NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 21- Women parliamentarians from the region are meeting in Nairobi to discuss ways of increasing their representation at the national level.
The Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Conference will also be used to chart an agenda ahead of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting due to be held in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Kenya Women Parliamentarians Association (KEWOPA) Chairperson Jebii Kilimo said on Friday that women’s low representation in Parliament is also a key challenge to their empowerment.
“This is despite the fact that European experience shows that where women MPs have a mission to effect change even small numbers can produce significant results” she said adding: “even though we are 10 percent we know we can be felt in our constituencies.”
The Marakwet East MP and Cooperatives Development Assistant Minister also wants African countries to domesticate all international protocols on women.
She advocated the passage of the Marriage and Matrimonial Property Bill which is awaiting Cabinet consent while the FGM Bill is currently at parliamentary committee stage.
At the same time, Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende urged women parliamentarians to lobby their male colleagues to issues that would lead to the promotion and adoption of gender sensitive legislations and policies.
In a speech read on his behalf by Mwingi North MP and Defence Assistant Minister David Musila at the conference, he said that women in the region remained disadvantaged in the education, employment and political representation arena despite making up 51 percent of the population.
He said they must speak with one voice as Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians in order to achieve their objectives of identifying and addressing the challenges facing the women agenda for the East Africa region.
“Debates about men and masculinity need to stimulate development agencies and other actors to put gender and development theory into practice by, among others, focusing on challenging unequal power relations in society directly,” he said.
The Speaker said the education system is a useful channel to fight gender stereotypes as well as recruit gender champions amongst men through public recognition and awards of gender sensitivity.
“We must move from preaching to the converted and address the perpetrators of some of the issues facing gender imbalances in our society which are largely patriarchic in nature,” Mr. Marende said.
This is after Ms Kilimo said the 22 female MPs were still facing challenges in having women issues articulated in the House.
Mr Marende said he hoped that the ongoing constitutional revive process will address the gender inequality.
“As MPs you must demand higher demonstration of political will to reduce gender inequalities an empower women through enhanced budgetary allocations and relevant legislation”
Mr Musila also serves as the country’s representative to the CPA- Africa chapter.
The tow-day meeting has attracted participants from Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.