President Kenyatta makes address at largest Global Women Conference in Canada
President Uhuru Kenyatta has said women should be given equal opportunities of authority as men, as they are able to deliver in equal measure. The President acknowledged the need for the society to create an enabling environment for women to exercise authority and enable them exploit their skills and talents in providing services to the communities they live in.
“We need to make the society understand that women are as capable as men. We have to create an enabling environment and the opportunity for them to serve,” said the President during a high level panel discussion at the recent ‘Women Deliver 2019 Conference’ in Vancouver, Canada.
He noted that cultural and religious barriers, as well as stereotypes, have continued to be an impediment to women in realizing their potential in leadership and in achieving their dreams of a better society. President Kenyatta, who is attending the conference at the invitation of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said during his first term in office he made history by appointing six women in key cabinet positions, thereby empowering them to impact the Kenyan society. Two of them were subsequently elected to Governor posts during the last elections.
“At the executive we have appointed women in key Cabinet positions of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Public Service and Health,” said President Kenyatta.
The President, who is representing the African continent at the conference, said he will not relent in pushing for more women to be included in leadership positions and pledged to use his influence to push for the passage of the two third gender law in the Kenyan parliament.
“My government is keen on the involvement of women in leadership roles. We have not accomplished the implementation of the 2/3 gender rule in parliament; we will not relent we will keep pushing,” said the President and went on to say there is no way a country can make meaningful progress by excluding the largest segment of its population.
Kenya has managed to succeed in ensuring gender equality at the executive, judiciary and the devolved units, but has not made considerable progress at the legislature. “As a democracy we are working with opposition parties, in making this a reality, we are not yet there but the debate is ongoing,” said President Kenyatta.
The Women Delivery Conference was officially opened in Vancouver, Canada, by the country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a call to redefine power at every level. The conference focus is on gender equality, the health rights and wellbeing of girls and women across the globe under the theme: ‘Power, Progress, Change’, through which it seeks to inspire women to take up their position in bringing positive change in their societies. During the opening ceremony, indigenous Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam communities led leaders in a colourful entrance procession and prayers.
President Kenyatta outlined his administration's action plan in ensuring gender equality in Kenya is realized through the introduction of compulsory free education policy for all from primary to secondary school. He said through this policy, which also provides basic necessities such as sanitary towels, the Government aims at ensuring that girls access quality education, thereby enabling them to be as competitive as their male counterparts.
“In order to keep our girls in school, the government is also providing sanitary towels for free and this has ensured that no girl suffers stigma,” President Kenyatta said and further said that his government is going to enact a law to make it punishable for parents who fail to take their children to school.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country will continue championing gender equality and ensuring that rights of all citizens are respected and protected. “We are not powerless, it’s up to us to fight back. All of us. Women, men, gender diverse people, neighbours and allies across communities. All of us together, all of us standing strong.”
A Zambian young leader Natasha Mwansa challenged political leaders to walk the talk by involving the youth in decision-making as concerns their welfare. She cautioned governments against enacting policies and programmes concerning the youth without their input. “It’s about time that governments involve young people in the making of decisions not making us beneficiaries of what they feel we need as young ladies. We need action, words don’t work anymore,” the young leader said.
President Sahle-Work Zewde said her appointment to the highest public office in her country is part of the reform agenda being implemented in Ethiopia and pledged to use her influence to create more opportunities for women. “When you are a pioneer in something, it is your duty to ensure the door remains open for others to come through,” she said President.
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo Addo challenged women to actively participate in all electoral systems so as to elect more women in political leadership and governance. “There must be enough dynamism and activism, women must keenly participate in political party processes of empowering women to be in decision making positions,” President Addo advised.
The President and CEO of Women Deliver Katja Iversen said her organization has a strong global force which needs to utilize its power to bring lasting positive impact as concerns the welfare of women and girls. Over 8,000 delegates including world leaders, governments representatives, policy makers, influencers, advocates, academics and activists are attending this year’s conference whose agenda is to come up with programmes to accelerate progress for girls and women globally.
Office of the Presidency, Kenya