The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), one of EI’s national affiliates, is planning to have 47 county representative positions taken up by female teachers. KNUT President Wilson Sossion has announced that his union will also support women teachers going for other political seats.
Sossion said KNUT has a mandate to ensure that a third of women hold elective posts as required by the Kenyan Constitution.
Women must take up leadership positions
“It is good that the KNUT constitution has been amended to be in accordance with the country's constitution, giving women a third of leadership positions,” he noted.
Calling on the national Teachers Service Commission to accelerate the promotion of women teachers to top positions as stated in the constitution, Sossion deplored the fact that women teachers are the worst hit by the difficult economic conditions currently faced by the teaching profession.
2007 post-election violence
Moreover, violence has been an obstacle to education in Kenya.
Many Kenyans fell victim to the post-election tragedy that took place in 2007-2008. After incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner in the presidential election on 7 December 2007, supporters of the opposition leader Raila Odinga made claims of electoral fraud. In the ensuing massacre, Kenyans killed each other with machetes and bows and arrows. Bands of youths swept through slums, lighting shacks on fire and murdering anyone they came across, and the country found itself on the brink of a civil war. Women and children were targeted as much as young men during the violence; many of the murderers in the massacre were unfortunately never brought to justice.
Only when former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stepped in after a month of violence did opposition leader Raila Odinga agree to become prime minister under President Kibaki. Some 1,200 had lost their lives by then, with 600,000 made homeless.
Political candidates in upcoming presidential elections involved in violence
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, considers that some of the violence was well-organised. The ICC has, therefore, brought a case against four Kenyan individuals for acting as indirect accomplices to murder, displacement and persecution. However, matters are complicated by the fact that two of the defendants are candidates in the upcoming presidential election in March 2013: Uhuru Kenyatta, one of the country's richest men and Finance Minister until January 2012, and William Ruto, who was also a member of the Government until he was expelled on suspicion of corruption. In early December 2012, the two men announced that they would run as a team, so that Kenyatta could become President and Ruto his Vice-President.
Though Kenya does have a number of anti-violence projects underway in poor areas, plus a new constitution and strict laws against ethnic discrimination, the alliance between Kenyatta and Ruto and their biggest opponent, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, seem to indicate that there may well be a return to politics driven by ethnic concerns during next year’s presidential elections.
“Kenya is making small though notable steps in including women in the peace process through the development of the National Action Plan to domesticate the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security,” acknowledged Hannah Ondiek, from the African Women’s Development and communication Network, a regional, membership-based non-governmental organisation.
She stated that it is important to note that women, peace and security is not only a women’s issue but a national issue, and “women need to be at the centre of the peace process, and not only at the periphery.”
She also mentioned the Gender Forum organised by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and held on 25 October in Nairobi, Kenya. Its theme was “Inclusive peace building for Kenya against the backdrop of UN Security Council Resolution 1325”.
Ondiek reported that participants shared some alarming statistics during the session:
•Only 14 per cent of the Kenyan population have confidence in the police;
•Around 70 per cent of Kenyans affected by the post-election violence will not forgive and move on; and
•Women make up 53 per cent of the population, but represent only 47 per cent of the registered voters and during elections fewer than the 47 per cent actually vote.
Analysing these statistics through a gender lens means that very few women will report cases of violence and even be interested in the peace process, Ondiek claimed, as they may see no benefit to them. It could also mean that there may be a recurrence of the violence, and we know women are disproportionately affected during conflicts (as outlined in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820), since women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence.
She reiterated that the National Gender and Equality Commission in Kenya has a mandate to promote gender equality in accordance with Article 27 of the Kenyan Constitution and its target group includes women, youth, children, disabled and marginalised groups.
Participants at the Kenyan forum emphasised that women need extensive capacity building in order to be able to actively participate in the post-conflict process as equal actors. Women also need to be appointed as chairpersons of commissions, and not be limited to the gender commission, which people assume is the only one that involves women.
EI: For gender equity and schools as safe sanctuaries
“EI firmly believes that quality education and fair, gender equity-sensitive and healthy society go together hand in hand,” said EI Africa Chief regional coordinator Assibi Napoe. “Since the beginning, we have been fighting for equity in schools, in trade unions and more broadly, in society.”
She added: “We urge Kenyan authorities to ensure democratic elections next year. Also, there must be a halt to ethnic violence, and increased peace education classes all over the country. Schools must be safe sanctuaries.”