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THE THIRD MDG:A LOOK AT THE PROGRESS MADE IN ACHIEVEMENT OF WOMEN EMPOWERMENT AND GENDER EQUALITY IN KENYA
I will admit it ,I was one of the naysayers .I am not proud of it now of course but you have to understand I am a man or at least was a boy then (who is just a man with lesser dimensions) and my thinking was archaic to say the least .I had no knowledge of any millennium development goals and not much of anything really but even in this state of foolishness I still had a keen distaste for any ideas that promoted gender equality .My perception of women was set ,none of them were capable of anything .It was to be seen all around me ,I’d grown up used to it and the notion that women could do the same things just as good as men was unfathomable .I was very wrong .I didn’t know it then but I would , soon enough ,and that realization would change my life forever.
If I had to talk of all the cases of women empowerment I encountered that changed my perceptions then those stories would form quite a sizeable volume .They would make for an interesting read I am sure but not everyone is such an avid reader ,so to spare someone mind torture won’t go down that road .I could talk of the case of the head teacher when I was in high school .It was as a matter of fact my first encounter with the so called women empowerment and I remember hating every minute of it .The previous head teacher had been a man as had been every other one before him .We were used to it and never thought anything of a female head of school though the school was mixed .Well she did take up the seat ,after a lot of resistance ,mostly from male teachers in the school who themselves thought they should have one of their own assume the seat .We the students seeing the power struggle were at first sure that the female whoever she was would never get the job and when it became increasingly apparent that she would in fact get it our predictions changed, we now started saying that she would have a hard time as head .That was true ,her first days were challenging she struggled to get her philosophy across and wasn’t helped by uncooperative teachers and downright rude students some of whom publicly declared that they would never submit to a female ,they couldn’t bring themselves to do it .
Some months into her tenure however things began to cool down perhaps it was due to her personality .She was like no other woman we’d ever seen ,not like our mothers ,dealing with resistance like it was child play ,keeping going even when we thought she couldn’t possibly keep holding on .We the students were the first to actually start giving her some respect after quickly realizing that it was only to our loss if we kept up tussling with her .She’d hand out some seriously chastising punishments to anyone who had gone astray with a straight face not flinching at all .it also was the case that if you behaved in a manner she expected she would be the best of teachers so most of the students soon learned to stay in her good books , it was much easier .The male teachers got round too ,not as fast the students though .I think they realized that it wasn’t so bad to have a female as a boss and later some would even say that it was better with her than the previous head teacher .
The case described above shows how hard it was at first for our society to embrace these new ideas ,and it is by no chance isolated .All over the country there are numerous not so much talked about cases of little triumphs that will one day be seen as very big triumphs when our society is a more just place .As of now there is not much to boast of ,not as much as Rwanda definitely with its more evenly constituted parliament and perhaps more impressively the executive ,but we can still be proud of something .At least the situation isn’t as it was a decade ago .It has to be said also that given how deeply entrenched we were in our deluded thinking it is truly astonishing how our meager achievements appear ,so yes we can feel proud .
There were steps before but the constitution is really where it all got together .The 9th parliament saw a bigger number of women chosen as representatives .It was as if in tandem with the new dawn the country was experiencing then(with the new government and all)some switch was flicked on in everyone’s mind .Those old chauvinistic views suddenly weren’t as desirable .There was even a woman in the higher echelons something which some twenty years previously would have been a near certain impossibility .From then on women progressively got more involved in affairs of government and to a greater extent private management .Organisations such as FIDA(which is a kind of federation of women lawyers representing women against injustices done to them )gained prominence as did other sectoral clubs of sorts which championed for the rights of women in their specific fields of expertise .As a result of all these initiatives women in all sectors of the economy all across the country started to have a voice ..Perhaps it was due to this awakening that the 2007 election was an even bigger success for women .the numbers elected to parliament and those appointed to managerial positions in cabinet increased compared to the previous election .
Establishing the new constitution as the cornerstone of this new way of doing things a perspective shift so to speak is something we have already alluded to above .The push for this new constitution however must also be accorded its fair share of praise in the drive towards women empowerment .Women were extensively involved in all aspects relating to the making of the new constitution .They had to because the old constitution had come up severely short on matters concerning women .The new one had to be different and so it was .Indeed it is the case that that issues of gender equality and women empowerment among other issues were what distinctly set the new document apart from the old one and from many other similar ones worldwide .From the one third gender rule and provisions for ownership of property (that allowed women to own property for the first time in the country ) the new constitution was seen as a major triumph for campaigners of these issues .These clauses were crucial as were others which were more indirect but still had the effect of entrenching equality and fairness across the board such as making it a right for every child to access basic education be they male or female .
While the realization of some of the provisions of the constitution has not happened in a manner as expedient as we would have expected ,the glaring gender imbalance in the national assembly and the subsequent ruling by the courts to have the implementation of the one third gender rule delayed until the forthcoming election period being cases in point ,there is still an undisputed sense of things having gotten better since the new constitution was passed in 2010 .The numbers of women appointed to cabinet and as secretaries have definitely exceeded one third of the total number of members in these bodies .The split may not be halfway(50/50)in composition of the cabinet for example but we can undoubtedly say that we are getting there .The main issue to deal with isn’t with appointive bodies but rather those that are composed of elective members and perhaps here a more thorough change of mindset is required , more than just a law ordering the nature of composition of these bodies .It is here where our efforts must be concentrated .
Stepping away from politics achievements can be seen all around elsewhere .These achievements in these other fields can even arguably e viewed as bigger .In schools for example enrollment numbers show a marked improvement with regard to girls .The number of girls joining primary schools ,and exiting successfully we should add , is now roughly equal to that of boys .This is spectacular given that it has only taken ten years or so .In some places even the tilt is towards the girl child and we applaud this since we can never have enough of a good thing .Performance in tests such as the KCSE and the KCPE show also that it isn’t just the high number of enrollees that is all to smile about .Quality education is being imparted too .Where the number of our girls joining universities for technical fields of study was dismal before now we are seeing more and more doctors and engineers .All this should be lauded and improvements sought after actively