Kenya Side By Side Chapter Speaks on Two-Thirds Gender Principle. 24/8/2016

Published by SIDESIDEGENDER

August 24th was a memorable and historic day in the push
for gender justice in Kenya – courtesy of Side By Side Kenya Chapter.
Faith leaders under the auspices of the National Council of Churches of
Kenya (NCCK), Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Seventh Day
Adventists (SDA), Evangelical Alliance of Kenya (EAK) and Organization
of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) gathered at Ol Lerai Jumuia Place
to deliberate on the Two Thirds Gender Rule enshrined in the Kenyan
Constitution, and which has been elusive due to lack of political
goodwill.

Two Thirds Gender Rule

The promulgation of the new Constitution on August 27th 2010 secured
the right of women to participate in democratic governance. A
significant provision of the Constitution in Article 27(8) states that
the State shall take legislative and other measures to implement the
principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or
appointive bodies shall be of the same gender. The deadline for the
Kenya parliament to deliver a legal framework for the implementation of
the above principle was meant to be 27th August 2015. However this deadline was not met and the Supreme Court issued an extension of one year, the deadline being 27th
August 2016. It was against this background that religious leaders
gathered together to have a common position and lobby the government and
policy makers to respect and deliver a framework for implementation.

The event, which attracted over 60 faith leaders and constitution
experts, came at a time when gender activists and women movements have
grown weary and almost losing the battle on the issue. The entry of
faith leaders to the debate was remarkable given the patriarchal nature
of the church. They took time to reflect on scriptures as recorded in
Galatians 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male
nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” which reminds us that
in God’s eyes, both men and women are equal. Through biblical
reflections and devotion they gained the scriptural momentum to engage
and declare their position and push for the two thirds gender rule. They
also recognized that the country cannot realize its full potential and
destiny “until we harness the full gifting and abilities of all Kenyans
and especially women who have been systematically marginalized”.

Faith leaders had invited constitutional experts to help them
interpret the provisions and implications of not implementing the
principle. The experts had well researched information, eg, the cost of
having more women in parliament to meet the threshold, to help them
understand the politics being used to deny women adequate positions in
parliament. Christian Aid participated as a facilitator to contextualise
the forum within Side by Side global strategies and our strategy’
Gender Justice for All’.

The Kenya Side By Side Chapter outlined its priorities in the coming
period , emphasizing that the Two Thirds Gender Rule is the most
pressing and urgent to create a strong foundation for gender justice and
rule of law in this country. The experts from Federation of Women
Lawyers (FIDA) outline the various efforts and dialogues that have been
held in the past in an attempt to pass the Bills. This was followed by a
presentation from a constitutional expert who is trusted by the
churches who helped to present scenarios and the role of church leaders
as mediators and dialogue facilitators with the executive.

Questions Requiring Answers

Faith leaders wanted a few things clarified first before they engaged
and made a resolution. Some wanted to know the Christian Aid (sponsor)
position on Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) matters, the question
behind the question being Christian Aid’s position on sexuality and
other reproductive health issues that religious leaders are against such
as abortion and contraception (for the Catholics). I responded
tactfully, recognizing their values and norms that they hold. Some also
raised issues about the definition of gender justice and in particular
the issue of “equitable power relations”. They argued the man is the
head of the family, and challenged the statement. Interesting enough the
question of power relations was from women rather than men, who also
took issue with a facilitator who said that marriage disadvantages women
in the political context. The moderator of the forum Rev Canon Karanja,
General Secretary of NCCK, was very forthright in his response and
helped to demystify equitable power relations. He also encouraged faith
leaders to get out of their comfort zone and know they live in a secular
world, and must be aware and appreciative of the changing values, and
not to be judgmental. They must be alive and relevant to the changing
world without compromising the values of the church. Rev Karanja gave
big credentials to Christian Aid, adding that our values and commitment
to gender and ending poverty have enabled the partnership which spans
over decades. He made a request to Christian Aid to support training of
faith leaders on Gender Justice and Theology to increase their capacity
on the subject and engage more meaningfully and intelligently. Faith
leaders were happy with the responses and much at ease to proceed to the
resolutions.

Resolutions, Communiqué and Message to Congregations

This was an exciting part of the forum. Use of English grammar became
very important as religious leaders went through the resolutions word
for word, line by line, to make sure their communication was clear and
well understood, without bias. Their resolutions were packaged in a
communiqué that was read to the media people and journalists who
thronged Jumuia Place to witness and record the pronouncements and the
ground breaking event.

They issued a Press Statement [read here]
which was covered live by one of the national media houses and a major
news item in NTV prime news at 9:00pm. The media people were given the
statement which was jointly signed by representatives from Kenya
Catholic Bishops, National Council of Churches of Kenya, Organization of
African Instituted Churches, Seventh Day Adventists, and Evangelical
Alliance of Kenya. It was a phenomenal moment. During questions and
answers, journalists requested responses in English, Kiswahili and
Kikuyu, a reflection of the importance of the statement to the Kenyan
public.

Congregational Message and Devotional Card

A message and communiqué were also developed for the congregations to
create awareness on gender justice and to push the gender principle
from the grassroots. “Brothers and Sisters” the message read, appealing
to congregations to engage with the debate. This message will be shared
with congregations as part of civic education and awareness process on
gender justice by faith leaders.

Social Media Engagement

The forum was the most trending on social media today on
#FaithforGenderJustice. Over 3.2 million followers had been recorded
online by the time of issuing the press statement, overtaking the
President’s event that was number two. The conversations will be
sustained on social media.

Conclusion:

 

By the time of issuing the press statement, the Senate which was
expected to vote for the Bill yesterday failed due to lack of quorum –
the usual game that has been played in the past http://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/Churches-slam-Senate-over-failure-to-vote-on-gender-Bill/1064-3357108-ru5dpu/index.html. Faith leaders will need to sustain the pressure as their entry into the debate is likely to be a game changer.