NAIROBI, Kenya, May 11 – The Director of the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission Patrick Lumumba has challenged women to discard the notion that historical cultural barriers discourage them from applying for top positions.
Prof Lumumba who was speaking during the opening ceremony of a seminar for the United Nations Women on Wednesday asserted that the argument did not hold any water as the one-third quota system representation for women was now anchored in the new Constitution.
He added that women should stop discrediting themselves and instead focus on fairly competing for the constitutional positions.
"The opportunities will be created but when we advertised for the position of the Chief Justice, only two of you applied. We cannot fish you out of your homes and your boardrooms," he said.
"A friend of mine used to say that you cannot be shaved in your absence; you must be present," he quipped.
The Vice Chairperson to the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC), Elizabeth Muli, however maintained that cultural prejudices continued to undermine women\’s participation in decision making structures.
She argued that Kenyans should strive to empower women rather than lose hope in them in order to fully achieve the gains of the Constitution and save time.
There has been a notably low participation of women in the recruitment of key offices that are crucial in the implementation of the new Constitution.
Lack of applications by women candidates has precipitated an amendment to the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Bill in order to extend the time by when a vetting board must be in place in accordance with the new Constitution.
The Constitution has secured at least one third of the membership of the board for women, which means that the vetting process cannot proceed if no women apply for the positions.
It is also notable that of the 30 persons who applied for the position of Director of Public Prosecution, only five were women.
"Supporting the faster progress for women is not only morally right but it is also a constitutional requirement. For each day that women fail to exercise their rights and take their positions in the political and economic arena, the Constitution is violated," said Dr Muli.
Her sentiments received the support of National Commission on Gender and Development Chairperson Regina Karega who argued that women had been accustomed to taking a back seat in governance issues and that it would take time to get past that worldview.
"Sometimes you find women vying for political seats and then people refer to them as \’kasupuu\’ (a beauty) or make references to their biological structures which is very demeaning. Men don\’t get the same treatment," she argued.
She further called on Kenyans to play their dutiful role in the implementation of the Constitution arguing that it would be impossible for the CIC to oversee the implementation of the Constitution without the support of Kenyans.
"It is not the work of nine commissioners sitting in a boardroom in Westlands to implement the Constitution. Ensuring compliance and the enforcement of the Constitution is the responsibility of every organ and individual in this country," she said.
Prof Lumumba also asked Kenyans to remain cautious and ensure the Constitution was fully implemented. He noted that the political standoff in the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs risked derailing the implementation process.
"We will have our terrible twos moments and I believe the CIC is beginning to experience that moment when there are hiccups of different kinds among the political class. But because there are many beautiful Constitutions, even beyond the laws, we must keep vigilant," he said.
House Speaker Kenneth Marende has in the meantime asked the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee to take over the implementation of the Constitution until the issues facing the legal affairs committee are resolved.
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