The Women’s Empowerment Principles is a seven step tool developed by the UN Women: which has taken the lead since 2014, and the UN Global Compact, to foster women’s empowerment in the workplace, at the marketplace and in the communities.
UN Women in collaboration with UNDP, the Kenya Association of Manufacturing (KAM) and the UN Global Compact Network Kenya (GCKN), organized a meeting in June 2014 which indicated that awareness about the WEPs among private, public as well as civil society organizations in Kenya is very low.
The meeting revealed that there is a lot of interest amongst companies at all levels with regards to promoting gender equality at the workplace and aligning themselves to the WEPs. By December 2014, four more companies which include, Amiran, Coopers (K) Brands, Villa Rosa Kempinski and the Central Bank of Kenya had joined Safaricom, which was the first private sector company in Kenya to have signed on to the WEPs.
In June 2015, UN Women in partnership with the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) intensified the cooperation. From the two awareness raising forums on WEPs 15 more companies including, Kenya Airways, Kenya Commercial Bank, East African Breweries Ltd, Chase Bank, Rafiki Micro Finance Bank, Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sketches, Rexe Roofing Ltd among others joined the group of the inaugural signatories.
The seven Women Empowerment Principles include:
On 17th May 2015 more than 30 companies committed to the Women’s Empowerment Principles at an event held by UN Women Kenya and Kenya National Chambers of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) in Nairobi. Capital Group Limited, Safaricom, Central Bank of Kenya were among the 30 companies that signed to the WEPS.
The Women Empowerment Principles (WEPs) emphasize the business case for corporate action to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. WEPs seek to point the way to best practice by elaborating the gender dimension of good corporate citizenship.Speaking at the event, UN Women Kenya Country Director, Ms. Zebib Kavuma said that UN Women is committed to advocate for gender equality and empowerment of Women. “As I have said in many other forums, empowering women and promoting inclusiveness is not only the right thing to do but it also makes good business sense”.
Ms. Kavuma said the principles underscore the opportunity to work with government, Civil Society, Academia and private sector to remove all forms of discrimination against women and to promote inclusive social and economic development. KNCCI chairman Kiprono Kittony said during the event that his organization is committed to women empowerment at the workplace. He said his organization will continue working with UN Women on issues of empowering women and young women Small Medium Entrepreneurs.
The event comes against the backdrop of the recently launched report by the African Development Bank that points out the glaring absence of women on board in Africa. The study conducted in 12 African countries found that:
• Out of the 307 listed companies surveyed, women only make up 12.7 percent of the board of directors.
• About one-third of the African companies surveyed have absolutely no women on board.
• Of the 12 countries included in the study, Kenya has the highest percentage of women on board with 19.8 percent (this shows that in Kenya, the public sector is doing much better than the private sector when it comes to women’s leadership)
• Only one company in Kenya (East Africa Breweries), among the large cap companies had 5 women directors out of its 11 member board.
These findings show that while Africa as a continent is not doing too badly compared to other continents, there is need to take deliberate action so as to improve the prevailing situation. Promoting and implementing the WEPs is one way to achieve this.
Notable examples were highlighted and the benefits of women empowerment for the society reiterated. The forum also noted that companies have a responsibility to create an atmosphere of gender empowerment that will subsequently foster gender equity. “I believe that we need to continue organizing more of such events as this forum today so that in the years to come our children and their children will be a part of a society that is different and much better. A society where every individual has the opportunity to exploit their economic potential to the fullest” said Ms. Kavuma.
UN Women together with KNCCI will continue to work with the companies who have signed on to operationalize the WEPs since, signing is just the beginning and more needs to be done to bring the Principles to Life. They will also convene dialogue forums bringing together organizations to share and document best practices in promoting the WEPs and incentivize more companies at both the National and County level to sign on to the WEPs.