Constitutional protection, increasing levels of education and improvements in health have had a ripple effect on women’s overall wellbeing. The number of women appointed to public offices and those elected and/or nominated to political posts has grown. In constituencies, registered women’s groups have increased, with more of them taking advantage of the Uwezo and Women Enterprise funds.
The Promise of the 2010 Constitution
Kenya’s recent achievements in the social arena, particularly in the health and education sectors, paint a rosy picture. Between 2011 and 2015, for instance, the total enrolment in pre-primary schools increased by 6.7 per cent. The gross enrolment rate rose from 103.5 per cent in 2014 to 103.6 per cent in 2015, with the primary to secondary transition rate of 80.4 per cent jumping to 82.3 per cent in 2015. Enrolment figures for boys and girls were almost at par.
Over the same period, registration of births increased in comparison with the proportion of deaths, which declined.
Increasing levels of education and improvements in health seem to have had a ripple effect on women’s overall wellbeing. Spin-offs have been witnessed in the wider area of gender and development, where the number of registered women’s groups has grown, with more of them taking advantage of the Uwezo and Women Enterprise funds.
The Uwezo Fund is a flagship programme of Vision 2030. It aims at enabling women, youth and persons with disability to access finances to promote businesses and enterprises at constituency levels in order to enhance and realise economic growth. This is in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) No. 1, which seeks to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, and No. 3, which seeks to promote gender equality and to empower women.
The MDGs come to an end in 2015 and are to be replaced by Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in January 2016. The latter will continue to guide policy at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as well as funding for the next 15 years (2016-2030). SDGs (also known as Global Goals) require countries to mobilise efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind. SDG 5 seeks to achieve gender equality and to empower all women and girls.
The Uwezo Fund was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in September 2013 and enacted through Legal Notice No. 21 of the Public Finance Management Act of 2014. It was published on February 21, 2014. The fund seeks to expand access to finances and promote women, youth and persons living with disability at the constituency level. It also provides mentorship opportunities to enable the beneficiaries take advantage of the 30 per cent government procurement preference through its capacity building programme. The fund is perceived as an avenue for incubating enterprises, catalysing innovation, promoting industry, creating employment, and growing the economy.
Gender and decision-making
Kenyan women have taken significant strides alongside their male compatriots towards realising their social and economic development goals. In the political and decision-making arena, however, they lag behind their sisters in the East African Community (EAC) region.
As curtains came down on Kenya’s 11th Parliament, Rwanda, which also held its general elections in 2013, had 61.3 per cent of National Assembly seats occupied by women—more than three times Kenya’s 19.4 per cent.
Indeed, Rwanda is “one of only two countries worldwide that have more women in parliament than men.” Kenya does not only trail Rwanda, but also its next-door neighbours Tanzania and Uganda, whose percentages stand at 36.4 and 34.3, respectively.
Kenya’s affirmative action has seen Woman Representatives occupy elective seats in each of the 47 counties. The County Woman Representatives (CWRs), provided for in the Constitution, have greatly boosted numbers of women in Kenya’s 418-member Parliament, accounting for 11.2 per cent of the bicameral House that includes the Senate. Unlike the National Assembly, which had 16 elected women, the 18 women Senators in the 11th Parliament are all nominated.
Still, women fared much better as Senators than as Governors. Just like there was no woman in Kenya’s first Parliament (1963-1969), no woman was elected Governor in any of the 47 devolved County Governments that were rolled out in 2013. On the other hand, nine counties — Makueni, Embu, Narok, Kwale, Mombasa, Taita-Taveta, Kitui, Kisumu and Kericho — had women Deputy Governors. Even then, the women are less than one-fifth of all Deputy Governors put together.
Constitution and affirmative action
The Constitution sets out a two-thirds gender principle and does not specify whether it is the male or the female gender that is disadvantaged.
The neutrality of the affirmative action clause is informed by the fact that gender discrimination is a double-edged sword that cuts both ways such that at times it will favour either of the sexes and at other times it will disadvantage them.
The supreme law recognises women, youth, persons with disabilities and ethnic minorities as special groups deserving of constitutional protection. The Constitution espouses the rights of women as being equal in law to men, and entitled to enjoy equal opportunities in the political, social and economic spheres.
Article 81 (b) under the general principles of Kenya’s electoral system, states: “The electoral system shall comply with the following principles— (b) not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.
Section 27(4) proscribes discrimination on any grounds including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth. However, Article 45(2), under Family, states: “Every adult has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex, based on the free consent of the parties.”
The obligations of the Government under Article 27 of the Constitution, include the need to develop policies and laws to ensure that not more than two-thirds of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same sex. Article 177, seeks to ensure that Articles 81(b) and 27 (8) of the Constitution are complied with at the county level through the nomination of special seat members.
In the 11th Parliament, the numbers do not meet the constitutional threshold of not more than two-thirds of elective or appointive posts being of one gender. As a result, the women lawyers lobby group, Fida Kenya, has already filed a case against the Speakers of the National Assembly and of the Senate, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the Attorney-General to protest the lack of legislation of the two thirds gender principle.
The suit, which enjoins Fida Kenya, Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW), and Community Advocacy and Awareness Trust (CRAWN), wants the substantive implementation of the Constitution by the IEBC as a precondition for Parliament’s convening constitutionally. Previous suits wanted the court to give an advisory on how to achieve the principle within the five years since promulgation.
The Constitution has clear mechanisms for implementing its provisions. The Constitution does not stop at providing for the two-thirds gender principle. Rather, it takes cognisance of the cultural, social, and political realities of the day in Article 10 – National values and principles of governance. These national values and principles of governance bind all State Organs, State Officers, public officers, and all persons whenever they interpret the Constitution.
The national values and principles of governance specific to affirmative action include human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalised.
In 2012, at the behest of Attorney-General Githu Muigai, the Supreme Court gave an Advisory Opinion that set August 27, 2015, as the deadline for legislation on the two-thirds gender principle. To midwife this process, the AG established a multi-sectoral Technical Working Group (TWG) in February 2014 . To supplement the efforts of the TWG, various civil society organisations and other like-minded partners, including faith-based societies, worked alongside the TWG.
Meanwhile, several Bills were drafted and debated in Parliament. The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill No.2 of 2015 (the Chepkonga Bill) proposed to amend Article 81(b) of the Constitution to reinforce progressive realisation of the two-thirds gender principle. The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, No. 4 of 2015 [Duale 1 Bill] proposed the lifting of Articles 177 (b) and (c) to Articles 97 and 98 of the Constitution. Election Laws (Amendment) Bill No.6 of 2015 [Duale 2 Bill] proposed amendments of Articles 90, 97 & 98 of the Constitution.
Senate Private Member’s Bill on the two-thirds Gender Principle of 2016 (the Sijeny Bill) proposed a sunset clause of 20 years after the 2017 general elections for affirmative action and nomination limit of two years.
The greatest achievement of the 2010 Constitution is that it got 86 women into the 11th Parliament — 21 to the National Assembly, including five nominated; 47 County Women Representatives; and 18 nominated senators — 11 more than the 75 elected and nominated since independence. More than 1,000 men, on the other hand, have been in Parliament.
In spite of the huge gains realised through a progressive Constitution, women are still far from attaining the one third representation in political offices. They form 19 per cent of the National Assembly and 26.5 per cent of the Senate—14.3 and 6.8 per cent short of the constitutional minimum of 33.3 per cent for the respective houses.
Women political candidates
In 1997, the 2004 Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai and Charity Kaluki Ngilu offered themselves as Kenya’s first-ever female presidential candidates. Prof Maathai succumbed to ovarian cancer in 2011 before realising her dream of becoming Kenya’s first woman Head of State. Martha Karua contested in 2013, emerging sixth in a pool of eight contenders — seven men and one woman.
There was no woman in the high-stakes 2002 General Election.
In the 2007 elections whose outcome plunged the country into post-election violence, one woman, Nazlin Omar stood, taking the sixth position among nine candidates. In 2013, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua ran for the presidency against seven men and was ranked sixth.
But despite the affirmative action measures that came with Constitution, women’s participation in the 2013 General Election was dismal. Eight women ran for governor, and 19 for Senate, but none was elected. However, 18 women later found their way into the Senate on the basis of affirmative action, there was no woman governor. And, although 165 women vied for one of the 290 constituency seats, only 16—a paltry 5.5 per cent—found their way into the august House. Out of out of 237 gubernatorial candidates, only 19 were women.
For the 1,450 Ward Representative positions, only 88—six per cent of the elected candidates—were women.
When the Cabinet was constituted in April 2013, six women were appointed Cabinet Secretaries. Raychelle Omamo was the first woman in charge of the Defence docket, while Ann Waiguru was named Devolution and Planning CS. Energy expert Judi Wakhungu is heading the Environment, Water and Natural Resource docket, Charity Ngilu is Land, Housing and Urban Development CS, Phyllis Kandie is steering the East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism docket and Amina Mohamed Foreign Affairs. In a November 2015 reshuffle, Ngilu was dropped and Sicily Kariuki was appointed CS to the new Youth Affairs and Gender Ministry, having served as Agriculture Principal Secretary.
President Kenyatta in June 2013 also named seven women as Principal Secretaries, namely Mariamu El Maawy (Land), Josephta Mukobe (Coordination), Prof Colletta Akinyi Suda (Science and Technology), Dr Khadijah Kassachom (Livestock), Sicily Kanini Kariuki (Agriculture), Amb Monica Kathina Juma (Defence) and Mwanamaka Amani Mabruki (East African Community).
In November 2015 when President Kenyatta increased the number of State Departments from 22 to 46, the number of women Principal Secretaries more than doubled from seven in 2013 to 16 while the number in the Cabinet remained six.
It is evident that in spite of their poor showing and the fact that no female stood for the highest office in 2002, Kenyan women have been presenting themselves for President since 1997.
A number of women are likely to shift from the position of County Woman Representative (CWR) to being a representative in single constituencies out of the realisation that the position commands less clout than that of a constituency MP.
While the latter (that is the traditional Member of Parliament) has the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), which acts as a selling point in setting up development projects, CWRs lack similar influence.
After much haggling to get access to State funding, they finally got Kshs7 million each, designated as a women’s fund.
Politically-motivated violence has also contributed to women’s poor participation in politics
Women Enterprise Fund (WEF)
The Fund, established as a Semi-Autonomous Government Agency in the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development, in August 2007, provides wholesome package of financial solutions to existing and potential women entrepreneurs through offering affordable credit to support women start and/or expand business for wealth and employment creation.
Women constitute slightly more than 50 per cent of Kenya’s population. It is generally recognised that women in the country have been marginalised from accessing economic resources and opportunities due to a number of reasons, including institutional, cultural and structural.
The establishment of WEF is premised on the Government’s commitment to the realisation of the third Millennium Development Goals on gender equality and women empowerment. It is also in line with the Vision 2030 regarding reducing gender disparities by making fundamental changes in four areas of opportunity, empowerment, capabilities and vulnerabilities.
(i) Provision of affordable credit for enterprise development
(ii) Capacity building of women entrepreneurs and their institutions
(iii) Support and facilitate domestic and international marketing of products produced by women
(iv) Facilitation of linkages with big corporations: and
(v) Development of infrastructure beneficial to women, e.g. decent market spaces.
The Fund has received a total of Kshs1.985 billion from the Exchequer through annual Government budgetary process. The amounts have been utilised as follows:-
- Lending to women through the Constituency Women Enterprise Scheme (CWES), through registered Self Help Groups, Kshs408 million has been disbursed, benefiting 245,010 individual women.
- Through 74 competitively recruited financial intermediary (FIs) partners, Kshs1.54 billion has been disbursed to 45,000 individual women in all the 47 counties. These institutions have the technical capacity to do financial intermediation beyond credit, such as savings, money transfer, financial advisory services and micro insurance products that WEF does not offer.
As an incubator Fund, it is important that women get acquainted to such formal players, because once they outgrow the subsidised loans, they will play the open market league. That is the ultimate goal of this noble Government intervention i.e. nurture women from exclusion to inclusion in the formal sector. The main types of businesses our beneficiaries involve in include retail trade, agriculture, telecommunications and transport, therefore creating jobs for themselves and other Kenyans.
WEF has disbursed cumulatively Kshs6.089 billion to 51,352 self-help women groups since inception, benefitting 1,046,012 individual women across the country. The Fund has trained nearly 55,000 women on business management skills and offering great dividends as the fund now boasts of an average loan repayment rate of 91 per cent across the country. WEF also promotes a savings culture among women and has registered over 50 women savings and credit cooperative societies (SACCOs) to date.
The Fund won the Sustainable Development Goals Award for outstanding achievement on promoting Gender Equality and Women Empowerment.
In the use of technology to serve Kenyans efficiently, WEF employs mobile money facilities for loan repayments, a robust internal system and techno-savvy modes of communication. This has earned the fund recognition through the ICT Association of Kenya (ICTAK) Award 2014 when WEF scooped “Best use of ICT (State Corporation Category)”.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO- WEDGE) has recognised the Fund’s beneficiaries and financial intermediary partners. In one of the events to mark the Month of the Woman Entrepreneur, Tonney I. Red Women Group of Kisumu Town West constituency scooped the Best Women Groups award. Nakwamekui Women Group of Turkana Central was runners up while Regina Kagunya from Nyeri Town was the Best Woman Entrepreneur.
Kisii Town-based Wakenya Pamoja Sacco Society Limited emerged tops in the WEF intermediary partners’ category among 66 partners. They were recognised for growing the funds given to them from Kshs20 million to Kshs63 million. They served more than 2,000 women.
Uwezo Fund is a flagship programme for Vision 2030 aimed at enabling women, youth and persons with disability (PWDs) to access finances to promote businesses and enterprises in the constituencies. This enhances economic growth towards the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals No.1 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger) and 3 (promote gender equality and empower women).
The Fund was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta on September 8, 2013, and enacted through Legal Notice No. 21 of the Public Finance Management Act of 2014.
The Fund seeks to expand access to finances and promote women, youth and persons living with disability led enterprises in constituencies. It also provides mentorship opportunities to enable the beneficiaries to take advantage of the 30 per cent Government procurement preference through its capacity building programme.
Uwezo Fund, therefore, is an avenue for incubating enterprises, catalysing innovation, promoting industry, creating employment and growing the economy
Uwezo Fund objectives
To expand access to finances in promotion of youth and women businesses and enterprises at the constituency level for economic growth towards the realisation of the goals of Vision 2030;
- To generate gainful self-employment for the youth and women; and
- To model an alternative framework in funding community driven development.
To date, the fund has disbursed Kshs5.35 billion to all the 290 constituencies and so far 32,405 groups of 19,690 women, 11,802 youth and 735 PWDs have accessed Kshs3.3 billion of these funds.
Fida Kenya has worked in the last 30 years to ensure that women are empowered to participate in the political space. The lobby group is best known for helping womenfolk get their rights in court on personal welfare issues like child support and matrimonial issues.
The women lawyers lobby has also been part of the constitution making process since the days of the one party rule.
The women lawyers lobby was involved in all the five major cases on the two-thirds gender principle, either as lawyers or as parties.
In the countdown to the General Election, and in the absence of affirmative action regulations to boost women’s chances of winning political seats they had set their eyes on, Fida Kenya launched a hot line 21661—SEMA USIKIKE (Kiswahili for speak out and be heard)—for the women candidates and the members of the public who witness cases of violence against women candidates to report the cases in real time.
Persons with disability
It is estimated that about 4.3 million people, or approximately 10 per cent of the population have some form of disability. The prevalence of disability among adolescents of 10 to 19 years is about four per cent.
The most common forms of disability include physical impairment, visual, hearing, speech and mental challenges.
One of the greatest challenges that persons with disability face is lack of assistive devices, making more reliant on others for their basic needs. Only a small number is gainfully employed and earning an income sufficient enough for their livelihood. A majority are engaged in family businesses or in the informal (jua kali) sector.
Efforts to provide specialised care and access to education for children with disability in the country can be traced back to the 1940s where religious institutions established institutions for children with disabilities across the country. These schools that largely catered for those with visual, physical, hearing and mental disabilities were later taken over by the Ministry of Education.
In 1986, the Government established the Kenya Institute of Special Education, to build the capacity of the teachers who care for the children with disability within these institutions. This followed the creation of a special needs education section within the education ministry in 1975. The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development and the Kenya National Examination Council also developed the learning syllabus that would suit children with special needs along with suitable examinations to assess them
The number of such children accessing education has been on the increase over the years. In 1999 there were only 22,000 enrollments in special schools as well as in integrated programmes the numbers increased to 26,885 and 45,000 in 2003 and 2008, respectively.
This has been attributed to the introduction of free primary education by the Government in 2003, which saw more parents taking their children to public schools. The enrollment influx brought along with it many more categories of children with special needs and learning difficulties as the Government implemented policies of not denying any child access to education.
Public universities like Kenyatta University and Maseno University have stepped a notch higher in inclusive education by including braille and sign languages to include those with hearing and visual impairments.
Persons with disability who cannot move around without the assistance of others do not have access to healthcare services, especially pertaining to sexual and reproductive health.
Adolescent girls with disabilities, especially those with mental impairment, often fall victim to sexual predators in the absence of their care givers, resulting in unplanned for pregnancies.
On average one in every six girls with disability within the 10-19 age group report their first pregnancy by their 20th birthday.
Though there are no specific statistics for adolescents with disability, general youth data shows that while 87 per cent of those aged between 15-24 years were either in a relationship or married, only 12 per cent use modern contraceptives. The situation is dire for the country’s disabled youth.
The Persons with Disability Act of 2015 not only streamlined the PWD Act of 2003 to the Constitution. It also further established the National Council for Persons with Disability along with the Persons with Disability Empowerment Fund, making them eligible for government funding.
Last year, the Government, through the National Treasury, increased the disability kitty from Kshs232 million in the 2009/2010 financial year to Kshs1.2 billion in 2014/2015.
The Government also increased the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities to more persons with disability through the Public Procurement legal framework. This means a third of all government tenders of up to Kshs200 billion annually are allocated to persons with disability, youth and women.