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Kenya Minister hails women seats

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 24 – Gender, Children and Social Development Minister Esther Murugi has lauded the proposal to constitutionally reserve 47 Parliamentary seats for women, saying there is need to enhance women participation in decision making processes.

Ms Murugi who was speaking in Nairobi during the opening of a meeting for Gender Affairs Ministers of East Africa on Wednesday also said women should contest for the other available seats in order to increase women representation to 30 percent.

“With the harmonised draft we are hoping to get the 47 seats that we have been promised but we are saying that is not even enough because it only translates to 13 percent. We are hoping that (number) can be the starting point and we want to sensitise women so that they can also vie for other seats,” she said.

Ms Murugi also said that equal gender participation in leadership positions reflected the true composition of society further emphasising the need for Kenya to increase women representation.

“We need to ask ourselves, ‘What is equality?’. It is in the numbers, so if we (women) have a population of 52 percent, it is only fair that we also have 52 percent seats in every decision-making,” she said stressing that the African Union has recommended equal representation.

“It is not the Minister for Gender who is asking for 50 percent it is the African Union,” she said.

The Gender Minister also took issue with the incessant violence against women saying it was an issue of great concern. She said there was need for concerted effort between various line ministries to ensure Kenya rid itself of the vice. She also added that there was need to enforce and strengthen the existing laws.

“Our efforts need to focus on both victims and perpetrators if the initiatives are to succeed. Kenya is already making progress in this area through the establishment of Gender Based Violence (GBV) Recovery Centers as well as a National GBV framework for a coordinated approach to effectively address this concern,” she said.

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Ms Murugi also said it was unfair for the police to arrest female commercial sex workers and leave out their clients, “It takes two to tango and I get very angry when I see police arresting women for engaging in the business. Where do they leave the men?” she posed.

She lauded the government’s efforts to yield positive results towards the achievement of gender equality. She however emphasised the need to enhance these efforts saying the global economic downturn had reserved some of the gains made in alleviating poverty.

“However the achievement of gender equality is faced with some certain challenges; the global recession affected women most of who still live below the poverty line. Therefore the capacities of women need to be reinforced and our government must take innovative measures to ensure that national budgets are engendered,” she said.

This comes ahead of the Global review of the Beijing platform for Action scheduled for March. In 1995 the world widely acknowledged the Beijing platform for Action as a powerful tool for women’s empowerment that calls for the integration of gender perspectives in all policies and programmes by focusing on concrete measures to address the critical areas of concern for the advancement of women.

It has been 15 years since East African governments committed themselves to the goals and ideals of the platform. Various reviews have been undertaken at the national, sub regional, regional and global levels highlighting varying degrees of progress in the critical areas of concern.

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