, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 15 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga has expressed fears that Africa may never catch up with the developed world unless the contribution of women in the society is fully appreciated and exploited.
He told the ongoing session of a conference on "African Womens Decade" in Nairobi that the continent lagged behind in many aspects of socio-economic spheres because of stereotypes that perpetuated gender biases.
"We must discard the big-man syndrome and embrace the thinking of the modern man who believes that a progressive struggle can only be attained when the contribution of women is appreciated," the Premier stressed.
He said some Third World countries overcame their economic woes after incorporating women in their development agenda and challenged African nations to adopt those policies that empowered and promoted gender parity in the society.
Mr Odinga regretted that the continent still registered the highest rates of maternal mortality because African governments were yet to accord provision of basic health the seriousness it deserved.
"Women die because our political systems have not put enough focus on their health by providing adequate resources which ought to be a priority if the decade is to mean anything to the African woman," he said.
The Premier urged participants from 48 member states to push their respective governments to honour their pledge to contribute one percent of their budget to the African Women Fund which the African Union Commission formulated to promote related activities in the continent.
The conference held at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre saw Gambian Vice President Dr Isatou Njie Saidy and several Gender affairs Ministers on the continent attend the five-day event.
Mr Odinga informed the participants of the government\’s commitment in upholding gender equity following the entrenchment of a new Constitution that was sensitive to the plight of women.
"Kenya\’s new Constitution has been hailed as a milestone in advancing the rights of women and we intend to implement its provisions on gender to the letter," he said.
The Premier lauded the strides Rwanda had made in promoting women representation and asked other states to emulate the trend and push the ratio beyond the 30 percent minimum benchmark to at least 50 percent slots of the available seats.