By Prof. Margaret Kobia

This year marks twenty-five years since the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing China. Popularly referred to as the Beijing Platform for Action, the conference is reputed to have set up a most visionary agenda for women and girls everywhere. This year the United Nations 64th Convention on Status of women (CSW 64) will be reviewing the progress made in gender equality the world over under the theme “An Equal World is an Enable World”. It is the year that is also introducing a new approach to gender equality programming globally under the banner “Generation Equality”. What has inspired this change and how does it apply in the Kenyan context?

The Beijing platform for action identified twelve critical areas that needed strategic action by governments and civil society to enhance the human rights of women and remove systemic barriers that hold back women from fully participating in all areas of life. Among these concerns were poverty reduction, education, health, violence, decision making, and the plight of the girl child. Given the conditions at the time, there was informed reason to advocate for positive bias for the girl child.

Despite some progress, real, tangible and impactful change has been agonizingly slow the world over. Today, not a single country can claim to have achieved gender parity in all areas of life. In Kenya, despite some progress, women and girls still face discrimination, cultural exclusion, and experience inequality in the social and political front. In the political front, while more women sit in parliament, they account for only 23%. Women unemployment stands at about 11% against 6% for men. Female headed households are poorer, at 30%, compared to men at 26%. Women occupy lower skilled jobs and own fewer assets, compounding their challenges. On Gender Based Violence, 21% of women still face Female Genital Mutilation. On women’s health, 23% of girls are married off before the age of 18 thus exposing them to high risk of maternal mortality. In the same sector, the unmet need for contraceptives stands at 26%. True, progress has been made but there remain considerable unmet goals for Kenya. Nevertheless, this should not blind us to the progress we have made in many areas.

For instance, Kenya has made remarkable progress the policy and legal environment particularly on Gender Based Violence and FGM. The proactive deeds by His Excellency the President to end FGM by 2022 has set the pace for the country and galvanized the support of all stakeholders. Exemplary progress has been realized in matrimonial property, marriage and citizenship rights. In education, the universal free primary school policy has nearly achieved equal rates in enrolment for boys and girls. The 100% transition policy will accelerate this trajectory going into secondary education. Fertility rates dropped to 3.9 births per woman in 2014, down from 4.9 in 2003. These are a few of the remarkable advances made, that many developing countries would desire to achieve.

Generation Equality is conceptualized to accelerate progress in these and other areas of concern. It builds on the Beijing action points and demands a radical sense of guided impatience going forward. It envisages equal pay for all genders, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end to all forms of sexual and domestic violence, access to health care services, and, most importantly, equal participation in political life and decision making in all areas of life. It sets the stage for doubling efforts to complete the unfinished business set by the Beijing Platform for Action 25 years ago.

The fact that the United Nations family is set to review progress twenty-five years after Beijing means that the gender equality movement is bringing advocates, activists and visionaries who were instrumental in laying the Beijing foundation, together with change makers in the new generation of actors. The new generation consists of change makers of all ages and genders. They are expected to galvanize the gains made, fill the gaps that are still open, and engender novel, ground-breaking, multigenerational approaches under the Generation Equality banner.  In Kenya, in line with the new spirit, community opinion elders and religious leaders, who are predominantly male, are already championing the campaign against Female Genital Mutilation.

Generation Equality is a global mobilization that provides an opportunity for countries to strategize on safeguarding the gains made so far and preventing claw-backs as has been witnessed in many fronts. The new spirit of a united front is providing space for countries to leverage on the opportunities presented by globalization and technological advancements. As the world reimagines economies, forms multi-generational partnerships, and makes adjustments in societies and political systems, human rights and gender equality must be upheld, ultimately setting a new impetus with the aim of leaving no one behind. It is instructive that the United Nations is leading this multi-generational campaign that will consist of a series of global conferences that will set the agenda for a global public conversation on gender equality.

In Kenya, our patriarchal leanings have contributed to the historical marginalization of women and girls. The new approach envisions the promise of a more inclusive, prosperous and peaceful, fair world for all – boys and girls, men and women alike. It is an inter-generational movement that has linked in government, international development organizations, civil society and private sector, among other stakeholders.

The progress we have made demonstrates that, indeed, this promise is achievable. It is possible to produce tangible and irreversible results on gender equality in line with our constitutional promise, and the global Sustainable Development Goals, particularly on Goal number 5 that envisages a world where all genders enjoy equal opportunities. Granted, some quarters have expressed concern that the global gender equality campaign has tended to leave behind the boy child. With the new approach, this concern should be comprehensively addressed as it promises to be a galvanizing moment that will leave no one behind.



Thursday, February 6th, 2020

Prominent women leaders who served under the late President Daniel Moi visited his family at Kabarnet Gardens in Nairobi where they condoled with the family. The delegation of women leaders, popularly referred to as “Trailblazers” in the women’s movement, were led by the Cabinet Secretary for Public Service and Gender, Prof. Margaret Kobia.

In their condolence message to the family the women leaders acknowledged the contribution the former President made in enhancing women’s rights in the country. They hailed the former President for opening space for women to participate in leadership and decision-making at a time when patriarchy was the norm. They noted that during the Moi era, the Third Women’s Global Conference was successfully hosted in Kenya ushering in a national agenda of women’s empowerment and participation in all spheres of national development.

They accredited the Former President for appointing the first woman into Cabinet in 1995 in the person of Honorable Nyiva Mwendwa. “Many other women were appointed to positions of leadership as Assistant ministers and as board members in public institutions,” Prof. Kobia said.

The women leaders acknowledged the former Head of State for spearheading the establishment of numerous girls’ schools across the Country and for championing women economic empowerment through women-friendly policies and programs. “Women of this country shall treasure the immense support that the former President gave especially to marginalized rural women through women networks such as Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization which transformed life for women and their families in the rural areas,” Mama Phoebe Asiyo added.

Women Trailblazers condole with the family of the late former President Daniel Arap Moi at his Kabarnet Gardens in Nairobi.

They described the former president as a patriot who continued to build national cohesion through his call for Peace, Love and Unity. “As mothers of the nation, we cherish these values and embrace them as important principles for our national ethos,” added the women leaders. 

The delegation consisted of women leaders who served during the administration of the late President, among them Mama Phoebe Asiyo, Hon. Zipporah Kittony, Hon. Nyiva Mwendwa, Prof. Leah Marangu, Dr. Jennifer Riria, Prof. Wanjiku Kabira and Rahab Muiu, among others.



Friday, December 6th, 2019

Reforms being undertaken at the National Youth Service (NYS) have ensured that the service is stronger and more effective in the delivery of its mandate. This was said by President Uhuru Kenyatta when he presided over the passing-out parade of 11,730 recruits of the National Youth Service at the NYS Gilgil training college in Nakuru County on 6th December.

The President said NYS has been able to overcome its past challenges and emerged to become an integral part of Kenya’s youth and national development and was playing a significant role on the realization of the Big 4 Agenda.

The Head of State commended the institution’s new governing council for strengthening management systems which have led to improved financial controls, procurement procedures, and administrative supervision in its oversight role. 

“This has resulted in higher productivity, better efficiency and enhanced revenues; which, in turn, have allowed young recruits to both experience as well as give improved service delivery,” the President said.

The President also commended the recruits for successfully undergoing the rigorous six months training and urged the new NYS leadership to ensure that the institute remains focused on the delivery of its mandate.

H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta awarding a trophy to some of the best performing National Youth Service recruits during the passing-out parade at their training college in Gilgil, Nakuru County on 6th December 2019.

“I note with satisfaction the positive reports from the private sector, which validate our assurances to investors that NYS offers disciplined, dependable, skilled, competent and vibrant youth, whose work exhibits the highest standards of work ethic and commitment to duty,” the President said.

The Head of State commended the NYS management for partnering with other government agencies to establish the 2nd largest potato seeds production unit in Africa at the institution’s Tumaini field unit in Nyandarua County. He noted that the project will enable Kenyan farmers to access certified potato seeds easily and at a reasonable price thus contributing towards the achievement of food security pillar of the Big 4 Agenda.

He called on the institute to take a more proactive role in the national roll-out of Universal Health Care especially given the training of NYS health cadets which is being administered by the Ministry of Health and AMREF. The President subsequently directed the Ministry of Health and the State Department for Youth to ensure that NYS Community Health cadets undertake further training at Kenya Medical Training Colleges after one year of service to improve on their skills

“To secure the gains made under this transformative programme on healthcare, today I direct the Ministries of Health and State Department for Youth, to ensure that once they have served for one year, these NYS Community Health cadets undertake further training at Kenya Medical Training Colleges (KMTC), based on their academic qualifications and areas of interest,” the President directed.

He said policy changes have enabled NYS to save money and generate nearly half a billion shillings in revenue since January 2019. “I am happy to note the National Youth Service has heeded the Policy to “Buy Kenya, Build Kenya” by purchasing all the fabric and shoes used by the Service from local manufacturers,” the President noted.

The President reiterated the government’s commitment to continue rolling out and supporting initiatives aimed at generating employment and wealth for the youth.

In her remarks, Cabinet Secretary Prof Margaret Kobia said the new NYS management council is undertaking reforms to align the institute with the government’s development priorities including Big 4 Agenda and Vision 2030.

Since its establishment, the National Youth Service has nurtured over 220,000 servicemen and women in skills and knowledge; and, more importantly, in attitudes that have enabled them to improve their lives, while, at the same time, contributing meaningfully to Society

In attendance at the passing-out parade were the institution’s Director General Matilda Sakwa and the college Commandant Isaac Ndirangu.



Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

This year’s Annual Institute of Human Resource Management conference was held on 16th October, 2019. Cabinet Secretary, Prof. Margaret Kobia presided over the official opening at Sawela Lodges in Naivasha. In her keynote address, she acknowledged that the conference was happening at an opportune moment when Kenya is undergoing an ethical and governance transformation and at a time when President Uhuru Kenyatta is championing the fight against corruption.

Prof. Kobia noted that HR Management is the custodian of ethics at the work place. “As HR practitioners, you carry the noble responsibility of assisting the Government to uphold work ethics and code of conduct in all sectors of our economy,” she said.

She urged the HR practitioners to examine the challenges organizations face in a changing environment and propose how the Human Resource professional body may provide solutions.

The Cabinet Secretary noted that this year’s conference affords HR practitioners an opportunity to play a critical role in performance of the organization and the need for HR to address itself to the most important issues touching on the practice today and the future and to anticipate what the practice shall encompass. “Analysis of the evolution of Human Resource Management demonstrates how the practice and discipline has changed over the years adapting to the constant changes in the work environment and the focus of HR practice goes beyond conditions of work and addresses contemporary issues,” Prof. Kobia said.

IHRM is a State Agency established under the Human Resource Management Professionals (HRMP) Act, No. 52 of 2012. Its mandate is to regulate the HR profession in Kenya, enhance competencies and capabilities while supporting innovative and transformative HR practices and standards.

Today in Kenya, HR is a legally recognized profession, with registered, vetted and licensed professionals who profess accountability and demonstrate understanding and mastery of the body of knowledge of HR. IHRM has grown from 2500 members in 2016 to 15,000 members in 2019.



Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

Chief Administrative Secretary, Hon. Rachel Shebesh challenged Gender Based Violence stakeholders to re-energize campaign to fight against GBV in the Country in order to realize significant progress.

While addressing the National Conference on Gender Based Violence (GBV) held between 16th and 17th October 2019 raised concern over the rising cases of GBV in the Country and urged participants to seek answers on why, despite Kenya having a progressive constitution that clearly spells out issues of human rights coupled with a robust legal and policy framework, GBV continues to be a serious impediment to achievement of gender equality.

“We must ensure that we are coordinated as state and non-state actors on interventions towards prevention and response to GBV,” said Hon. Shebesh.

However, she noted that in line with article 6 (2) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and the Intergovernmental Relations Act 2012, the Ministry in collaboration with the County Governments developed the Intergovernmental Framework for Gender that came into force in January 2019.

“The framework is aimed at providing a mechanism for consultation and cooperation between the two levels of Government on issues of gender equality and women empowerment,” she added in her remarks.

The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey indicates that 45 percent of women and 44 percent of men aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since age 15 with 20 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

A study conducted by National Gender and Equality Commission on economic burden of GBV in Kenya in 2017 provides disturbing statistics on the economic burden of gender-based violence to survivors and to the country.

The average cost of medical-related expenses per survivor and family amounted to KES 16,464; reporting the incident to a chief and community structures cost KES 3,111; reporting to police cost KES 3,756; productivity loss from serious injuries amounted to KES 223,476; productivity loss from minor injuries was KES 18,623; and productivity loss from premature mortality from GBV amounted to a massive KES 5,840,664.

The State Department for Gender through the 1195 help line has received 27, 877 cases of which 14,139 are Women and 8,539 are girls since it was launched in 2007 to date. Most cases recorded from Nairobi County with least cases from Wajir County.

The Nairobi GBV conference marked an important milestone for reflection and stock taking of the progresses so far recorded in efforts to eliminate GBV in Kenya, with the theme: The Missing Agenda: Accountability towards Gender Based Violence.

This conference sought to create enabling spaces for meaningful dialogue between state, non-state actors and survivors of GBV, and by so doing, amplify the voices of survivors as they call for urgent intervention and deliberate collective action towards elimination of GBV in Kenya.

The participants interrogated institutional gaps and challenges that exist in the implementation of the various policies and legislations dedicated to elimination of Gender Based Violence in the Country and the way forward in strengthening accountability mechanisms going forward.

2019 GBV conference was held under the auspices of the GoK-UN Joint Programme on Prevention and Response to GBV and hosted by the State Department for Gender (SDG), Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender, in partnership with the County Governments, the United Nations Agencies, Civil Society and other stakeholders.

Chief Administrative Secretary Hon. Rachel Shebesh Called on the Youth to Maximize Government Opportunities for their Empowerment

Chief Administrative Secretary Hon. Rachel Shebesh Called on the Youth to Maximize Government Opportunities for their Empowerment

Wednesday, August 7th 2019

Youth in Arid and Semi-Arid areas (ASALs) have been challenged to exploit financial interventions put in place by the government to address their specific social- economic needs and to realize empowerment. 

Speaking during the launch of the National Youth Week activities on 7th August at Anchor in Samburu County, Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Hon. Rachel Shebesh cited the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO), which seeks to empower women, youth and persons with a disability by giving these groups 30% of all procurement initiatives without competition from established firms.

“Participation of young people in public procurement is key to create employment, wealth and enhance economic growth and I encourage the young people from Samburu County to compete with other stakeholders for their share of these procurement opportunities,” the CAS challenged the Youth. “In addition, the Government is currently engaging the private sector to extend the same in their own procurements,” she added. 

The CAS noted that already, under the Ministry of ICT Ajira Digital Project, the Government has provided 638,400 youth with continuous training and mentorship opportunities for the acquisition of skills to access digital jobs locally and internationally. 

Hon. Shebesh said in the current financial year the Government will refurbish 60 more YECs arguing that the plan is to have a fully operational Youth Empowerment Centers in every constituency. 

She affirmed that the Ministry is committed in promoting the inclusion of women and youth living with disabilities in social economic development through affirmative action programmes. 

“34 billion Kenya Shillings from UWEZO Fund, YEDF, WEF and NGAAF has been given out to 4.5 million beneficiaries across the country cumulatively since inception to support small businesses,” said the CAS. “Huduma Centers have promoted the ease of doing business by cutting down the bureaucracy and making government accessible under one roof at the grassroots,” she added.

On issues of Gender-Based Violence, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriages Hon. Shebesh said the victims need to be empowered to come out and not to continue suffering in silence since it has been criminalized with steepened penalties for the perpetrators.

She stated that the Government has also provided free sanitary towels for students in all public primary and secondary schools as well as all female students in special schools which has reduced school absenteeism and increased transition rate.

Kenya, the European Union (EU) and Spain to upscale fight against Gender Based Violence (GBV)

Kenya, the European Union (EU) and Spain to upscale fight against Gender Based Violence (GBV)

The European Union (EU) including Spain have pledged to continue partnering with Kenya through the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender to upscale the fight against Gender Based Violence (GBV).

The Ambassadors of Spain and the EU in the country H.Es Javier Garcia de Viedma and Stefano-Antonio respectively, were speaking during the launch of Kenya-EU-Spain Learning Seminar on the Criminal Justice System on Gender Based Violence at a Nairobi hotel on Thursday.

The seminar which was presided over by the Chief Justice Hon. David Maraga and also addressed by the Cabinet Secretary Prof. Margaret Kobia, seeks to share experience and harmonize efforts at combating Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Justice Maraga elaborated reforms being put in place by the Judiciary to fast track gender based violence cases besides calling for public sensitization on the need to collaborate with Organs charged with combating the vice.

In her remarks, CS Prof Kobia appreciated the support of the Embassy of Spain in collaboration with European Union Delegation in Kenya stating, “It provides an opportunity for criminal justice system peers and anti-GBV Stakeholders from Kenya and Spain to share and cross-learn best practices in prevention, processing, prosecution and adjudication of GBV and human trafficking crimes.

Noting that fighting Gender Based Violence remains one of the pillars in promoting Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (SDG 5), Prof Kobia cited the Government interventions which include development of policies, capacity building, establishment of Gender Based Violence recovery/safe centres and a hot line. 

On her part, distinguished Spanish Judge Ms. Zita Harnandez shared her country’s experience in fighting the vice and elaborated measures being implemented include providing victims of abuse with six months’ unconditional unemployment benefit to give them a new start

She added that the State has pursued successive programmes to combat GBV cases including actualizing national policy, legal besides recognizing that violence against women was a public matter.

The two-day event brought together duty bearers in the Criminal Justice System from Kenya and Spain including the Judiciary, office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Police Service among others to establish strong bilateral networks and forge exchange programs amongst themselves in the fight against GBV and human trafficking.

Moderators of the Seminar were the State Department of Gender Principal Secretary Ms. Safina Kwekwe and Secretary Gender Faith Kasiva.

Others in attendance were Lady Justice Hannah Okwengu, Chairperson, Kenya Women Judges Association (KWJA) Dr. Ruth Kagia, Deputy Chief of Staff Policy and Strategy and senior government officials.

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