, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 16 – It was in 1995 when the fight for women’s rights to equality climaxed amid controversy and incredulity that they could actually be equal to men.
It was the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China.
In Kenya where a woman’s place has been for the longest time been the kitchen, the Beijing conference instead of being viewed as issue-based was theatrical and even ridiculed.
The demeanour in which Kenyans approached the Beijing conference overshadowed the issues that attracted a delegation of women from the East African country to be among the women delegations from 180 countries to converge in China to strive for women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Kenya’s first woman Cabinet Minister Nyiva Mwendwa drew undue attention for carrying along her hairdresser to the conference.
But did that deter the Kenyan delegation in advocating for women’s rights?
Capital FM News spoke to one of Kenya’s top female judicial officers on the matter. She is Justice Joyce Aluoch who is now serving at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Though she did not attend the Beijing conference, she closely followed the developments which she believes have had a positive impact in empowering women.
According to Aluoch, Kenya has made remarkable progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goal number three which advocates for women empowerment and gender equality.
Apart from having a Constitution that creates positions for women representation in Parliament, she has also lauded Kenya for implementing laws that promote women’s rights and empowerment.
“It (Constitution) guarantees representation of at least two thirds of either gender at the levels of national and county assemblies,” she says.
She also cites the Marriage Act and the Matrimonial and Property Act as important laws that will boost equal recognition of women.
Having been a judge in the High Court and Appeals Court, she recounts the hardships encountered when making rulings touching on divorce and property.
Kenya at the time did not have its own pieces of legislation on marriages and matrimonial property.
“We used to have lots of problems especially in the event of a death of a husband. It would take us sometimes three months to establish who really was married to this man. Sometimes we would have 4, 5, 6 women who say they were married to him. That took us a long time to establish and we started advocating for legislation of marriages,” Aluoch recounts.
Justice Aluoch says the Matrimonial and Property Act is also a very big achievement since during her time as a judge, a husband was more recognised as a contributor to the family than a wife.