, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 8- Women in Kenya marked the 100th international day for women, on Tuesday, with calls to Members of Parliament to pass bills that would protect the rights and welfare of the girl child and women.
While acknowledging that the 9th and 10th Parliaments have been active in legislating laws to curb harmful practices perpetrated against women, the First Lady, Lucy Kibaki, noted that key bills that would help eliminate the vices, such as the Family Protection Bill 2009, Marriage Bill 2009 and Matrimonial Property Bill 2009, were still pending.
The First Lady made the remarks in a speech read by Gender, Children and Social Development Minister Naomi Shaban at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre during celebrations to mark the event.
“I urge all parliamentarians especially women to use the floor of the House to protect the girls and women. For a long time, retrogressive cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation, early marriages and child labour have hindered the smooth development of the girl child,” the First Lady said in the Speech.
The Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s wife, Ida, also reiterated Mrs Kibaki’s remarks saying Kenyan women deserved support from the government if they were to attain any of the roles set out for them.
“We need support and we need to show a lot more of the positives so as to encourage others who are coming after us. Basically women are the same; they come in all sorts of forms and backgrounds but they cry in one language,” said Mrs Odinga.
She was speaking at a separate function, in commemoration of the day, which was attended by various leaders in the country including Public Health Minister Beth Mugo, Gichugu MP Martha Karua, former Vice President Moody Awori, American Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger, among others.
Ms Mugo explained that the government would soon open a special center where women would be screened for any reproductive health cancers in an attempt to contain the life threatening illnesses.
She added that the government would also upscale its fight against HIV/AIDS especially among the sexual minorities.
“We are also not living sex workers out because we have to include everyone in our campaign. And whether we like it or not they are part of our society so everyone has to be targeted in our fight,” she said.
Ms Karua, on her part, challenged Kenyan women to take up the leadership positions created for them by the Constitution. She argued that time had come for women to demand for a place among decision makers.
“It is time we considered what each of us can do to make the transformation we want a reality. And yes our fate and that of our men folk are intertwined so we can’t do without each other and we had better learn how to co-exist,” she said.
Mr Awori lauded the government’s efforts in empowering the women in Kenya saying that the move would help attain the Millennium Development Goals. He said that the Kibaki administration had among other things created a Fund where women could get monies to sustain their projects and empower themselves financially.
He also observed that African countries would only achieve their long and middle term goals if they included women in decision making.
“I want to tell the men that 100 years is too long a time for women to wait. It is time now for us to bring our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters and aunts to their rightful place alongside us and not below us,” he quipped.
Amb Ranneberger also announced that his government would in commemoration of the day launch a Fund for women to help them manage conflict and enhance peace.
During the celebrations four women were awarded for their exemplary works in the educative, humanitarian, environmental and health care sectors. Khadija Omar Hassan was awarded for her works in Isiolo where she runs an organization that caters for the needs of orphaned children and persons living with HIV.
Esther Wambui was recognized for her campaigns in ensuring girls in the slum areas of Nakuru town have access to sanitary towels. Lydia Wambura was awarded for her environmental conservation efforts while Doris Mayoli was awarded for empowering women in the fight against cancer.
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