Prioritize gender parity in institutional policy and decision-making

Prioritize gender parity in institutional policy and decision-making

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BY DORIS KATHIA

Gender equality is not just about having equal number of people from every gender represented in a given institution, it is about having equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities.

Our quest for gender equality, then must go beyond the popular tokenism we see being peddled in political platforms, especially as the next general elections are less than a year away.

Cultural stereotypes, for instance, create barriers for many men making them feel pressure to be a ‘real man’, to be physically and emotionally strong thus less likely to seek professional help or talk about their problems with friends or family, hence a disproportionate rise in mental illness among men.

Gender-based violence is also driven by gender inequality which is attributed to patriarchal attitudes and behaviors like men’s control of decision-making, rigid gender roles and stereotypes, and the emphasis on male aggression and disrespect towards women.

In an effort to addressing gender inequalities, the Kenyan government institutionalized its commitment by creating a National Commission on Gender and Development and a Ministry of Gender, Sports, Culture and Social Services in 2004, as well as initiating Gender Desks in various ministries.

Both the county and national governments are also provided with a framework “The National Policy on Gender and Development” which they need to integrate and mainstream gender into their development planning and budgeting. Despite these paper progress markers, we are still faced with a serious implementation gap.

We all have a role to play in promoting gender equality. I recognize that gender equality may not be achieved overnight, but if we keep challenging the unacceptable norms we might completely wipe the inequalities in our society.

For instance, we urgently need to close the gaps like discrimination in hiring and pay decisions, lack of flexible work schedules and affordable child care. Removing barriers to employment for single mothers, as well as having a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment women will go a long way in improving economic security for women.

The government and other stakeholders must realize the need to add a gender lens to decision-making around the allocation of funding and building gender equality into government and donors’ responses.

We also need to call out sexist attitudes and poor behaviors when we see them thus promote gender equality at home, at work, at school and everywhere by addressing disrespect and inequality from homes to work places.

Ms. Kathia is a reproductive health advocate at Network for Adolescent and Youth of Africa (NAYA) Kenya