By Tobby Otum
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has encouraged more women to actively seek elective and other positions of leadership both at national and county levels.
While applauding the current 23 percent representation of women in the National Assembly, the First Lady said more work needed to be done to achieve the constitutionally proposed two-thirds gender rule.
“Let us continue working, together, for the progress we all believe in. And let us begin with ourselves, in our own spaces, in our homes, in our schools and with our children.
“We know that women can bring a difference in leadership by ensuring that the needs and aspirations of women and men, boys and girls are addressed equitably,” the First Lady said as she rooted for enhanced gender equality and women empowerment especially during the COVID-19 era.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta spoke when she presided over virtual celebrations to mark this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) under the theme ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’.
The First Lady pointed out that the theme of this year’s IWD calls for women leadership, saying it is timely and resonates well with the current global situation.
“It highlights the need for us to demand for a level playing field for women and girls irrespective of race, religion or social background,” she said.
The First Lady emphasized the need for women to lend their voice in combating harmful cultural practices that curtail progress even as she expressed satisfaction that a lot of resources are being channelled towards ensuring equity and justice.
“We also, as women, must continue to raise our voices and protect ourselves against harmful practices such as FGM and early child marriage; these factors impede our pathway to reaching our gifted potential,” the First Lady said.
At the global level, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta said the election of the first woman Vice President in the United States of America should serve as an inspiration for women worldwide to aspire for leadership positions.
“Her Excellency Kamala Harris, has done women proud and broken the glass ceiling by going into history books as the 49th Vice President and the first female occupant of the office in the United States,” she said.
During the occasion, the First Lady conferred Annual Trailblazer Awards to several women and institutions in recognition of their outstanding achievements and contribution to advancing the gender equality and women empowerment agenda. She also conferred certificates to graduands of the first cohort of the Women in Political Leadership Training Programme that she launched last year.
Public Service and Gender CS Prof Margaret Kobia said the theme of this year’s IWD illustrates the urgency of putting women empowerment at the core of recovery and bouncing back better in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She noted that while the journey of women in leadership has been long and bumpy, their determination and commitment has yielded fruits.
“Therefore, we celebrate the gains made and also reflect on the social, economic, political and cultural context in which women and girls live and work,” the CS said.
In her address, Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland stressed that gender equality and women empowerment are essential components of human development and basic human rights.
Other speakers included Defence CS Dr Monica Juma, Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organization Chairperson Rahab Muiu, European Union Ambassador to Kenya Simon Mordue and UN Resident Co-ordinator Stephen Jackson are among others.
The event also witnessed the national launch of the continental digital platform dubbed ‘the 50 Million African Women Speak’. The project is geared towards empowering millions of women in Africa to start, grow and scale up businesses by providing a one-stop shop.