Nation leadership forum: The gender dilemma

Date: Monday, December 11, 2017

Gender is a fundamental issue of discussion when it comes to matters of development. In 2017, society continues to carry on conversation as women still face obstacles in realizing their full potential and achieving gender equality.

On 7th December 2017, UN Women partnered with Nation Media Group to stir up conversation on the gender dilemma in Kenya during the Nation Leadership Forum.

Gender Dilemma
From L-R:Mr Kevin Osido, Ms Debrah Mallowah, Mwangi Githaiga, Joyce Laboso and Sicily Kariuki Photo: UN Women/ Mariam Kouyate

The Nation Leadership Forum held at the University of Nairobi brought about experts of various fields and included a high-profile panel who stirred the debate forward. These included Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Sicily Kariuki, Governor of Bomet County, Joyce Laboso, Managing Director of Kenya Women's Finance Trust, Mwangi Githaiga, General Manager- GlaxoSmithKline East Africa, Ms Debrah Mallowah, and Executive Director of County Governance Watch, Mr Kevin Osido.

Throughout the discussion, it was highlighted that the gender agenda is not a battle of the sexes, neither is it about only women. It’s about access of equal opportunities by both men and women. However, under-representation of women in both political and social spheres is a prevailing issue that has propagated the continued exclusion that women and girls continue to face in society today.

Mr Mwangi Githaiga, remarked that the boy child has not been neglected as claimed by some groups, but the root of the problem stems from the home. “In many households, men have neglected their roles. Boys are now growing up with no role models. Men need to redefine their roles in the household level and in the society,” he commented. The concept of masculinity should shift from the previous concept that men are superior due to their financial muscle. This is because women are empowered and are active participants in their communities.

  “We are putting exceptional pressure on men that they are the ultimate providers.  The youth realize that life is easier when women are invited in development.  It makes sense to invite women so that both parties can provide more and grow more. We need to allow participation for everyone to be happier and for families to grow,” said Debrah Mallowah. This was followed by a loud applause from the audience who were mostly the youth.

Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Sicily Kariuki reported that her ministry is working to close in the gender gap by collecting credible evidence to intervene. “Gender gaps need to be closed by demystifying what has been positioned as a dilemma. The boy child is not left behind because the girl child is being pushed forward. Affirming the girl child has taken center stage because of the disadvantage girls have experienced in the past. The gender agenda is not a matter of replacing one for the other but for everyone at the same time,” she commented.

In her remarks, Governor Joyce Laboso added that there was need to redefine the role of a man in the African context and look at each other as equal partners.

Mr Kevin Osido said that men need to organize programs to empower men similar to those that are used to empower women. There is a lot we can learn from each other. Similarly women need to learn from men. Women need to also use their competitive advantage as they are 52 percent of the population- indeed a catalyst for them.

The Nation Leadership Forum provides a platform to spotlight issues affecting Kenyans by provoking international, regional and local discussions, shaping opinions and policy directions critical to the development and growth of Kenya.