I hope you are well. I am great, doing everything I can to maintain some sanity during these hostile times we are in. Again, as long as you are alive, please do everything to follow all precautionary measures to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Today, I will revisit an article I wrote sometime last year and published in the local dailies in Kenya. A week ago, Kenya made history after the Kenya Defence Forces (KFD) appointed Ms. Zipporah Kioko as the Spokesperson, becoming the first woman in Kenya to hold that position.
I received the news with jubilation. I have two reasons for my excitement. One, this is because Zipporah’s appointment to full Colonel being among the few senior military officers in that rank and being a woman, she has broken the glass ceiling. She has worked in complete confidence, taking a position that has traditionally been a reserve for men. To me, this is an indication that as a country, we are progressively warming up to more women in leadership.
It is commendable and indeed an inspiration to many of us and generations to come. Two, Zipporah was my former schoolmate at Daystar University, so I am so proud to celebrate her as a woman I know too well. Congratulations Zipporah! All Daystarians are proud of you. I saw them celebrate you on various social media pages. All the best in your new posting.
Now, let’s have this conversation.
The journey towards the realisation of the Two-thirds gender principle in Kenya, has been loud, bumpy, messy and with casualties. According to a report Journey to Gender Parity in Political Representation; released by the National Gender and Equality Commission (N.G.E.C) in 2019, this journey has been tough. It is a journey punctuated with epic highs and lows, exasperations, hot tempers and near desperation that morphed into one of the heavily debated and contentious issues post-2010 Promulgation of the Constitution.
N.G.E.C in their report examines the cautious yet bold consultative framework through the Technical Working Group that sought to broker a practical and politically sound formula for the realisation of 2/3rds Gender principle as enshrined in Article 27 of the Constitution of Kenya. The accounts range from both hard to soft lobbying tactics deployed by various influencers. It exposes the initial naivety that the Technical Working Group strode while seeking a framework within the shortest time possible.
For those who have keenly followed the debate around the 2/3rds Gender rule, you would imagine that this conversation only affects women and those that fall within the Special Interest Groups like Persons With Disabilities, the youth or those from the marginalised counties. Those who have truly missed the point have termed it as a battle of the sexes, warfare of genders laced with patriarchy – a truly dangerous dose of political propaganda. This situation is not new. Look around and see it repeating itself even in our workspaces. I will speak about the media space because that’s a space I know very well. The media landscape is not any different. I have heard the stories, I have listened to the whispers along the corridors, I have experienced it, and others have tales to tell. I have contents that can make a complete publication. Very few women are part of the editorial decision-making in the region and even where they are present, they are often outnumbered at the decision-making table.
We have to be deliberate. Newsrooms must enact human resource policies that will ensure that the 2/3rds Gender principle is realized. While hiring, all panellists during interviews must be aware of the existing demographics and therefore, remain keen on ensuring that balance is achieved.
We must be deliberate about making the newsroom a conducive working environment for women. This includes enactment of policies that ensure protection and safety of women against sexual harassment, intimidation and unnecessary threats. Contractual protection that will see women advance a balance between jobs and their family goals, including paid parental leave policies. How many newsrooms have baby crèches? How many newsrooms have flexible working hours for nursing mothers? Any newsroom with infant-at-work programs in Kenya? How many newsrooms have parking spaces for pregnant women? We must be deliberate about creating spaces where having children and advancing career goals are seamless.
We must be deliberate about having more women sitting at the decision-making table. It is not enough to have women sitting at the table and nodding; we need to have more women voices amplified at the high table. Their ideas, concerns and thoughts given the same weight as those by men.
We must be deliberate about the role of mentorship in our newsrooms. Women who are at the top must make a deliberate move to grow those coming behind them. The challenges that deter women from climbing the ladder in the media spaces are historical as well as institutional. We must be bold enough to call out the practices and the work structures that make it twice as hard for women to deliver as required and then pay them less than what is paid to men for similar work.
We must be deliberate about creating safe spaces for women in the newsrooms to talk about the challenges they face as they execute their roles. In the past, these challenges were not spoken about. Its time, more than ever, women in media must remain unbowed, and strategically making use of all avenues to make the newsroom a level playing field for both men and women who find their calling in this noble profession.
All said and done, the constitutional imperative of achieving the 2/3rds Gender principle remains intact. Probably, this marks the defining realization notwithstanding the power games, that patriarchy and all manner of negative stereotypes, the Constitution of Kenya provides a solid ground for entrenching the principles of equality and inclusion in all spheres of life including political representation as an irreducible minimum.
“A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult” Melinda Gates
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