Kenya is on the verge of achieving one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) on promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, data released on Saturday by the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) reveals.
The data for example reveals that the percentage of women employed by the government increased from 24.4 percent in 2003 to 39.1 per cent in June 2011. “We are sure we shall achieve this goal because we have already achieved gender equality in the education system after the introduction of the free primary education,” said Chris Obure, in a speech on behalf of the Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga who chaired the two-day NESC meeting that ended on Saturday in Nairobi.
Kenya introduced free primary education in 2003 enabling a tremendous increase in the number of girls attending school.The increase has been replicated in the secondary schools and institutions of higher learning. Some private universities in Kenya have for example reported enrolling a higher number of girls than boys, a major change from the past enrolment trends while women in Kenya are taking more management roles in public and private sector unlike before.
Data from the Ministry of Education indicates that the enrolment of girls and boys in primary school for example averages 86 per cent for either gender. When Education Minister Sam Ongeri released the results for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary School Education for 2011, he said out of the total students that sat for the examinations, 55.6 per cent were boys while 44.4 were girls.
Further data indicates that there are 70 girls for every 100 boys complete primary school in Kenya.
The achievement for Kenya of this MDG is further strengthened by the new constitution that requires participation of at least 30 per cent of women in all leadership activities. Women empowerment and gender equality has also been made criteria of consideration in public service contract performance evaluation. Cultural practises like female genital mutilation that encouraged early marriages and lack of enrolment in school for girls is also being fought through promotion of alterative rites of passage.
The MDG on gender equality is among the eight goals set by the United Nations in 2000 to half the poverty levels in the world by the year 2015. On gender, the goal required countries to promote gender equality and empower women by the year 2005 and eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education by the year 2015. “Until equal numbers of girls and boys are in school, it will be impossible to build the knowledge necessary to eradicate poverty and hunger, combat disease and ensure environmental sustainability,” noted a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund. “And millions of children and women will continue to die needlessly, placing the rest of the development agenda at risk.”
The other seven MDGs include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.