18th July 2014.The UN Women, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and Global Compact Network Kenya (GCNK) launched a joint partnership on Women Empowerment Principles, with an aim to encourage private sector to sign the Women Empowerment Principles and commit to empowering women through their corporate policies, their business operations, employment practices, products and services and community engagement. The event was well attended by an audience of 65 professionals from companies covering a diverse range of sectors such as agriculture, banking, manufacturing and telecommunication. Also present were representatives from development partners and civil society organizations.
UN Women and United Nations Global Compact developed the Women Empowerment Principles-a seven step blue print for the global and national business community which offer business guidance on how to empower women in the workplace, market place and community.
“In Kenya, we know that 51% of the population is women, making them economically significant and viable consumers, producers and workers” said Zebib Kavuma, UN Women Kenya Country Director. “The private sector in Kenya is a key engine of economic growth and employment creation, hence it has a critical role to play and addressing gender inequalities must be a top priority.” Added Ms Kavuma In Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas, The UN Resident Coordinator, remarks read by Ms. Maria Threase-Keating, “Women continue to confront discrimination, marginalization and exclusion. In Kenya, only 30% of the approximately 2.13 million formal employees are women, women keep suffering from lack access to finance and continue to be more excluded from the benefits of economic growth”. The full participation of women in our enterprises and in the larger community makes sound business sense now and in the future. “Implementation of the one-third principle of gender equality remains challenging,” said Ms Betty Maina, the, CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers. The remarks were seasoned with contemporary examples of why gender equality needs to be looked into and expounded on why the private sector should be involved.
Anchored on the view, 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.
Ms Banu Khan, Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme Analyst at UNW highlighted study findings by FAO which revealed that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent. The study found that such an increase could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent, or up to 150 million people.
Pegged on the outcome of the presentations that were relayed in the forum, it remains quintessential to combine collective efforts to help women prosper. So far, only two companies in Kenya; Safaricom, a Mobile Telecommunications Company, and Amiran Ltd, a leading enterprise in the agricultural sector, have accented to adhere to the Principles. “I want to take this opportunity to recognize and applaud Safaricom and Amiran for making the commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment by being the first two companies in Kenya to have signed on the principles,” said Ms Kavuma.
The forum was well received by the participants as it allowed them to ask any question regarding the way forward in women economic empowerment in Kenya. “I am really grateful for this forum as I have learnt so much about what other companies are doing in Kenya when it comes to women empowerment in Kenya,” said one of the participants.
Indeed the joint partnership forum bore a lot of contributions but of great value was that the undisputed success that was truly based on partnerships from the very beginning. The partnership between UN Women, UNDP, KAM and Global Compact Network Kenya (GCNK) is a long-term initiative that will end in 2017, with activities planned on a phased basis, the first phase of the partnership starting in June 2014 and ending in December 2014. All this is tailored with the goal of ensuring that gender equality and the empowerment of women becomes a reality in Kenya.
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