The world celebrated the International Women’s Day on March 8. This year’s theme was ‘Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change’. The theme seeks to put innovation by women and girls, for women and girls, at the heart of efforts to achieve gender equality.
Indeed, achieving a gender-equal world requires social innovations that work for both women and men, leaving no one behind, from urban planning that focuses on community safety to e-learning platforms that take classrooms to women and girls, affordable and quality childcare centres, and technology shaped by women, innovation can take the race for gender equality to its finishing line by 2030.
It is about disrupting business as usual, paying attention to how and by whom technology is used and assessed, and ensuring that women and girls play a decisive role in emerging industries.
International Women’s Day also focuses on programmes and interventions that governments have made to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, while giving recommendations for the future.
Equality of the sexes is one of the universal principles of human rights. The demand for it has been strengthened by the development of the industrial society, and of economic systems based on individualism, and a workforce devoid of sexual distinctions.
Not surprisingly, therefore, women equality has become a feature of education, work, investment, and political life. There are hundreds of women in this country who in various ways have courageously stood up and stepped out in audacious ways to make their voices heard. They have championed political change, and economically empowered many Kenyan families and communities.
They have paved the way for society, a blessing to many in their journey of life. Particularly in the last decade, women have made great strides on a wide range of issues in the economic, social and political spheres.
Women are the real custodians of the world’s natural resources, especially in Africa, and in the developing world. They exploit the land for energy (wood), food (agriculture) and shelter (timber). Since this has direct impact on the land, women need to be equipped with sufficient skills for sustainable land utilisation.
The future needs all hands on deck, from the National and County Governments, to Parliament, the Judiciary and civil society, in developing strategic interventions that most effectively address some of the pressing issues facing women today.
It is heartening to see the gains that Kenya has made as a country over the last 10 years. This has been made possible by ‘path-finding’ women and their quest for a fairer, freer and more equitable society.
The improvements made to gender equality, particularly in education, have been important, and Kenya’s gender commitments in the Constitution are in line with international standards. Despite this, inequalities remain high and women’s employment in the formal sector, as well as their access to land, is still below that of men’s.
The generally high gender inequality index is the result of a combination of factors including the high maternal mortality rate, the previously low participation of women in university education, as well as the low political representation of women and ensuing low share of parliamentary seats held by them, despite the enactment of the one-third gender rule.
To be a woman is to live to the higher calling of thinking and seeking beyond self; to carry the weight and worries of your family, colleagues and the society. It is to provide a shoulder to lean on without minding the weight and, to set the pace for others to follow.
A lot has been achieved, but more needs to be done. For instance, women today are either exclusive, or co-owners, of property. Therefore, their voices matter in developing plans on real estate development. Mainstreaming women in overall policy development cannot, therefore, be overemphasised.
(The writer is the Human Resources and Corporate Services Manager, Tatu City)