NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 13 – Kenya Women Parliamentarians Association (KEWOPA) chairperson Cecily Mbarire (Runyenjes) has asked the women to take advantage of their persuasive skills to get men to support their quest for the two thirds gender rule.
Speaking during the launch of the two-thirds gender rule campaign at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) Mbarire said it was unfortunate that in the last election, only 16 women were elected to the National Assembly while no women were elected as Governor or Senator, saying women should take advantage of their numbers to push for their agenda.
“All of us here are the ones who make those men win the elections at the grassroots. As you leave here, go and talk to your MP; tell him, if you want to be re-elected support the two-thirds Gender Bill – and do not insult them, talk to them gently,” said Mbarire.
Her sentiments were reiterated by President Uhuru Kenyatta who challenged women to use their numbers and voting power to boost gender equity.
He said women, who constitute over 50 percent of the country’s population possessed the ability bring about positive change in Kenya.
“Any delay in the empowerment of women is a delay in the development of the nation. We can chose to either live in the past or we can together forge ahead to create a new future,” said the President.
He further challenged men to support women in the quest for representation emphasizing that everyone, regardless of gender had a role to play.
“Gone are the days when empowering women was viewed as a favour to our women and an attempt to make us look good. More than anywhere else in the world, our African women must be given the prominence that they so rightfully deserve,” he said amid cheers and ululations from women.
Mbarire who passionately narrated the challenges experienced by African women even moving the President to tears in the funny narration challenged the government to invest in the ‘rural’ woman.
“We want more training for women so that they can fill those tender documents and register companies – this is the kind of empowerment we need,” she said.
She lauded the Jubilee Government for the efforts it had made to allocate women leadership positions further pledging the support of women come the 2017 General Election.
She added that through programs initiated by the government, the lives of women had greatly improved.
“We thank you for being gender sensitive and giving women a chance – because of putting women forward, we have seen programs geared towards bettering the lives of women,” she added.
Mbarire singled out the free maternity program, the beyond zero initiative championed by the first lady and the Uwezo Kenya loans initiative made accessible to women, youth and persons with disabilities among other projects which she said directly impacted women.
“Mr President I want to tell, that First Lady, if you went to the polls with her, you will be shocked,” said Mbarire.
Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru who was the convener of the meeting outlined its agenda to, take stock of the road women have travelled since the international conference in Nairobi in 1985.
She said Kenya has made progress in women empowerment from increased enrolments in schools to participation of women in all scopes of development.
“In Kenya, women empowerment is a mandate and not an alternative,” said Waiguru.
Ambassadors Liu Xianfa (China), Erasmo Roberto Martinez (Mexico) and Lars Bredal (Denmark’s Charge d’ affairs) also addressed the conference bringing together over 1000 women on the steps their countries are taking to promote gender equality.
With the deadline for the achievement of the two thirds gender principle fast approaching KEWOPA chairperson Mbarire says they will be seeking an extension of between four to five months to finalize on their Bill.
KEWOPA’s Bill seeks to import article 177 (a) and (b) to article 97 and 98 which essentially provides for a topping up mechanism in the National Assembly where members are nominated proportionately on party lists from qualifying political parties to meet the two thirds gender threshold.
Justice and Legal Affairs Committee chairman Samuel Chepkong’a on the other hand is proposing an indefinite postponement of the implementation of the two-thirds gender principle.