Tag Archives: kenya

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

Standard

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

SONY DSC

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

Advertisements

Ending FGM & Harmful Traditional Practices: Engaging Our Religious & Cultural Leaders

Standard

By Otina Kennedy*

In many African communities, cultural leaders are increasingly under pressure to remain relevant in light of increasing awareness and advancements on human rights for women and men.  There are many cultural practices that are in direct conflict with some of the national and regional laws, especially those which focus on the rights of women and girls. Most cultural institutions are male dominated and promote patriarchal tendencies that have remained a major hindrance to social justice and adherence to women’s and girls’ rights.  The greatest challenge is transforming the attitudes of cultural leaders to promote the rights of women, without fear of losing their influence in their communities.

endFGM

Since 2013, FEMNET (African Women’s Development and Communication Network), the Swedish Reproductive Health Organization (RFSU), Masculinity Institute (MAIN) and the Anglican Development Services Mount Kenya East (ADMSKE) have jointly partnered to tap in to the social status and influence religious and cultural leaders to promote sexual, reproductive, health and rights – SRHR for women and girls in Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Homabay counties in Kenya.

The project engages cultural and religious leaders in mobilising and leading their communities towards ending socio-cultural practices deeply-rooted in their communities such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and wife inheritance as a strategy to promote sexual and reproductive rights for women and girls in Tharaka Nithi and Homa Bay counties, respectively.

Using FEMNET’s Men to Men Strategy, the leaders have successfully cultivated an environment for religious and cultural leaders to work together to address FGM. For example, in Meru and Tharaka Nithi, the highly esteemed cultural leaders known as Njuri Ncheke have been openly supporting alternative rites of passage and are giving a consistent message to their communities.

The project has provided a platform where religious and cultural leaders share intelligence on secret ways used in performing FGM. One such tick is the transfer of girls from one village to another to confuse the locals.  From this information, religious and cultural leaders are alert and continuously monitor the influx of non-resident girls into their neighborhoods to ensure they don’t undergo FGM. The national treasurer of the Njuri Ncheke, Mzee Mwamba from Mara, is a traditional male circumciser and gathered this intelligence:

‘One day as I was checking on the medicine used on circumcised boys, I noticed that somebody was using the herbs without my knowledge. Upon investigations, I was informed about some women who were colluding with my assistants to siphon the herbs. I later learned the women were administering the herbs on girls who had been brought in the neighborhood from other communities to undergo FGM. As a trainer of trainers on SRHR, I was embarrassed that this practice was still happening in my backyard.  I reprimanded my assistants and the women involved who later shared the tricks that they use locally to perform FGM. I have gone further to establish a team of scouts who are keeping a watchful eye on girls visiting our area to protect them from FGM. Even though the women who were stealing my herbs committed to stop the practice, I had to report them to the area Chief who is the government representative at the village level to ensure they are known to the authorities for illegal activities.’

Women remain key allies in all the efforts to eradicate FGM. Society has pushed them into believing that FGM is a source of income and status in the community. Women have been pushed to justify FGM as a cultural heritage despite the negative impact the practice has on them directly. Most of the women who mutilate these young girls don’t believe that FGM is illegal and will go an extra mile to mobilise their fellow women to allow their girls to undergo the practice.  “We can easily tell if a girl from a particular family has not been circumcised. Our cultural practice requires that after undergoing FGM, the mother to the girl must organise a dance ceremony for women in the village to  perform songs and dances in praise of the circumcised girl”,  said a woman who performs FGM. Men have continuously blamed women for performing FGM, yet they seldom publicly condemn it. This is a scapegoat used by the men to avoid taking responsibilityon FGM matters. Women should be made to understand the immediate and long term negative impacts of FGM on the girls and on women’s SRHR life.

Article 5 of the Maputo Protocol calls upon State Parties to prohibit “all forms of FGM” through legislative measures and supportive sanctions. Kenya has since come up with an anti-FGM law -“The Prohibition of the FGM Act 2011”. The Act explicitly prohibits female genital mutilation. However, the greatest challenge remains the implementation of law.  The situation gets worse at the community level as some duty bearers accept FGM as sound cultural practice.

In Kenya, the government is represented in every village by administrators who are often picked from the same community. This is aimed at ensuring that they are familiar with the people they are governing. However, they also harbor attitudes that perpetuate negative cultural practices like FGM thereby hindering efforts towards eradicating it.  A case in point is in Katwara village, where a family was free to perform FGM on their girls after paying Kshs. 6,500 (USD 70). The money is shared as follows: the area Chief and Assistant Chief get Kshs. 1,500 (USD 16) each, the village Headman gets Kshs.1,000 (USD 11) and the woman performing the cut gets Kshs. 2,000 (USD 22). When members of the community went to demand an explanation as to why the Chief as a government official was allowing the practice to continue in the village, he became indifferent.” Kila mtu ako na mtoto wake na anaweza kumfanyia kile anachotaka. Sitaki maneno yenu na mkijaribu kutuingilia tutawaroga” (Everybody has their own child and is free to do what they like. I don’t want to engage with you on question and answer anymore. I will bewitch anybody who interferes with us). The Chief has succeeded in intimidating the community members using his position in government. As a government representative in the community, it is unfortunate that he supports a practice that has been outlawed. This scenario is repeated many times over in communities and countries across Africa.

This year, the project partners have purposed to expand the stakeholders’ base to target other members of the community. In the coming months, we will be strengthening the role of women as advocates for the eradication of FGM. Men and boys will also be given a platform to openly voice and demand an end to FGM.  Additionally, the project will undertake advocacy campaigns targeting national and county governments to ensure that the existing national laws are widely known by the citizenry, and are implemented. At national level, the project will share intelligence on the tricks community members are using to procure FGM on young girls with the National Anti FGM Board. The project will work together with the National Police Service to ensure that they are properly trained to handle these cases and that  reported cases are prosecuted as a matter of public interest.  It is sad that FGM is still a problem facing us at this time and age. This is a wakeup call to all of us that a lot more is needed to truly abandon and end FGM in our generation.  There is need for concerted efforts by all – women and men, girls and boys, young and old, government and non-governmental institutions – as well as education, advocacy, outreach, political will and collaboration. This is not just a problem for the few, but for us as a people of Kenya. FGM is wrong. Protect the girl by raising your voice.

Join the campaign: #endfgm.

*Mr Otina Kennedy is the Program Associate (Regional Men to Men Program) at FEMNET.

SOLIDARITY DAY OF ACTION TO #BRINGBACKOURGIRLS TO TAKE PLACE ACROSS AFRICA ON THURSDAY, MAY 15

Standard

In Solidarity

The African Women’s Development and Communication Network, FEMNET, has called on hundreds of its members across over 40 African countries to organize and mobilize peaceful demonstrations at Nigerian Embassies around the continent on Thursday, 15th May 2014, also the International Day of the Family, to express pan-African solidarity with the abducted Nigerian school girls, their families and their loved ones. May 15th marks one month since the girls were abducted.

Actions are being organized simultaneously around the continent to express concern over the slow response of the Nigerian government and demand the immediate and safe return of the 276 girls as well as at least eight more who were subsequently abducted. These follow a series of atrocities by Boko Haram, which include a bombing that killed of over 300 last week as well as abductions and killing of school going youth in previous months.

Upon the safe return of the girls, we call for the commitment of the Nigerian government, among others, to provide psychosocial support, to rebuild the schools and reaffirm the girl’s rights to safety, security and education as a process of restoring their dignity. Calls are also being made for urgent action by fellow African governments, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) to substantively support immediate and long term interventions to address the underlying systemic issues.

In light of this, all citizens of conscience are invited to join in the solidarity day of action on Thursday, May 15, 2014 to speak out against increasing fundamentalisms and oppressive systems of patriarchy and domination that perpetuate injustice.

In Kenya, the Africa UNiTE Kenya Chapter, Akili Dada, Equality Now, the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition and FEMNET will be leading a peaceful march to the Nigerian High Commission commencing at Freedom Corner, Uhuru Park at 9AM. Participants are asked to wear something red in solidarity and support for Nigeria.

Pan-African Expressions and Marches of Solidarity are taking place across the continent.

Cameroon. Cote D’Ivoire. Egypt.  Ghana. Liberia. Mauritius. Madagascar. Seychelles. Senegal. Sudan. Tanzania. Togo. Uganda. Zambia. Zimbabwe.

Take action:

Sign the letters to Nigerian government officials as well as other policy makers here.

Join us online – see social media messages and mapping here.

If in Nairobi, join us in person on Thursday, May 15th.

FEMNET Statement on Abduction of Girls in Chibok, Nigeria

According to the Sexual Offenses Act…

Standard

By Nebila Abdulmelik

By now, I think you must have heard about Liz’s story – and the #JusticeForLiz campaign that has been started.

We’re happy to note that over 600,000KSH was raised for Liz, who underwent surgery and is recovering. Doctors are hopeful that she should be back on her feet in six weeks. KNCHR (Kenya National Commission on Human Rights) and Fida-Kenya are suing the government for failure to protect.

I just wanted to bring your attention to the Sexual Offenses Act and the provisions within that must guide this case:
As per Legal Notice 10 on page 8:
Any person who commits the offense of rape or defilement under this Act in association with another or others, or any person who, with common intention, is in the company of another or others who commit the offense of rape or defilement is guilty of an offense termed gang rape and is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less fifteen years but which may be enhanced to imprisonment for life.

So why have Liz’s rapists been allowed to slash grass and go free??

As per legal notice 35, point 3 & 4 of the Sexual Offenses Act (on who bears medical expenses)
3)Notwithstanding the provisions of sub-section (2), the Minister responsible for health shall prescribe circumstances under which a victim of a sexual offense may at any time access treatment in any public hospital or institution.
4) The expenses incurred for the treatment or professional counseling of any person convicted of an offense under this section or a victim of a sexual offense as the case may be, shall be borne by the State.

So why did the public have to pay for Liz’s hospital bills? Why did she have to wait three months to undergo surgery? Where is the accountability of public servants??

The perpetrators are still at large, despite a police probe that was launched, concluded and handed over to the Department of Public Prosecutions  without any arrests. The police who handled her case very poorly have not faced any disciplinary action.

The online petition #JusticeForLiz now has over 934,000 signatures (as of 11:42PM Sunday) and counting. Join us in demanding #JusticeForLiz and in demanding public accountability, an end to violence and an end to impunity. We must never forget that Liz is one story – she is unfortunately not the first nor the last victim or survivor of violence, but we must use her story and this case as a rallying point – to express solidarity, to express our outrage and to demand action. We must act. For Liz, for Mbabazi and for so many others in similar situations.

Nebila Abdulmelik is the Head of Communications at FEMNET. Connect with her – communiation@femnet.or.ke or @aliben86 or on her blog – aliben86.wordpress.com.

Viewpoint: On Africa and the ICC

Standard

By Eyob Balcha

When it comes to Africa pulling out of the ICC, I have a complicated feeling:

1) I honestly believe that the upcoming extra-ordinary meeting is intended to delay justice to the victims of the violence both in Kenya and Sudan.  African ‘leaders’ are making a historic error if they agree to withdraw from ICC.

2) So far, the Continental Human Rights instruments and institutions have not been functioning well mainly because of the political elements involved and the politicians are the one to blame. Without any proper continental and sub-regional Justice system in place, denouncing ICC is unacceptable.

3) I also share the notion that ICC has been very vocal on African cases and ignores other cases. For instance, George W. Bush is a War Criminal for what he did in Iraq but we have never heard anything in this regard.  This doesn’t mean however that African war crime suspects should not be prosecuted for what they probably have done.

4) If Al-Bashir and Uhuru Kenyata believe that they are innocents, why don’t they face the trial and prove themselves innocent rather than escape through the back-door?

5) Lastly, I like the way how one Ethiopian writer puts it ” … for African leaders; it’s an issue of governance when they kill citizens, but an issue of racism when they are asked about it by ICC”.

Justice For Liz

Standard

BusiaRapeOn the International Day of the Girl, we ask you to join us in demanding justice for Liz, a 16 year old girl who was beaten and gang-raped on her way home from her grandfather’s funeral and dumped in a pit latrine in Busia, Kenya. She is now wheelchair bound with a broken spine and has the worst case of fistula. She recognized her rapists and identified them to the police. Police arrested perpetrators only to have them slash grass as ‘punishment’ after which they were released.

Please sign and circulate widely the petition demanding an immediate arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators as well as disciplinary action on the police officers who failed to handle their duties to serve and protect. We must not allow impunity to reign and women and girl’s bodies to continue to be battlefields. No more violence. No more impunity. Justice Now!

Engage in the online conversations – #BusiaRape #JusticeForLiz. Let’s make lots of noise – too deafening for the powers that be to ignore.

Donations can be sent to MPesa Paybill 500944 to help meet Liz’s hospital bills.

For more information –

COVAW Statement – Call for Immediate Arrest and Prosecution of Busia Gang
Kenyans accuse police of ignoring gang rape

In Solidarity with Kenya in the Wake of Westgate

Standard

FEMNET would like to express solidarity with the people of Kenya in the wake of the terror attack on Westgate Mall. Like the rest of the world, we are horrified by the events that are coming to an end in Nairobi and recognize its impact not only on Kenya but also on the global community.

As a pan-African women’s rights organization that has been based in Kenya, with Kenyan staff since inception in 1988, we join global voices in condemning this heinous act of terrorism that has left over 60 innocent civilians dead and over 170 injured. This act of violence has no justification and like all other forms of violence must be condemned.

At this difficult time, we would like to urge the government of Kenya to uphold human rights principles in resolving this and similar acts of terrorism. This incident has created an opportunity for public debate about security management in the country and peace efforts in the sub region. This conversation is a core pillar of the security sector reform process that begun with the promulgation of the 2010 Kenyan constitution.

In the spirit of #WeAreOne, we trust that a consultative process will be instituted by the Kenya government once this ordeal is over to involve citizens; men, women and youth in defining a common vision for security in Kenya.  A vision that we hope will be shaped by the tenets of human security and underpinned by the rule of law. We trust that the spirit of humanity and solidarity that has been expressed locally will be sustained as efforts evolve to deal with terrorism in the sub region.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones. We pray for a quick recovery for those who have been injured and peace of mind for those who have been traumatized.

In Solidarity. #WeAreOne

  • Click here for National Blood Donation Centers.
  • Monetary donations can be made via MPesa PayBill 848484 or through this account
  • Call these numbers for information about loved ones: (+254) 0202724154, 020310225, 0203226771, 0203532198, 0203556780