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Kenyan President Pushes for Gender Equality

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his administration have made significant progress in advancing empowering women in Kenya, a feat he made sure to flaunt at the Jubilee Party manifesto launch at the end of June. The launch, which took place at the Kasarani Stadium, outlined the Jubilee Party’s visions for the nation in the coming years while emphasizing the party’s achievements thus far in pursuit of these goals.

“Our aim is to make women equal and empowered partners in the full spectrum of our social and economic endeavors,” stated the 2017 plan. In the manifesto, the party described its role in various recent moves toward gender equality: increasing women-held political leadership positions, enacting legislation such as the Marriage Act 2014 and Matrimonial Property Act, which granted equal rights to women in marriages, and reduced the occurrence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) from 27 to 21 percent through awareness campaigns across the country.

President Kenyatta and the Jubilee Party also highlighted their economy-based accomplishments in women’s advancement, which included the expansion of funding for women-focused incubators such as the Women Enterprise Fund (WEF). WEF has worked to support women entrepreneurs, provide access to credit, and increase the number of women trained for the industry; so far, it has funded 19,803 groups and benefited 651,875 individual women.

Following the WEF, the administration expanded their program further to include the UWEZO Fund and the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF), both with similar missions and strategies. Combined, the funds brought total affected numbers to over 130,000 funded groups and 2.2 million empowered individuals. Each of these funds has helped give Kenyan women access to necessary educational or entrepreneurial resources, bringing more of them into the local and international economy as active participants.

President Kenyatta and the Jubilee Party plan to add to this progress. The 2017 manifesto commits the administration to achieving a variety of other goals in the next five years, including but not limited to lending directly to women-led SACCOs, and implementing the two-thirds gender provision.

Kenya’s Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations (SACCOs) are owned and managed by its members, who share a common bond. The members then loan money and credit to each other, acting like a non-profit community bank. With women having a 92 percent rate of repayment, and with their loans aiding them in becoming financially independent and active, the Jubilee Party aims to contribute more to these women-based SACCOs to further support women.

On the political side of the spectrum, the two-thirds gender provision will legally establish that no more than two-thirds of government appointments can be male – ensuring that there are at least 33 percent of female appointments at all times. Though 51 percent of Kenya’s population is female, the provision has been hotly debated in the past.

President Kenyatta notably pushed Parliament to re-introduce the subject, while eulogizing his late sister, Margaret Wambui Kenyatta, in April. The late Wambui had been extremely politically active, and was once the first woman to serve as Mayor of Nairobi, and in turn a role model to Kenyan women everywhere. At her requiem mass, President Kenyatta emphasized the strength of the women in his family. “We have a responsibility to work together and ensure that we pass the two thirds gender rule, so that women can take their rightful place in our society,” he reminded the crowds.

As he venerated his late sister, Kenyatta addressed the men in the building directly, saying, “Never underestimate the strength of a woman.”

Featured Image by UNCTAD on Flickr
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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