Kenya finds itself at an opportune moment to advance gender equality. The country’s new constitution, adopted in 2010, expanded the Bill of Rights including for the first time provisions on economic, social and cultural rights. One of the most celebrated aspects was the recognition of gender equality and the achievement of gender parity in government, enshrined in the principle stating that no more than two-thirds of the members of an elective or appointive body shall be of the same gender.
However, implementation of the two-thirds gender principle has been an issue for the country as women are still underrepresented in government.
To look at ways in which Kenya has been making progress in gender equality and to highlight some of the challenges still faced, IDLO, the DePaul University School of Law and Kenyatta University convened various stakeholders and students for an event entitled, “Utilizing Human Rights Mechanisms to Protect Women’s Rights in Kenya”.
The discussions touched upon the overall state of women’s rights in Kenya and whether Kenya is ready to elect more women to government positions. Participants agreed that in order for more women to assume leadership positions, they needed to be allocated resources equivalent to their male counterparts. They also stressed the need for women to have a united voice in addressing their concerns. A particular challenge also raised at the forum centered around establishing political goodwill, rather than seeking court orders, to fulfil the two-thirds gender rule.
Moving forward, the participants and students who attended the event will present a shadow report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) giving their recommendations on the state of women’s rights, demonstrating how Kenya has made strides in this area and outlining what more needs to be done to achieve the respect, protection and promotion of women’s rights.