Florence I. Weche (Mrs.)
KENYA HIGH COMMISSIONER
Kenya achieved independence from Britain in 1963, and just over 50 years after independence, women in Kenya make up half of the 42 million populations and play a vital role in nation building.
Women organisations such as Maendeleo Ya Wanawake (MYWO), were formed in 1952, with Women Membership only, and with the objective to unify, nurture and empower women socially, economically and politically. Today, the organisation boasts of a nation-wide network of over 4 million individual members and 25,000 affiliate groups.
There is a lot to celebrate in Kenya as women continue to make great strides in all spheres. The contributions of Late Prof. Wangari Mathai go down well in history. The great environmentalist continuously cautioned on the need to respect and sustain nature for posterity, earning her the prestigious Nobel prize.
Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta launched the ‘Beyond Zero Campaign’ in Kenya. The initiative aims to improve maternal and child health outcomes in the country, as well as accelerate the implementation of the national plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children.
Fifteen women die every day due to pregnancy related complications in Kenya, and 20 percent of all deaths among mothers in the country are AIDS-related.
Donors and private sector organisations have already pledged funds to purchase mobile clinics that will provide integrated HIV, maternal and child health outreach services throughout the country, ending new HIV infections among children and reducing HIV related deaths among women and children in Kenya.
Women Empowerment Programmes
Women empowerment programmes in Kenya have their origin in individual and group efforts, commonly known as ‘merry go rounds’ or ‘Chamas’, with the desire to uplift themselves economically. Remarkable success stories have emerged from these groups, from raising money for the education of their children to acquisition of large tracks of land and property.
The government, in support of these initiatives by women groups, has encouraged the growth of micro-finance institutions with the objective to provide Kenyan women with access to alternative financial services in order to strengthen their bargaining power.
Kenya has grown leaps and bounds, but there is still a long way to go in ensuring that women unleash their full potential in order to improve their lot and lives of those around them. Kenyan women face challenges similar to the women in Africa, and the developing world.
It is, therefore, imperative that as we celebrate international women’s day, the apparent gender parity that has given women leaders space and opportunity to participate in decision-making process at the regional and national levels, must be alive to the fact that the universality of this gender parity is still lacking.
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