Category Archives: Political Participation

What role did women’s groups play in setting the 2030 Agenda?

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Listen to Dinah Musindarwezo, Executive Director of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) talking with IWHC‘s Jessie Clyde about the critical role the women’s movement in Africa played in mobilizing and contributing to the formation of the Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the 2030 Agenda.

“women’s rights organizations felt it was critical to ensure the voices, the realities, the needs and interests of African women and girls inform the next development Agenda”

“women’s groups brought the rights perspectives to the table…as well as inclusion of comprehensive gender equality issues such as ending violence against women, sexual and reproductive health and rights, harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriages, women’s participation and representation in all levels of decision making levels – both public and private”

A UNITED FRONT FOR THE NOT MORE THAN TWO-THIRDS GENDER PRINCIPLE IN KENYA

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By Kerigo Odada

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 upholds the rights of women as being equal in law to men, and entitled to enjoy equal CoK 2010 opportunities in the political, social and economic spheres. Under Article 81 (b) not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive public bodies shall be of the same gender.

Under Article 27 of the constitution the government is required to develop and pass policies and laws, including affirmative action programs and policies to address the past discrimination that women have faced. Additionally, the government is required to develop policies and laws to ensure that, not more than two-thirds of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same sex. However this law that was a significant achievement for women has recently come under threat since the Chepkonga Bill was tabled before parliament. The Bill seeks to amend the provision of articles 81 (b) by providing for its progressive realization. This move by the Chair of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee was not taken lightly by women and men who are in support of gender parity in political representation.

Civil Society Organizations came together in support of an advocacy campaign against the Chepkong’a Bill. The campaign is meant to ensure that the two-thirds gender rule is fully implemented as set out in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and that women’s participation in politics and government is safeguarded.

CSOs-led campaigns such as Thuluthi Mbili Za Mama Twazitaka Sasa and Green Amendment, both supported byDoc1  likeminded parliamentarians under the umbrella of KEPHRA (Kenya Parliamentary for Human Rights Association) and KEWOPA (Kenya Women Parliamentarians Association) came together in support of one formula that has already been tabled before parliament by Leader of Majority in Parliament Hon. Aden Duale.

Before the merger of the advocacy campaigns in support of the Geen ammendmenttwo-thirds gender principle, CSOs were championing two different Bills presenting two different formulae.

The two formulae being championed by CSOs were:

Twinning: Have the 290 constituencies contested as usual. Then pair up 98 neighbouring constituencies for women to compete among themselves in addition to the 47 slots already created in counties. For example, Kibra merged with Langata, Westlands paired up with Kabete, Dagoreti North with Dagoreti Westland. Again the team was proposing nomination slots to be extended by 14 to make it 20 to represent youth, women and persons with disabilities. In summary, if this proposal had gone through, there would be 290 MPs, 145 female elected MPs and 20 nominated MPs to represent special groups and one Speaker adding up to 456 persons in the National Assembly.

The ‘greatest looser’: currently being championed by CSOs, KEWOPA and KEPHRA. It was tabled by the Attorney General through Hon. Duale after High Court Judge, Justice Mumbi Ngugi gave the Attorney General and the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) 40 days to prepare and table the two-thirds gender rule Bill before Parliament. The Bill states that, after an election, if the number of women does not meet the constitutional threshold, the gap will be bridged by picking additional women as per party lists. Political parties will submit a list of members to be nominated. According to the Bill, the allocation of the seats will be done proportionally on the basis of the number of seats won by a political party in order to ensure the empowerment through nomination will be spread to many people. The Bill also stipulates that one cannot be nominated for the special seats for more than two terms. It says the provision for the special seats will lapse 20 years after the 2017 elections.

The Bill introduces new clauses to Articles 97 and 98 to alter the composition of the National Assembly and the Senate. “The composition of the National Assembly (Senate) comprises of the number of special seat members necessary to ‎ensure no more than two-thirds of the membership of the National Assembly (Senate) is of the same gender,” the new clause says. The Bill also introduces new clauses to Articles 97 and 98 to ensure the special seats are allocated proportionate to the number of seats won by a political party, determined after a general election.

Moving a motion to reduce the Bill’s publication period, majority leader Aden Duale said the National Assembly will seek the extension of the fast-approaching August 27 deadline for the Bill’s enactment.

The laws that are targeted for review are the Elections Act, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act, the Political Parties Act, the County Governments Act and the National Gender and Equality Commission Act.

FEMNET is united with the women’s movement in Kenya and in Africa in calling on the Parliament to act in the interest of both men and women in fulfilling the promise the Kenya Constitution that is recognized as one of the most

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progressive Constitutions in Africa. Often we hear about the huge cost associated with increasing the number of women in parliament and yet we do not hear about the cost of excluding experiences, expertise of more that 50 percent of the population from being part of the decision-making on matters that impact their lives.

Kenya is the only country in the Eastern Africa that has recently entered the category of the middle income country, is one of the Countries’ that hosted the women’s international conference, hosted the launch of the African Women’s Decade in 2010 and recently co-facilitated the just concluded negotiations of the Post-2015 Development Agenda that has emerged with great wins for gender equality. Yet, in Eastern Africa, Kenya is performing dismally on women’s political representation. Kenya falls short of reaching the 30 percent threshold of women’s representation as stipulated in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and definitely far below the African Union’s 50 percent gender parity policy framework. For this situation to change there is a need to change the Kenyan political systems and most importantly the gender perceptions of the policymakers and the entire citizenry.

The recent 20 years review of the Beijing Platform for Action (Beijing +20) showed that eight countries in Africa including South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, Seychelles and Uganda have reached the 30 percent target of women in the national parliament. It is high time that Kenya learnt from these countries. With or without formulas, implementing the two thirds gender principle is do-able!

Kerigo Odada is a lawyer passionate about pan-Africanism, economic empowerment and political participation of women and girls, currently attached to the Advocacy Programme at FEMNET. Follow her at @eunidada

Women’s Forum: Feminist Perspectives on the Third International Conference on Financing for Development

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By Nyaguthii Wangui Maina*

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July 10th 2015, marked an important day when feminists from around the globe converged in Addis Ababa Ethiopia to share their views, reflect and consecrate their ideas ahead of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.
With a vibrant room filled to capacity by both female and male counterparts, succinct and pertinent opinions were shared on the amalgamated view that the stakes are indeed high for realizing gender equality and women’s rights as development financing is shaped, negotiated and agreed upon in Addis Ababa. A consistent theme that did however run throughout the discussions was that transformation of mindsets was critical in surmounting the structural barriers impeding gender equality.

The forum was opened by Ms Dinah Musindarwezo from FEMNET and Ms Rosa Lizarde from the Feminist Task Force and Women Working Group on Financing for Development, both of them echoing the views and concerns of participants present in the room; that the road ahead was indeed bumpy.

Despite the well known fact of women’s empowerment and gender equality being basic human rights and central to human development, governments and global state actors alike have nonetheless mismatched their commitments with the required financing and policies. If anything, the alarming trend of women’s civil society spaces shrinking globally is a cause for concern and redress. A keen participant added to this point by raising the issue of women at home being excluded from influencing these very processes. “There is a strong disconnect between politics and the economy and women’s voices are missing everywhere, even at home in domestic processes,” she said.

Ms Rosa Lizarde of the Feminist Task Force, and Ms Dinah Musindarwezo of FEMNET

Ms Rosa Lizarde of the Feminist Task Force, and Ms Dinah Musindarwezo of FEMNET

As the forum began with discussions on the issues at stake in the Financing for Development negotiations and strategic interventions on ways to overcome global obstacles for gender justice and sustainable and equitable development, Ms Lakshmi Puri, deputy Executive Director of UN Women, urged the audience to consistently remember that there can never be enough gender in these discussions. “The political declaration from CSW59 committed member states to support and provide a safe environment for women and girls, however, making all stake holders accountable is pertinent; the private sector has a massive role to play too,” she said. Ms Puri also urged for cohesive interventions in pushing for gender equality. “We must show solidarity between women from the north and south to push our common agenda forward.”

The forum took place in five consecutive sessions. The full program for the women’s forum can be seen here.

Session 1 highlighted the Red Flags for Women’s Rights around the Third Financing for Development Conference and the Post 2015 Development Agenda. An infographic on some of the key areas raised by experts from the Women’s Working Group can be seen below:

Womens major group red flags

Session 2 included five thematic discussions on the red flags highlighted. These were as follows: Tax Justice & Domestic Resource Mobilisation; Private Finance; International Public Finance; Debt, trade, systemic issues and technology; and Follow up and Review.

Session 3 included a plenary session where there were report backs from the thematic group discussions. Thereafter discussions by simultaneous working groups on FfD3 regional priorities took place.

The final session included reflections dubbed, ‘Morning after Addis. What comes next?’  This was a very participatory discussion which encapsulated both stock-taking and looking forward in the horizon for feminist and women’s organisations looking at where they would find themselves post-Addis; a look at the links with Post 2015 and other processes at the regional and global level; and what in fact the Addis outcome could mean for the Post 2015 process. This session was summarised by the highlighting of the existing opportunities at regional and global level to advance the links between women’s rights and the FfD agenda.

In her closing remarks, Ms. Emma Kaliya (FEMNET Chairperson) and the Women Working Group co-coordinators echoed the same sentiments. After all is said and done and there is sufficient mobilisation of resources, how will these resources be used to enhance gender equality? What does the governance architecture look like? How will we consistently and persistently mobilise ourselves to ensure that women’s rights are at the heart of development? Yes investing in women makes economic sense, but the current economic model in and of itself undermines addressing women’s rights as basic human rights.

*Ms Nyaguthii Wangui Maina is a blogger; connect with her on her blog Musings of A People and on Twitter @nm_wangui.

#ABetterWorld

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By: Yemurai Nyoni

When it comes to gender equality and the question of why I keep talking about it, I have this to say. Gender (in) equality is a real issue, whose legitimacy is still undermined by the status quo: the existing arrangement of our economies, societies and politics. As a young man, a youth voice and a part of your social media family; I have to keep talking about gender equality in order to send the message home.

I aim to make sure that by the time we’re done talking about gender equality, that’s all our leaders will have left to say. Up to such a point that any leader who doesn’t say it, see it or work towards it as we do, will stick out like a sore thumb.

We need to keep conditioning the world to see what we see in order to bring our future closer. There is a greater hope for humanity, a suppressed potential, which we will see if and when women have their stake of the development pie.

So I will continue to speak about gender equality, until this conversation stops being unusual. But even then I will continue, because it is not enough to speak about it or believe in it; we must take the necessary steps to prove its authenticity. That way, when we have seen the transformative power of women’s leadership, when we witness their constructive influence on the economy, society and politics; there will be no turning back, ever.

To my female friends and colleagues, we are not at gender equality 101 yet. Somehow it seems the world can still afford to leave you out, beat you up and keep you down. So they need to hear more, they need to believe and we can help them. Hence I speak with the 50+% because there is a case to prove and women need a full platform to prove it.

Lastly, for those who ask for evidence of the benefits of gender equality, there is plenty in tow; but the best of it is yet to come. #HeForShe #MorePower #MoreSpace #NoViolence #GenderEquality #NoRegrets #MakeItHap

Infographic courtesy of Women Deliver http://www.womendeliver.org/knowledge-center/publications/invest-in-girls-and-women-everybody-wins-2014/

Let’s Talk about Power, Violence and Men in Crisis

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By Sam Rosmarin*

This week, hundreds of Kenyans marched in downtown Nairobi chanting “My Dress, My Choice” in response to recent violent public attacks on women. On the surface, these attacks focused on the indecent attire of the victims, while the march focused on the freedom of women to dress how they please. While I laud the marchers for putting this issue into the public space, I can’t help but think their slogans are misguided. By centering their slogans on dress, the activists allowed Kenya to slip into the wrong conversation: a debate on morality and appropriate attire.

These conversations aren’t inherently bad, but I believe they are wasted opportunities to confront the real issues of power and violence.

When a mob of men strips a woman naked for being “indecent” in public, this is an act of power not morality. Let’s be honest: if it were truly about the moral horror of seeing too much skin, this mob of men would have thrown a blanket to cover the victim instead of exposing even more of her skin. If this were truly about morality, men wouldn’t be drawing parallels between a women in a mini-skirt and a bank asking to be robbed. Echoing many other voices, one man tweeted: “You intentionally seduce the male folk with your attire, deprive them of the treasure, yet cry foul when raped. #MyDressMyChoice is ridiculous!” Our first reaction to such a quote is probably to point out his objectification of women and his misplaced entitlement. “How dare men feel sexually entitled to women’s bodies,” we say. As activists and as citizens, we need to dig deeper and realize how powerless someone must feel to come to that conclusion. A viewpoint like that is forged in the societal fires of patriarchy – a forge that tells him what a real man is (powerful, dominant, virile) and warns him of what a real man is not (weak, compassionate, impotent).

Exerting power through violence is a surefire way to demonstrate your masculinity and, as one commentator rightly pointed out: “power-as-violence is the central organizing principle in the Kenyan public sphere.” Changing the status quo requires us to place these dynamics of power and violence at the center of our outrage and to form our solutions around dismantling this destructive nexus.

What does a focus on power and violence mean in practice? How can we adopt better advocacy practices?

In general, we should:

  1. Focus our slogans on the key issue: violence. “Freedom From Violence” is a more accurate slogan than “Our Dress, Our Choice” because the real transgression was the violent reaction, not the moral judgment.
  2. Focus on the roots of masculinity to encourage our societies to critically analyze the expectations we place on men. The dozens of men participating in these marches is a good sign, as well as an entry point to a broader conversation.
  3. Find non-traditional allies, particularly in religious institutions. Make it difficult for opponents to hide behind religious texts and other static documents that are open to broad interpretation, but claimed definitively by one side.
  4. Build from the bottom by supporting women’s expanded participation in traditionally male spaces such as politics and corporate businesses. This leverages power structures created by men.
  5. Finally, help your opponents visualize an infinite pie that expands with gender equality. Argue that everything from individual sex lives to national economic growth will improve with gender equality and freedom from violence.

*Sam Rosmarin is a strategy advisor based in Addis Ababa. Follow him on Twitter: @SamRosmarin

Brazil: Dilma Rousseff re-elected President

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source: The News

Leftist incumbent Dilma Rousseff was re-elected president of Brazil on Sunday, the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal said, after a down-to-the-wire race against center-right challenger Aecio Neves.

Rousseff, the first woman president of the world’s seventh-largest economy, took 51.64 percent of the vote to 48.36 percent for business favorite Aecio Neves, election officials said with more than 99 percent of ballots counted.

After a vitriolic campaign that largely split the country between the poor north and wealthier south, Rousseff crucially picked up enough middle-class votes in the industrialized southeast to cement a fourth straight win for her Workers’ Party (PT).

The 66-year-old, a former leftist guerrilla who was jailed and tortured for fighting the 1964-1985 dictatorship, called for unity. And she promised dialogue to give Brazil the changes she said that she knows voters want.

“This president is open to dialogue. This is the top priority of my second term,” she told supporters in the capital Brasilia, clad in white beside two-term predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

After four years of sluggish economic growth culminating in recession this year, she admitted her own report card had to improve and vowed to combat corruption.

“I want to be a much better president than I have been to date,” she said, issuing “a call for peace and unity” after a bitter campaign of low blows and mutual recriminations.

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