Tuesday, 30 November 1999 03:00

Profile: The Kenya Women's Political Caucaus

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The Kenya Women’s Political Caucus (KWPC) is a non-partisan, broad-based national network bringing together women politicians and parliamentarians, specialized non-governmental women’s organizations, gender activists and individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to promoting a gender-responsive and democratic political system and institutions.

The Caucus celebrates the vision of Kenya in which women’s numerical strength is translated into a credible political voice for creating, nurturing and sustaining democracy, prosperity and peace for all.


The mission of the Caucus is to enhance and facilitate the attainment of gender equity and equality in decision-making structures and elective leadership at all levels. The Caucus is driven by the belief that gender equality is intrinsic to national development. Towards this end, the Caucus is committed to mobilizing, lobbying, advocating, and sensitizing of women and our society to enable women to influence political, economic and social processes.

Achievements


No other organization, perhaps, embodies the epic journey of the women’s political movement in much the same way as the Kenya Women’s Political Caucus. The Caucus is, arguably, the cradle and most iridescent platform of the women’s political struggles in Kenya. As usual, struggles are scarcely won on a silver platter, but through sweat, tears and sometimes, blood. With hindsight, this much can be said of the events that marked the birth pangs of the Caucus. On April 23rd 1997, the then Karachuonyo MP, Hon Phoebe Asiyo moved the earth-shaking ‘Affirmative Action’ motion in parliament. But sadly, parliament was not alive to the envisaged gender equity, hence its rejection of the motion.

This loss, ironically, embedded unforeseen blessings. Having been awakened to the realities of the largely patriarchal political structures, women coalesced their variegated efforts into a single platform – The Kenya Women’s Political Caucus. This emergent homology, bagging women’s demands for a share in national policy making, has since grown into a powerful magnet, a vortex for women’s organizations, gender activists, scholars, specialized agencies and groups.

The Caucus epitomizes the most enduring quality of the women’s movement: the dexterous ability to convert weaknesses into strengths, defeat into opportunity, and challenges into achievements.

It is notable that the Caucus has played a pivotal role in sustaining the gender equality debate in the national domain: It revitalized the Affirmative Action Bill that was tabled in Parliament by Hon Beth Mugo in April 2000, and kept the same embers aflame during the constitution of Kenya review process in 2003 –2004.

Similar milestones were seen in the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group discussions on the constitution that preceded the general elections of 1997. In the resultant deal, the Caucus and its affiliates secured at least one-third stake for women in parliamentary nominations.

Other notable benchmarks include: securing the appointment of women commissioners to the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (through the Ufungamano initiative); bridging of the constitution review impasse between the Parliamentary Select Committee and Ufungamano group; building the capacity of women’s organizations to present memoranda to the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission; development and dissemination of the widely acclaimed ‘Women’s Memoranda for the Constitutional Review’ process; and the training of delegates to safeguard the ideals of Affirmative Action at the Bomas Conference on the constitution.

More recently, the Caucus has demonstrated its aptitude as a learning institution by not only re-branding itself but also by enhancing its activities at the grassroots level through the establishment of the Women’s Regional Assemblies in 25 districts across all the eight provinces. The Assemblies, a replica of the Rwandese Miji Kumi, are already stoking the war on corruption in the use of devolved funds; encouraging women to play an active role in the management of HIV/Aids; pitching for the economic empowerment of women; and enhancing vigilance against retrogressive cultural practices such as Female Genital Cutting, Early Girl Child Marriages and Gender-Based violence.

Finally, the Caucus has build synergies with civil society organizations to lobby the enactment of gender sensitive policies such as the HIV/Aids Control and Prevention Bill and the Political Parties Bill. And in keeping with its ensuing programme strategy, “Enhancing Women’s Voice in Decision-making, Leadership and Development”, the Caucus is currently identifying, recruiting, mobilizing and building the capacity of women aspirants for the envisaged 2007 general elections. The ultimate goal of this strategy is to achieve a critical mass of women in decision-making echelons, who will in turn, contribute towards gender equity and equality in our country.

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