The Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD-Kenya) successfully convened a national conference where women leaders explored ways in which to optimize on the opportunities provided by the current discourse on governance reforms to propose concrete strategies for championing and safeguarding inclusivity in governance.
Speaking during the conference themed State of the Nation and the Voice of Women on Governance Reforms in Kenya, CMD-Kenya Chairperson Senator Abshiro Halake observed that “although various initiatives and proposals on governance reforms are ongoing with varied shades of opinions, the prevailing political dynamics point to growing concerns on how inclusive and consultative the processes are. This, may not only be destabilizing to the country but also, may frustrate fair and objective analysis of the proposals including those touching on gender and inclusion”. Senator Halake insisted that “for Kenya to realize gender balance in public leadership and political stability there is a need for women leaders to speak in one voice, sustain the conversation and take a position on the various governance reform proposals”.
The conference took place against a backdrop of increasing divisions in the women movement; characterized by women leaders caucusing and supporting different political groupings to the detriment of a unified women reform agenda. The conference, therefore, sought to provide a platform for women leaders from different sectors and with different political persuasions to have a candid conversation towards building consensus towards a consolidated women agenda in the various governance reform proposals. “We have unfortunately lost moments where we would articulate issues affecting women. We have lost moments where we would celebrate women achievements. Once you are a woman, there are issues that are common to all of us. As women, we need unity of purpose. Our voices should not be forgotten,” asserted Hon. Rosa Buyu Vice-Chairperson of Kenya Women Parliamentarians Association (KEWOPA).
Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Chief Administrative Secretary, Hon. Rachel. Shebesh who represented government called on women leaders to work together on matters women empowerment irrespective of their political affiliations. “We must invest in flexible support and programming structures for women that can adapt to emerging political opportunities as they arise,” said Hon. Shebesh. “Let us not wait for the agenda to be set for us. Let’s us instead set it” stated Hon. Martha Karua Chairperson of NARC-Kenya emphasizing that “only 8 counties in Kenya are compliant with the gender rule yet we have a gender commission and human rights institutions that should have advised the government.”
While the journey towards governance reforms in Kenya remains unclear and long, women leaders agreed that being the majority, they must rise in light of the ongoing governance reform proposals to protect the women’s gains in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 that amplified their voices and unequivocally shun threatening the non-negotiable gains for women in the constitution.
The conference supported by Friedrich Naumann Foundation brought together more than 200 women leaders in Government, Parliament, County Assemblies, Political Parties, Civil Society, Profesional Associations, Academia and Private Sector. As a multi-party dialogue platform, CMD-Kenya will continually provide similar opportunities to political and civic actors to dialogue and build consensus on issues of national importance.