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The One Third Gender Rule, A Numbers Game.

Even without article 81(b) of the constitution, the measure of gender equity in every aspect of a nation’s makeup can never be emphasized enough as it is indicative of awareness and progress in including all segments of its people in decision making.

Enforcing the gender rule has come to be seen as the end goal rather than a means to an end, though. Simply nominating women into parliament, in my opinion, addresses a symptom, an indicator if you may, of an underlying issue within our society rather than going deeper to address and fix the root cause of gender imbalance at the echelon of Kenyan political leadership.

A look at KNBS data on Women Participation in Key Decision Making Positions in 2014 shows an interesting trend:

  1. Positions where constitutional commissions have the recruiting mandate, the gender rule is more or less achieved.
  2. In the make up of professionals like lawyers, gender equity is not such as issue as the proportion of women is upwards of 37%.
  3. The big issue arises in elective posts where there are, for example, no elected women governors at all. Going to the national assembly, just under 20% are women.

When the mandate of hiring is left to constitutional commissions, we end up with not just competent candidates from a technical point of view, but in the right proportions as envisaged the by law. But when left to the masses, you get popular candidates whose proportions, when looked at collectively, seldom meet legal requirements.

Nomination, whether all at once or in a stretched period of time as suggested, does not address the issues at the grassroots. In my line of work, when numbers look bad, it calls for a change of strategy, not a fixing of the numbers.

Some retrogressive cultural beliefs and practices have curtailed the ability of women to rise to key decision making positions within sections of the Kenyan society. The situation, though, is gradually improving. Among professionals, gender parity is better achieved and is continuously improving. Is it because employers were suddenly required to employ more women? I think not.

It is because more women access higher education and training.This inevitably increases the number of women qualified and available for employment. According  to KNBS for example, women make up 70% of adult education enrolment indicating that more and more who could not access education initially now can and are embracing it.

This tidal change is due to increased awareness and a social transformation making the society as a whole more receptive to women’s abilities and competencies in the professional setting over time.

To have a similar effect in the elective positions, a similar long-term grassroots-based approach seems like a viable option.

Political parties are crucial for long-term political development in any democracy, Kenya included. That their role in promoting gender issues has not been interrogated is beyond me. We simply have to demand more from our parties. What have parties done in promoting gender parity in elective offices apart from the post-elections nominations as prescribed by law? Nada.

In the U.S., for example, initiatives like EMILY’s List from the Democratic Party campaign and raise funds for women candidates.

What if parties were required to observe the gender rule in awarding nominations to candidates for elections in the first place?

Instead of the chaotic party nomination processes through “universal suffrage” conducted on deadline day to portray democracy, party nomination organs could invite applications from interested candidates for MCAs, MPs, Senators and Governor positions. Candidates would then be shortlisted, interviewed and vetted upon which a party would decide on one candidate for every elective post.

Every party would be required to observe the gender rule rule at the following levels:

  1. Proportion of MCA candidates within a constituency
  2. Proportion of MP candidates within a county.
  3. Proportion of Governor candidates within a region.
  4. Proportion of Senator candidates within a region.

So parties would not just field women candidates in opponents strongholds but would be required to do so in their strongholds as well. Further, more women would be willing to be vetted by a professional panel at the nomination level, knowing that they have a chance of being nominated.

As an incentive to parties, a portion of the political parties fund could be allocated according to gender ratio of elected public officials within parties. For instance, a party with a sex ratio closer to 1:1 would get a larger portion compared with one with a larger ratio.

Granted, this would face a lot of resistance from the political homeguards but the office of the registrar of political parties would have to earn their pay by staying vigilant and enforcing this. And it probably would not achieve gender parity among elected officials in one election but over a period of time – just as it took some time for proportion of female lawyers to get to 37% of the total lawyers!

The Day of the African Child

Today is 16th June, 2015: The Day of the African Child. It is commemorated every year on 16 June by Member States of the African Union (AU), and its Partners (in accordance with Resolution CM/Res.1290 (XL).

While the occasion is primarily to honor the students who, on this day in 1976, participated in the Soweto Uprising to protest against education injustice and inequality in the apartheid regime, raising awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children and the progress in that regard is key. In light of this, we look at the state of the Kenyan child with respect to access to education.

The chart below shows the Gross Enrollment Rate (GER) and NetEenrollment Rate (NER) in pre-primary schools.pre-primary

The next chart shows the GER and NER in primary schools.

primary

Going further, a look at the transition rate from primary school to secondary schools in Kenya reveals an improving trend that grows steeper from 2013 to 2014.

Transition rate

This is a good sign and shows the strides the country is taking in ensuring universal access to education for Kenyan children.

Poverty: The Harsh Realities.

Majority of the world’s people and nations live in poverty. Is it fair to blame the poor people for their own unfortunate predicament? Are they entirely responsible for their plight? Could it be laziness and bad decisions? Do their governments have anything to do with this, like policies that deter positive development? The global causes of poverty are often less discussed because the poor have no say anyway, or do they? Global decisions, policies and practices are always influenced or formulated by the rich and powerful who are usually leaders of rich countries, multinational corporations, institutions etc. That way, governments of poor nations and their people are often powerless and remain struggling.

The poorest countries in the world are India (with 33% of the world’s poor), China (13%), Nigeria (7%), Bangladesh (6%) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (5%). Others include Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya. Of all the 26 countries where the rate of extreme poverty is over 40%, 24 are in sub-Saharan Africa. Lacking basic necessities is a common thing here. A lot of people in these poor nations still rely on wood, crop waste, dung and other biomass to cook and to heat their homes since they still live without access to electricity. And reading that a certain stadium; AT&T in Dallas uses more electricity at game time than the entire country of Liberia; this  just makes me sad.

This poverty affects children most. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each DAY due to poverty be it because of hunger obviously because the poor lack the resources to grow or purchase the food they need; or killer diseases like malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, TB, just to mention a few. (Did you know Americans spend more on Halloween than the entire world spends on malaria in a year, how scary is this mind-blowing fact? First world problems right there). What is sadder is the fact that these children die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world, neither heard nor seen. These young dying populations’ deaths are even invisible just because they are timid and weak in life.

In many developing nations people live off under $2.50 a day but extreme poverty rates are witnessed in rural areas where people live on a budget of less than $1 to $1.25 a day for food, medicine and shelter. Mostly these depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Urbanization on the other hand, not being synonymous with human progress, has seen urban slum growth outpacing urban growth by a wide margin. Approximately half the world’s population now lives in cities and towns; and one out of three urban dwellers (approximately 1 billion people) live in slum conditions.

Isn’t it just surprising how things go around in this world of ours? On one hand we have a small number of people get the entire resources and facilities and all the good that this world has to offer, whereas the other remaining world’s population barely managing to keep it up trying to fight their fate’s brutality and dying every second of the day, not living life the way it was meant to be lived; abundantly. Being aware about all this and still reading about how 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of all the water and none of the 12 percent lies in the developing nations, how Africa uses less than 3% of the world’s energy, despite having 12.5% of the world’s population and how less than $40 billion is only required to offer basic education, clean water, and sanitation, reproductive health care for women, and basic health and nutrition to every person in every single developing country; just frustrates us to the core, it does, maybe for a little while, but it surely is irking, however it doesn’t mean we will ever be able to do anything about it, will we? Well maybe, just maybe. Extreme poverty has been cut in half in the last 20 years, and the facts show that we can get it to virtually zero within a generation (say 2030), cool? I know. This can only be achieved if we work towards it, though.

What is Ailing Kenya?

Disease prevalence depends on a variety of factors including climate, lifestyles and the environment. Government and NGO intervention and increased awareness lead to improved health care which in turn tends to curtail rate of infection and fatality.

Located in Tropical Africa along the equator, Kenya has been susceptible to malaria, for instance. These warm temperatures are not just conducive for the Anopheles mosquitoes to survive and multiply, but also enable malaria parasites, Plasmodium falciparum, to complete their growth cycle in the mosquitoes.

This is supported by figures from the Civil Registration Department that show malaria as the number 1 killer in Kenya. In 2014 alone 22,948 people died of malaria in Kenya, more than any other disease.

Looking at overall morbidity figures, there is a general rise in total disease incidences with 47,038,650 cases recorded in 2014, a 7.8 per cent growth in the year alone.

An interesting observation from looking at individual disease incidences, though, is the fall in the share of malaria incidences form just under 30% in 2010 (11,371,889 cases) to 20.5% in 2014 (9,660,992 cases) – less and less of the disease incidents attended to are malaria. This is a good thing, right?

diseasesBut there is a caveat.

As malaria is falling, there is a dramatic rise in cases of diseases of the respiratory system – a growth of 12.8% in just 5 years to 38.5% dwarfing malaria from 2011 onwards. More and more Kenyans are coming down with respiratory diseases like asthma and tuberculosis and the big question here is why?

Over to you, healthcare professionals.

 

Why Most Government Officials Use Yahoo and Google Mail.

May the record show that I work for the Government of Kenya. But all views in this post are mine and not those of my employer (as made popular by twitter).

There have been many questions about why most government officers use their yahoo and gmail accounts instead of the official government  lll@qqq.go.ke accounts. As stated above, I do work for the government as an independent consultant and I have an official email address that I use for all government business. At the ICT Authority, all business is carried out using official email …@ict.go.ke

There are many reasons why most of the other government offices have not been very successful in using the official emails:

  • User Interface (user experience). This is the one thing that is often ignored in product development, always assuming that software developers are designers and getting the interface all wrong. From what I have noted, most if not all the government offices that are big on their official emails are on google apps (and I think yahoo missed out on an opportunity to make yahoo apps as most of the rogue emails are actually on yahoo). Through this, you have the same user experience as you would on your unofficial gmail account. This generally reduces resistance and makes transitions and change management seamless. Have you ever seen the interfaces on some of the government mailing systems? Well until you see one, reserve your comments.
  • Most government officials joined government when government did not have mailing systems. Even now, not all have this said email. Most of the rest joined government after a few hoops and loops in private sector and the rest are digital natives that had a yahoo or google account when they were in class four. Have you ever had to abandon your old school way of life for a new one that is not enforced?
  • From experience, there is mostly no regulation that requires you to use your official email (at least my contract does not have any of that). You have an email address? Well we hope you use it. Thank you.
  • For some, this is driven by demand. Those who knew their personal emails prefer to use the personal emails and hence they end up always logged into those or email forwarding to these addresses and the way emails are set up, sometimes you are not guaranteed that responding on an email forward will go with your official email.
  • Most government secrets happen on hard paper documents labeled, well, ‘SECRET.’ For this reason, there is little threat of any of these spilling over or being tapped by the NSA or whoever it is that listens in on email conversations.

Not rocket science really, just some years of observation.