforts to speed up the process and make the timelines.

A new working group has been formed to select the final bill which will be tabled in parliament towards implementation of the Two-Thirds Gender Principle.

The working group was launched at a stakeholders’ consultative forum convened by Kenya Women Parliamentarians (KEWOPA), the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) and The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

Hon. Senator Judith Sijeny, whose Bill is currently at the second reading
Hon. Senator Judith Sijeny, whose Bill is currently at the second reading

The forum, which brought together organizations in the public and private sector, was convened to deliberate on the two thirds gender principle in all elective positions and specifically to debate between The Constitution Amendment Bill Number 4, 2015 (Duale Bill 1) and The Constitution Amendment Bill Number 6, 2015 (Duale Bill 2).

While presiding over the forum, Hon. Cecile Mbarire, the chairperson of KEWOPA noted that the gender rule was successfully being implemented in the public sector but not in the political arena. “In the legislature where key decisions are made, the two thirds principle is far from being observed,” she said.

 

Mbarire also emphasized on the timelines noting that the bill needs at least two months to be deliberated in parliament, two additional months to be forwarded to the senate as well as one month for mediation in case the senate and the national assembly disagree; all which should be done before August.

Challenges

Besides the imminent August deadline, there is a pending ruling by the Speaker on whether the final bill will need to go through a national referendum to be adopted. Should the speaker rule on a referendum, it will be a major drawback on all the bills.

The working group will also have to deal with the challenge of negative myths surrounding implementation of the bill. Hon. Millie Odhiambo noted that the Sunset Clause is a threat to male members who think women parliamentarians will use it as a grounds to be re-nominated to parliament.

She noted that there is a lack of champions for the bill as many women parliamentarians have already

Senior Citizens Hon Phoebe Asiyo and Hon Martha Karua at the forum
Senior Citizens Hon Phoebe Asiyo and Hon Martha Karua at the forum

declared their political intentions for next year’s general elections and this will be negatively affected by their support of the gender principle.

Besides selecting the bill, the working group is also tasked with researching advocacy strategies for promoting the bill, reviewing the Supreme Court’s advisory on the gender principle and working towards popular initiative. It will also find resolution on the Sijeny and Chepkonga Bills which face withdrawal if the Duale Bill 2 is passed.

Duale 1

Although KEWOPA supports implementation of the Duale Bill 2 due to additional numbers of female representation, the timelines may not be viable. Consequently, most members have lobbied for adoption of the Duale 1 Bill which has been supported by the Committee for Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) as well as the Attorney General.

The Duale 1 Bill has also gone through the maturity period and after wide stakeholder involvement, it has been approved by most stakeholders. Martha Karua, who will provide technical support to the working group noted that parliament has a constitutional obligation to implement the bill.

Zebib Kavuma, Country Director for UN Women called for accountability in the process
Zebib Kavuma, Country Director for UN Women called for accountability in the process

“I have no qualms supporting the bill because the journey in the constitution is the journey to gender equality, not a journey to fractions,” she said.

“We must rely on political goodwill generated from outside and also generated from within our parties, but if we don’t do that then we are losing,”Hon. Karua also noted.

The gender bill has already received support from parliament and the senate as the speakers and the Chief Justice are working together to implement and safeguard affirmative action in their strategic plan.

Discussion Exposes Cracks in Implementation of Two-Thirds Gender Principle

Lack of political goodwill, poor public understanding and deep-rooted patriarchal attitudes are some of the major challenges facing implementation of the Two-Third Gender rule, it has emerged.

Enactment of the gender rule has also been marred by a negative mood in the country, with people fearing over-representation of women in leadership positions should the principle be implemented.

These are some of the threats and challenges discussed at a media café organized by AMWIK and bringing together journalists from different media houses to discuss the pending Two-Third gender principle.

Nancy Gathoni, an Advocate with the Womens' Empowerment Link
Nancy Gathoni, an Advocate with the Womens’ Empowerment Link

Present at the media café was Nancy Gathoni, an advocate with the Women’s Empowerment Link, who noted that Article 177of the constitution is in tandem with implementation of the principle.

Article 177 (1) (b) provides that the number of special seat members necessary to ensure that no more than two-thirds of the membership of the assembly are of the same gender. She however noted that despite these provisions by the constitution, there are no measures and practical solutions for implementation.

“A framework for implementing the rule is missing in the senate and the national assembly,” states Sylvester Mbithi, a Legal Officer at the National Gender and Equality Commission.

Mbithi, who has been part of the technical working group set up by the Attorney General to discuss implementation of the rule, says that the only way to get an effective formula for implementing the principle is by amending the constitution through a referendum.

So far there have been four bills tabled in parliament aimed at guiding implementation of the gender principle. These include the Chepkonga Bill, the Compromise Bill, the Sijeny Bill and Duale Bill 2.

However, only one of the bills-the Sijeny Bill proposed by Nominated Senator Judith Sijeny-has been called for a second reading. Mbithi says that although parliament has enough power and capacity to implement the bill, there is a general lack of goodwill among the members to do so.Sylvester Mbithi

“For instance, the Chepkonga Bill is still in parliament yet it serves no purpose,” he says adding “parliament needs to get rid of all these bills and focus on just one.”

The Chepkonga Bill was proposed by Ainabkoi MP Samuel Chepkonga who chairs the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee in the National Assembly.

  Mbithi warns that the current parliament risks disbandment if it does not implement the principle by August this year as this is the last chance parliament has to complete deliberations on the principle.

Myths

Also discussed at the forum were myths surrounding the implementation of the gender rule. One such myth is that when the rule is implemented, women will take over men’s roles and subjugate them in leadership.

Marceline Nyambala, Programs Manager and acting CEO at AMWIK reiterated that the political terrain in Kenya is currently too violent for women to participate.

“Political campaigns are too expensive for women, and women are never nominated by their political parties, so they do not have any support,” she says noting that political representation of women in the Kenyan national assembly is currently the lowest at 19.7 percent.

This is against Uganda where women representation is currently at 35 percent, Tanzania at 36 percent and South Africa at 41.9 percent.

Nyambala noted that the female perspective is evidently missing in many areas of leadership. “We would also like to see this principle implemented in our editorial boards,” she said adding “When women are represented, there are certain critical issues which will be addressed that we are currently missing.”

AMWIK Programs Manager and Acting CEO Marceline Nyambala
AMWIK Programs Manager and Acting CEO Marceline Nyambala

Among the recommendations made at the forum was a call on development partners to push county governors to embrace the gender rule.

AMWIK and NGEC are already at the forefront of mobilizing the public to change their mood and attitudes towards the gender principle and to create a collective voice for its implementation.

NGEC has launched a campaign dubbed Tubaidili Tusitawi Pamoja which uses male participants to champion for the cause.

AMWIK is also engaging the public through its radio listening groups to raise awareness on the gender principle.

Parental Neglect the Primary Cause for Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation

Parental neglect, poor parenting skills and communication breakdown between parents and their children are the major risk factors contributing to high rates of rape and child sexual abuse in slums and informal settlements.

In recent months, children and infants as young as six months old have fallen victim to violent sexual crime and abuse, with most cases being reported in slum areas.

A few weeks ago in Makina area of Nairobi’s Kibera Slum, a four year old girl was sexually defiled by her neighbor in broad daylight. Apparently the child’s mother had sent the child to deliver money to the man’s house in payment for a debt she owed him.

Residents of the area recount that on the fateful afternoon, they heard loud music blasting from the single-room house of the man. But on listening keenly, they could also hear the distressed cries of a child emerging from the room.

After knocking on the door for endless minutes without response, the anxious crowd broke down the door. Inside the shanty, they found the little girl screaming in pain, her genitals completely maimed and bleeding profusely, having been brutally defiled by the man. They rescued her but it was too late, the damage had already been done.

This is just one of the horrific stories emerging from the six-month long community radio listening project AMWIK has been conducting in Nairobi’s Kibera and Korogocho slums.

The project is titled ‘Community and Youth Awareness on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights in Kibera and Korogocho slums in Nairobi County through Community Radio Listening Programmes and Media.’ It is sponsored by The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) and began in July 2015.

Benard Ogoi, AMWIKs Programs Officer speaking to members of the Kibera Radio Listening Group. Looking on is Esther Njogu, a Social worker with NFSS
Benard Ogoi, AMWIKs Programs Officer speaking to members of the Kibera Radio Listening Group. Looking on is Esther Njogu, a Social worker with NFSS

The project has been running in 11 informal schools and one public school in Nairobi’s Kibera and Korogocho slums. It targets parents, teachers and pupils with the aim of increasing their knowledge on matters including child sexual abuse and exploitation, rape, the process of seeking justice after abuse, how to protect evidence after an assault incident and punishment for sex offenders.

The radio programmes are compiled and produced by AMWIK and they cover topics including parenting skills, understanding gender based violence, preventing sexual abuse and exploitation and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In these intimate sessions, participants share their personal experiences as they learn better ways of addressing issues of sexuality in the community.

Poverty

From the programmes, it has also emerged that living in poverty is a major challenge barring parents from being actively involved in the consistent monitoring and disciplining of their children.

The lack of stable income, poor living conditions and housing crises, lack of access to medical facilities and inadequate food supply for slum residents are among the factors contributing to the high rate of criminal activities, including rape and child sexual abuse.

“Most parents in this slum are casual laborers, so every day they have to wake up early to go and search for odd jobs,” says Susan Mohamed, a parent and member of the Kibera radio listening group.

Susan Mohamed, a parent and participant at the forums
Susan Mohamed, a parent and participant at the forums

She says that by the time parents and guardians return from work, it is already nightfall. This makes it virtually impossible for them to spend time with their children. As a result, there is a huge gap in parenting skills and parent-child communication in most households.

“Sometimes parents wake their children very early to go to school while it is still dark, thus unaccompanied children are often preyed on by rapists,” she says.

Besides this, young girls in some households are often forced by their parents to engage in sexual activities in exchange for money in order to supplement their family income.

Alice Atieno, a parent and resident of Kibera slum, says that since finding proper housing is expensive in the slums, most families prefer living in single-roomed houses which they partition using curtains. However, this is a major challenge because it exposes children to their parents’ intimate encounters as they are separated only by a curtain.

Everlyne Machika, a resident of Makina area recounts an incident she witnessed whereby a man repeatedly had sexual relations with his teenage daughter ‘kama vile tunafanya na mama’ (the same way we do it with mother).

Gang Rape

The 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) estimates that the age of sexual debut among adolescents in Kenya is between 15 and 17 years old. However in slums and informal settlements, the age of sexual debut is at 13 years old.

This early age can be blamed on internet exposure as more children now have access to the internet through mobile phones, movie halls and cyber cafes where they stream pornographic material.

However, it can also be attributed to rape. Sadly, the nature and frequency of rape cases in urban slum areas has taken on a violent nature. Gang rapes are becoming common whereby girls are lured by their boyfriends to deserted areas where groups of young men lurk, waiting for their prey.

“There is a recent case of a young girl who went to a room with her boyfriend thinking it was just the two of them, but when she got there she was pounced on by a group of almost 10 boys and they repeatedly gang-raped her for hours,” says Susan Mohamed.

Unfortunately for residents, corruption has infiltrated the justice system and police officers are now collecting bribes from offenders to avert justice.

Skills and Knowledge

Justus Musyimi, the Headmaster of Makina Self Primary School in Kibera says that parents have to become more responsible and practical in dealing with their children.

Musyimi points to a recent episode where parents of some children in upper-primary school were summoned to the school. It emerged that the children had been meeting in deserted classrooms at the school on Sunday evenings to engage in sexual activities.

“Parents should teach their children how to have integrity thought-wise,” states Musyimi adding “all children should be taught to strive to good.”

“Parents do not have time for their children, they don’t talk to their children about real issues and some are scared so they hide information from them,” laments Susan Mohamed, who is also a mother of two teenage daughters.

Nicanory Muhando, a presenter at ghetto Radio speaks during a radio listening session. Looking on is Sheila Gitau, a social worker with NFSS
Nicanory Muhando, a presenter at ghetto Radio speaks during a radio listening session. Looking on is Sheila Gitau, a social worker with NFSS

Esther Njogu a social worker at the Kibera Nairobi Family Support Services (NFSS) and facilitator of the radio listening group says that parents are not open with their children on matters of sexuality.

“Parents don’t talk to their kids because they lack skills and knowledge,” she says adding “they also fear how to handle issues which their children experience with their sexuality.”

Parents have lauded the radio listening initiative, asking that it be rolled out to more schools and parents’ meetings so that more people can gain vital skills and knowledge on parenting and sexuality.

 

“Some issues are difficult to discuss between parents and their children, but the radio programmes set the conversations in motion and make it easier for them to communicate,” notes Njogu.

MITREEKI Conference opens Doors for Women Entrepreneurs

If recommendations raised at the conference are effected, women entrepreneurs in Africa stand a great chance of excelling in the international trade market.

Women need to get out of the kitchen, get an education and grasp the numerous opportunities present for them in the global business market.

This was the key message at the recent MITREEKI 2016 regional conference which brought together policy makers from all over the globe to discuss good policies, best practices and partnerships to mentor, support and collaborate with each other.

Mercy Waithanji of KAWBO
Mercy Waithanji of KAWBO

Women have always been disadvantaged in accessing opportunities due to myriad challenges facing them. This situation is worse for women entrepreneurs compared to those in employment.

While speaking at the conference, Mercy Waithanji from the Kenya Association of Women Business Owners (KAWBO) noted that the financial buoyancy of women is often determined by their education level.

She added that women face numerous setbacks including socio- cultural barriers, discrimination in payment and lack of gender parity in access to education and resources.

“We need to create an enabling environment in order to overcome the socio-cultural barriers which pull women back, particularly women at the grassroots level,” she said, “women spend a significant amount of time in unpaid care and domestic work thus they miss out on the opportunities.”

Dr. Gouri Krishna, CEO of BASIX Consulting and Technology Services in India shared evidence on global evidence on policies which have impacted development outcomes in India.

These include peer learning, delivery of banking services to low-income groups, tax revision, creating market linkages for business-people and gender mainstreaming.

Ms Zeinab Hussein, Pricipal Secretary of Gender Affairs graced the event
Ms Zeinab Hussein, Pricipal Secretary of Gender Affairs graced the event

Friendship

Among the recommendations made is to provide justice for women through affordable and accessible legal services. There is also need for labour-saving technologies to speed up production processes.

Africa governments can also create enabling legislation and policies, as well as promote gender parity. This can be achieved by advocating for more resources, support, political will and visibility to actualize the solutions for women.

The conference was organized by IPE Global in association with the Kenya Association of Women Business Owners (KAWBO) supported under Government of UK’s Department for International Development (DFID’s) Knowledge Partnership Programme.

MITREEKI is a combination of the words Maitreyi (meaning friendship in Hindi) and Urafiki (meaning friendship in Swahili), and it symbolizes Indo-Africa friendship beyond boundaries.

AMWIK members who attended the event (l-r) Venter Mwongera, Joyce Mutheu, Rachel Keino, Pamela Mburia and Yofi Juma
AMWIK members who attended the event (l-r) Venter Mwongera, Joyce Mutheu, Rachel Keino, Pamela Mburia and Yofi Juma

Women Journalists Challenged to Embrace New Opportunities in Digital Migration

Women Journalists have been challenged to proactively take up opportunities presented by the digital migration process in Kenya; specifically those in media ownership, content development and broadcasting.

In a conference held by AMWIK on 28th and 29th January aimed to strengthen the capacity of women journalists on the process of Digital Migration, media practitioners got a chance to interact with specialists in the field who provided insight on the benefits of the ongoing shift from analog to digital broadcasting. Among the myriad opportunities at hand include research in news, data journalism, videography and audio production.

The conference, dubbed Leveraging on Digital Migration Opportunities for Women Journalists, was a follow-up to a similar conference organized by AMWIK in 2014 to discuss challenges and opportunities of communities in the digital broadcasting migration. This particular forum had identified women as a core marginalized group in the digital migration process.

While speaking at the recent conference, AMWIK’s Programmes Manager Marceline Nyambala expressed the need for including communities which have been locked out of the digital migration process, including women and groups cut out due to poverty and high cost of digital equipment.

Other gaps identified in the migration process include lack of digital channels as well as mechanisms to deal with online harassment of journalists. Dr. Ezekiel Mutua, Chief Executive of the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) also pointed out lack of adequate local content.

Content Development

Despite the apparent challenges, journalists were encouraged to embrace the new technology because of its numerous benefits which include more jobs, flexibility in programming, a wider audience base and better access to the audiences.

Rose Lukalo of the Media Policy Research Centre listed opportunities in digital broadcasting such as photography, independent content production, international correspondence, marketing promotion as well as the development of applications software.

While urging women to learn from their career mistakes, Alison Ngubuini, proprietor of All Is On Productions dared women to also take up these media opportunities.

“Women need to lose mediocrity and take challenges head-on,” she said adding “It is important to have mentors who are above your pay grade and who have progressed more in their careers.”

Participants at the conference made various recommendations, including the need for networking and partnerships among women in the media as well as enactment of a policy that will protect AMWIK journalists against harassment and sidelining. Subsequently, the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) volunteered to work with AMWIK in training female journalists on internet security.

A separate team was created to spearhead the process of content development and will be directed by Christine Nguku, a lecturer at the Kenya Methodist University (KEMU).

The conference brought together TV and Radio producers from both mainstream and community stations across the region.