Kenya has been ranked 18 in Africa and 145 in the 2016 report of the African Human Development Index, HDI, released by the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, in Nairobi, Kenya, last weekend at the sidelines of the just-concluded Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) summit in Nairobi.
The report focused on gender equality reviews the ongoing efforts of African countries to accelerate the pace of assuring women’s empowerment through all spheres of society – in the home and community, in health and educational attainment, in the workplace, and in political participation and leadership.
“A key message of this report is that giving more concerted attention to gender equality will be an important and long overdue stimulus to faster and more inclusive human development and economic growth for the entire continent,” according to Helen Clark, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme.
According to the report themed ‘“Accelerating Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa”, five African countries out of a total of 55 countries globally, are in the High Human Development group led by Mauritius, Seychelles, Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia. Twelve African countries out of a total of 39 countries worldwide are found in the Medium Human Development group and 36 African countries out of 44 countries globally fall the Low Human Development group.
President Uhuru Kenyatta during the launch of the report defended the country’s record stating that it has made progress in gender equity.
The President cited the establishment of a fully-fledged State Department of Gender Affairs as one of his administration’s efforts to support women’s progress.
He said there are also fully funded Government initiatives, to cater to women, which are backed by legislation.
“They include the Women Enterprise Fund which has disbursed Ksh 8.3 billion since its inception in 2007 and the Uwezo (empowerment) Fund which has disbursed Ksh 5.1 billion since its 2013 launch,” President Kenyatta said.
He said Kenya has also initiated the access to Government procurement opportunities program that requires every public procurement entity to ensure that at least 30 percent of its procurement in every financial year is allocated to women, youth and persons with disabilities.
“Through the Access to Government procurement opportunities, beneficiaries have received Ksh 32.2 billion since its inception,” Uhuru said.
Other areas where gender inequality has been narrowed include the legislature where women make 25 percent of Parliamentarians, up from 9.9 percent in 2007.
At the Cabinet level, women hold 25.5 percent of the positions while 37 percent hold high-level positions in judiciary, 34 percent Principal Secretary Positions.
President Kenyatta pointed out that at the county level, 50 percent of all Members of County Assemblies are women.
The President also talked about legislation like the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 2015, Prohibition of FGM Act 2011, the Sexual Offences Act 2006 as well as the National Policy on Prevention and Response to Gender-Based Violence 2014 which have provided frameworks for the protection of women.
As a demonstration of the Jubilee Government’s commitment to ending harmful socio-cultural practices, President Kenyatta said Kenya will launch the AU campaign on ending child marriage in Africa in October this year.
At the continental level, President Kenyatta said Africa has also made significant progress in advancing the rights of women on the continent.
“We have major continental frameworks that demonstrate our ownership of this issue. These include the Maputo protocol, the AU solemn declaration on gender equality in Africa and, more recently Africa’s agenda 2063,” the President said.
Consequently, the Kenyan Civil society is pushing parliament to ensure that a third of elective posts are occupied by women in accordance with the constitution adopted in 2010.
Professor Patricia Kameri-Mbote in a past Kenyan Section of International Commission of Jurist conference said, “Effort to increase women’s representation in politics and decision making core to democratic transitions in Africa. Despite progressive provisions, women in many countries still struggle to realize rights.”
With the Constitution 2010, it provided for equality of women and men in legal, political, economic, cultural and social spheres and provided that ‘not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender’.
However, “While significant progress has been made across numerous fronts in most countries, gender equality for African women and girls is still far from satisfactory,” said Helen Clark.
Simply stated, accelerating gender equality is a core function of government, involving multi-sectoral efforts that include national and local government entities, non-governmental actors, civil society organizations and the private sector. Similarly, addressing gender equality in such a holistic way dovetails with, and reinforces, the ambitious agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which African governments and the international community as a whole have set for the coming 15 years,” she adds.
The report stated that sub-Saharan Africa was losing an average of $95 billion a year due to gender inequality. It said the situation escalated in 2014 when the region lost $105 billion or six percent of the region’s GDP.
It cites the unhealthy development was jeopardizing the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth.
“If gender gaps can be closed in labor markets, education, health, and other areas, then poverty and hunger eradication can be accelerated. Achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is the right thing to do and is a development imperative,” said Clark at the launch.
The Human Development Index (HDI), ranked 188 countries; the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI) – 151 countries; the Gender Development Index (GDI) – 163 countries; the Gender Inequality Index (GII) – 159 countries; and the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) – 91 countries.
The HDI is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.